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LIVEBLOGGING TODAY, STARTING at 2PM EST: Senate Hearing on Immigration Reform

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Eliseo and Wade5:30 PM: Schumer concludes the hearing saying that it’s not going to be easy, but I think we’re going to get something done. Thank you. 

5:25 PM: Kobach: “I could only get behind an Amnesty where everyone goes home for 10 years.” Kobach cites Republican 2008 election strategy that included a “secure-the-border-first” philosophy on immigration as proof that that’s what the American people want. That worked really well.

5:24 PM: Henderson: “I would agree that legalization is a challenge, but that the public will embrace it. Greater challenge is to convince public that this process won’t have to be repeated again and again.” Henderson discusses issue of a secure form of ID that’s viable and safe.” 

5:22 PM: Schumer: “Even though Kobach thinks so, it’s not amnesty if you pay a fine and have to go through a system.” Medina: “this ain’t Ronald Reagan’s amnesty, it’s earned legalization where people have to learn English, etc., to become citizens.”

5:20 PM: Schumer: what’s our biggest stumbling block, politically, to passing immigration reform? Meissner; the idea that we’re rewarding people being branded “lawbreakers.”

5:18 PM: Meissner discusses with Schumer and Medina the likelihood that a commission will work.

5:15 PM: Kobach says that enforcement is going well, quotes the Center for Immigration Studies, one of the organizations in John Tanton’s anti-immigrant network. Interesting that the U.S Immigration Reform PAC, also part of the John-Tanton network with the Federation for American Immigration Reform, gave $10,000 to Kobach during the 2003-2004 election cycle, according to CQ Moneyline. Easy to see where the Amnesty-only talk comes from. [UPDATED]

5:05 PM: Schumer: how frequently should immigration levels be adjusted since it could be politically problematic to have Congress adjusting constantly. Meissner: But if we don’t we end up where we are. We have to adjust. Schumer: how will the commission be trusted, and do labor unions want no future flow? Medina: absolutely not, we just want oversight and a way people get here legally and aren’t exploited.

5:02 PM: Biggest tension all day: Schumer  smacks down Kobach testimony, saying that he just calls it “Amnesty, and that’s that.” Asks what the other panelists think about the formulated solutions by the diverse witnesses.

4:59 PM: Kobach talking about terrorism and Rumpelstiltskin (yes, Rumpelstiltskin). Need for biometrics.  

4:55 PM: Professor Kris Kobach now testifying – the tone is so markedly different than the rest of the hearing. Describes comprehensive reform as “Amnesty,” undocumented migrants as “illegal aliens” and so on. Says that USCIS is not able to handle what would be needed to legalize the 12 million undocumented men and women living in our nation. While correct that USCIS has been backlogged, interesting that there is solution to upgrade or update it from Kobach. Interesting that Kobach is now saying that USCIS are the only experts who can handle this project (as opposed to contractors, etc), after essentially calling the agency incompetent.


4:30 PM: Henderson: need better anti-discrimination laws, increased workplace standards, skills trainings, etc., for low-skilled workers. “Us vs. them wedge politics hurt everyone in the long run.” Immigration restrictionists show little concern for African American community.

4:25 PM: LCCR’s Wade Henderson argues that it is a “civil rights issue of profound significance.” Motives count, and we must consider why most people came here, and whether people are law-abiling and wanting to play by the rules. These are incredibly challenging times, and Congress has a lot on its plate. Immigration reform in 2009 is also pressing – it makes sense economically as well as morally. The needs of low-wage workers has been neglected. Economic insecurity is keenly felt in the African American community, but that does not mean that African Americans oppose reform. We need policies that promote native-born opportunities and protect workers from being exploited and under-cutting all workers. 

4:20 PM:  SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina shares his personal story of coming to the US in the 1950s, and frames the desires of immigrants and workers in our country. Speaks about the unified proposal of Change to Win and AFL-CIO to enact real immigration reform that re-focuses on our priorities not our prejudices. Says that the labor movement endorses a better way to bring in future workers that is based on sound policy instead of politics.

4:15 PM: Meissner concludes that immigration system must be more flexible, which could be achieved through a standing commission on labor needs. Congress needs a way to more systematically adjust immigration levels to promote economic growth and competitiveness in the future.

4:10 PM: Doris Meissner, a Senior Fellow of the Migration Policy Institute, speaks about the “pause” in immigration right now due to our economy – historic opportunity to enact needed reforms that will allow immigration to contribute to our recovery and our future as a nation. Says that key elements of reform include not just border enforcement but employer enforcement that works (which does not just mean E-Verify). Meissner argues for a phased legalization program that first does a background check (to weed out any criminal records) and then allows immigrants to earn citizenship. Past failure was tied to forgetting that immigration flows can change, and that we need to provide for that.

4:05 PM: Schumer introduces second panel, including SEIU’s Eliseo Medina.