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The Time Is Now: Five Reasons Why Congress Will Pass Immigration Reform

Things are different this time around.

The passion is different, the energy is different and, most of all, America is different.  As Congress gets ready to take on what is arguably the most contentious issue in the country, there is no mistaking it: America is ready to create an immigration process that will protect our borders, keep our families safe and together, give our businesses the tools they need to compete in the global economy, and provide a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring citizens currently living in the shadows.

And why are things different?  Here’s what’s changed since 2007, the last time an immigration bill was presented to Congress:

1.       The Latino Vote

The 2012 presidential election will be remembered not only for the re-election of the first African-American president, but for the power of the Latino vote.  To be sure, as Americans, Latinos are concerned about issues other than immigration—including health care, the economy, gun violence, and education.  But for them, the broken immigration system is personal.  It doesn’t go away with the flick of a television switch. Many Latino voters have a family member or close friend entangled in the web of arcane rules and confusing regulations known as U.S. immigration law.  Someone in their life–a parent, a brother, a cousin, a friend– is threatened with deportation.

Last year, President Obama, after presiding over record numbers of deportations during his first term, promised Latino voters that if re-elected he would put immigration reform at the top of his “to do” list.  Governor Romney, on the other hand, embraced restrictionists like Kris Kobach and Joe Arpaio, railed against “amnesty” and promised Latinos little more than “self-deportation”.

The lesson of the election: Latinos are a formidable force in American politics and can no longer be ignored.

2.       The DREAMERs Are Now Doers

A funny thing happened since the DREAM Act was first introduced in 2001.  The DREAMERs grew up.  And they grew up as Americans, watching football, going to homecoming dances, eating hotdogs on the 4th of July and dreaming about giving back to the country they’ve struggled against all odds to enrich. They are no longer the helpless children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents.  Today they are, in effect, undocumented Americans.

Through masterful use of 21st century tools like Facebook and Twitter, coupled with old fashioned organizing and courage, the DREAMERs have become a key voice in the struggle for immigration reform.  They, more than any other group, deserve the lion’s share of credit for pushing the Administration to grant an administrative deportation reprieve to qualified undocumented youth last year.

And for DREAMERs there is no giving up on their journey toward US citizenship.  They will no longer take no for an answer.

 3.      There Has Been Unprecedented Immigration Enforcement

Unlike in 2007, today the border is secure. A recent report published by the American Immigration Lawyers Association found that the border security benchmarks of the past immigration reform bills have been met or exceeded. These include improvements in border infrastructure and technology, detention facilities, and increased border personnel. In fact illegal crossings are down to their lowest levels in 40 years.

4.       Business and Labor Agree on a Guest Worker Program

The fact that business and labor could come to an agreement on a guest worker program — perhaps one of the most contentious issues in the immigration reform debate — means the energy is there, the desire is there, and the need is there for immigration reform this year. And if the AFL-CIO and U.S. Chamber of Commerce can find common ground, then Democrats and Republicans in Washington can too.

5.       The American Public Supports Immigration Reform

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll 76% of Americans support creating an immigration process that includes a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million new American immigrants if they pay a fine, back taxes and complete a background check.  Most Americans, 54% according to the poll, believe immigration strengthens America—that’s up from 47% a year ago.

So, that’s why we’re here, in this place, at this moment, ready to move forward on immigration reform. The time is now, now is the time.

By Reelecting Barack Obama, the American People Have Demanded Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Originally posted on Huffington Post

American voters chose to renew their contract with a President whose vision of economic vitality involves three distinct pillars — innovation, education and rebuilding of America’s infrastructure. Nearly two years ago, during his 2011 State of the Union address, Mr. Obama, speaking eloquently of this generation’s “Sputnik Moment,” recognized that immigration reform was key to this goal and declared he was “prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows.”

By reelecting President Obama and, at the same time, retaining a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, the American people — including a whopping 70-plus percent plus of Latino voters — have directed both parties to work together to implement Mr. Obama’s vision. The electorate spoke loud and clear Tuesday, ordering Washington to put aside partisan politics and overhaul America’s broken immigration system so that our families remain safe and together, our businesses regain their competitive edge in the global economy and due process is restored and protected. Amid the incessant post-election punditry and analysis one thing is crystal clear; the American people have demanded positive immigration solutions and an end to the anti-immigrant/Latino extremism that has polluted the immigration debate.

On Wednesday House Speaker John Boehner, sounding a conciliatory tone after the votes were counted, said that his party is “ready to be led.” The President should take him at his word and immediately invite the Republican leadership to sit down with him in an effort to forge a bipartisan overhaul of America’s broken immigration system.

To be sure, there is plenty of common ground to work with. Last spring Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) showed bipartisan leadership by introducing the Startup Act 2.0, legislation designed to boost the American economy by creating incentives for entrepreneurs to start new business. And there is much more both parties can agree on such as green cards for foreign students who’ve graduated from American universities with science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees; raising the arbitrary caps on visas for highly skilled immigrants; making the temporary visa system more business-friendly; building a functional temporary agricultural and seasonal workers program; and getting rid of the red tape that delays visa issuance.

These commonsense solutions will boost America’s economic recovery and, at the same time, attract the best and the brightest to America’s shores. What’s more, these ideas are a win-win for both political parties because they recognize what the credible studies have told us for years — that creating incentives for high skilled immigrants is the key to America’s economic growth, job creation, and long-term economic vitality.

But for immigration reform to be comprehensive and sustainable the Republican party must recognize and respect that the American people have flatly rejected the appalling and divisive positions of the fringe anti-immigrant restrictionists. The voters refused to be swayed by the politics of fear, including the heartless, self-destructive policy of “self-deportation” for the 12 million undocumented mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who toil in America’s shadows. In fact, quite to the contrary, CNN’s exit polling showed that 65 percent of voters want to give undocumented immigrants a pathway to earned citizenship.

And there are hopeful signs that the Republicans may be taking notice — albeit slowly. Wednesday night Republican Senator Lindsay Graham told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the GOP has a “demographic problem,” and it comes down to immigration reform. He lamented that his party is going in the “wrong direction” and said that if Mitt Romney had received 40 percent of the Latino vote the former GOP candidate would now be President-elect. Significantly, Graham appeared to acknowledge that the only way for the GOP to regain its footing with Latino voters is by supporting a humane resolution (i.e. a pathway to lawful immigration status and eventual citizenship) for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Americans — liberal, moderate, and conservative — overwhelmingly support a commonsense approach to immigration. This is consistent with scores of other studies conducted by pollsters over the years. American voters long for a modernized immigration system that will create jobs for American workers, protect American families and restore due process and fairness.

Thankfully, the 2012 election is history. Now it’s time for President Obama reach across the aisle and get to the difficult task of fixing America’s broken immigration system.

Follow David Leopold on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DavidLeopold

The Miracle of the Moment: Reflections on the Anniversary of 9/11

A version of this blog was posted on 9/11/2011 and on Huffington Post

As we go through life most of us are rarely present in the moment. Our minds are elsewhere. What shade of green was the tree you passed a month ago on the way to work? What were you thinking about? What did you feel? Were you sad, happy, or anxious? Did you see anyone? What did they look like? Was it cloudy, humid, cool or hot?

Do you remember?

What does it mean to be present in the moment? Just take a look at a dog. It lives present in the moment. A wag of the tail or a growl or yelp says exactly what it experiences in real time; the pleasure of satiation or the pain of hunger, fear, aggression, or submissiveness. Dogs have no pretenses, are not encumbered by embarrassment, nor feel the need to avoid their true feelings. What you see is what is happening in present time inside and out. A human, on the other hand, can be smiling, laughing, crying, or completely idle, but his or her mind can be off in the distant past or far into the future. For us the present is all too often a brief transit point on the way to the past or future.

Maybe that explains why we observe anniversaries; trivial and significant, happy and tragic. Marking the moment brings us back to something worthy of re-experience like a birth, death, graduation, marriage, divorce or even just a chance meeting that lead to a close relationship. However insignificant, we all mark those moments in our lives in which we were present. And we do so through solemnity, respect, and celebration.

On 9/11, all Americans were present in the moment. From New York to Los Angeles, from Miami to Fairbanks, from Bangor to Honolulu, we were all mindful of what was going on inside and outside us. Each one of us remembers with clarity where he or she was as we focused on the most horrific attack ever on American soil. We can all recall what we were doing, who we were with, and even what the weather was like. Each one of us can recount — in slow motion detail — how our hearts broke as the Twin Towers fell, killing thousands of innocent people and shattering America’s innocence. We all remember, as if it were yesterday, the feelings of sadness, anger, fear, and anxiety that rose from the core of our souls as we saw the smoke rise from Ground Zero, the Pentagon in flames, and the smoking airplane wreckage in Shanksville, Pa. Each one of us knows exactly where we were, what room we were in, where we were sitting, what we just ate, and what we had planned to do the day America, and our lives, changed forever.

Every year on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we take time to reflect on what happened that day, how it changed us as a people, as a nation, and as a culture. We continue to struggle to make sense of it all. We grope to understand the loss of innocent life, what America experienced in the decade-plus since, and what lies in store for us in the future. We remember the horror, mourn the loss of life, honor our fallen heroes, and remain in awe of the bravery of those still with us who responded in the moment and saved precious lives.

For most of us, 9/11 was the defining moment of our generation, and, perhaps, of our lives. As we consider that day, the tumultuous decade that followed, and the opportunities that lay ahead let us each take a moment to tell our loved ones how much we love them, be thankful for the scent of the chilled fall air, feel gratitude for the sunshine, rain, snow, and wind, and give thanks for the miracle of the moment.

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Reminding Christopher Crane That He Is President Of The ICE Union, Not The United States

The last I checked federal bureaucrats are supposed to implement the administration’s policies, not publicly obstruct them.

So why is Christopher Crane, President of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council — the union of 7,000 immigration agents, officers, and employees — engaging in a pattern of open insubordination designed to thwart the president’s effort to deport dangerous criminal aliens and national security risks?

Crane is livid about President Obama’s Deferred Action plan, announced on June 15, to temporarily defer the removal of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. years ago as children and have shown promise by furthering their education or preparing to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Crane has the audacity to publicly challenge President Obama’s view that it makes more sense to deport violent criminals and national security risks than young students, graduates, and veterans. Someone should remind Crane that the American people elected Mr. Obama president, not him.

Crane was a featured speaker Monday at a Capitol Hill press conference organized by a group of Republican Senators to denounce the President’s Deferred Action program. According to press reports, the ICE union president claimed:

Prosecutorial discretion for dreamers is solely based on the individual’s claims. Our orders are if an alien says they went to high school, then let them go… Officers have been told that there is no burden for the alien to prove anything… At this point we don’t even know why DHS has criteria at all, as there is no requirement or burden to prove anything on the part of the alien.

Crane is either intentionally trying to mislead the public or he hasn’t bothered to read the Deferred Action guidance posted on ICE’s website. It squarely puts the burden on the alien applicant to prove he or she qualifies:

Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than five years immediately preceding today’s date. The use of prosecutorial discretion confers no substantive right or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights.

This isn’t the first time Crane has played fast and loose with the facts in an effort to undercut the administration. Last year he openly deplored ICE Director John Morton’s prosecutorial discretion policy which, frankly, empowered ICE agents to focus their efforts on arresting and removing dangerous criminal aliens in an effort to keep America safer.

Crane’s reaction to the administration’s enforcement priorities shows that the union’s leadership, apparently out of touch with its own members, is hell bent on maintaining the status quo — indiscriminate arrest, detention, prosecution, and deportation of immigrants — without thinking about what’s best for America. Where was Mr. Crane earlier this year when it was reported that the administration deported over a million people, more than any administration before it? Nor has Crane said a word about the fact that since Mr. Obama took office in 2009, illegal border crossings have dropped to their lowest point since the 1970s.

Crane’s comments hardly reflect what the ICE union’s rank and file think is good for America. They demonstrate the self-interested fears of an entrenched bureaucrat attempting, at all costs, to resist positive change; a desperate hold on a tired policy that has outlived its effectiveness. Unfortunately, for the ICE union’s many hard working agents, Crane’s knee-jerk, mutinous reaction to President Obama’s immigration enforcement policies is narrow minded, short sighted, and misses the point. The danger to an American community is less likely to come from a gifted student than from a dangerous felon or terrorist.

But where does Crane come off attempting to set administration policy? Since when does the soldier tell the general what to do? It is nothing less than shameful, indeed scandalous, that this ICE bureaucrat would work in cahoots with the president’s political opponents to thwart legitimate policy objectives. Crane’s statements are chalk-full of unsubstantiated allegations and vitriolic language but short on considered analysis. Not surprisingly, Crane offers no immigration policy solutions.

President Obama’s Deferred Action program is hardly the answer to a dysfunctional immigration law badly in need of repair. That’s Congress’ job and, hopefully, one day soon it will deliver a safe, orderly, and fair immigration policy which will keep America secure and prosperous.

As for ICE Agent Christopher Crane, it’s high time his superiors demand his badge and show him the door.

Originally published in Huffington Post

 

Follow David Leopold on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DavidLeopold

 

Supreme Court Deals a Major Blow to Arizona’s Immigration Law

Originally published on Huffington Post

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and the nativists who wrote Arizona’s SB 1070 are putting the best public spin they can on today’s Supreme Court decision but they’re undoubtedly licking their wounds in private.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a loud and clear voice, blocked three key pillars of the Arizona law — the provisions making it a crime for immigrants to fail to register under a federal law, making it a crime for undocumented immigrants to work or solicit work, and allowing the police to arrest people without warrants if they have probable cause to believe that they have done things that would make them deportable under federal law. This is a significant blow to the guts of the Arizona immigration statute and its impact will be felt across the country in other states — most notably Alabama and Georgia, which have enacted similar anti-immigrant provisions.

And the Court didn’t mince words. It made abundantly clear that immigration law is a federal matter and states should keep their hands off. Using strong language it said that these provisions were clearly preempted by federal law because they stand as obstacles to the enforcement of immigration law as enacted by Congress. The subtext of the Court’s decision is that if each state were permitted to enact its own immigration enforcement scheme, then there would be little need for a federal government; the United States would, in effect, cease to be united under a national authority. As the Court said,

Federal law makes a single sovereign responsible for maintaining a comprehensive and unified system to keep track of aliens within the Nation’s borders. If §3 of the Arizona statute were valid, every State could give itself independent authority to prosecute federal registration violations, ‘diminish[ing] the [Federal Government]‘s control over enforcement’ and ‘detract[ing] from the ‘integrated scheme of regulation’ created by Congress.

True, the Court did not strike down §2(B), the “papers please” provision, which risks racial profiling by Arizona police to determine the immigration status of a person they lawfully stop, detain, or arrest if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person the person is in the country unlawfully. And it’s certainly appalling that people will now risk being racially profiled before the Supreme Court sees fit to declare the provision unconstitutional. But the Court’s ruling on 2(B) was very narrow. It said it was “premature” to pass on its constitutionality and explicitly left open the door for further challenges.

At this stage, without the benefit of a definitive interpretation from the state courts, it would be inappropriate to assume §2(B) will be construed in a way that creates a conflict with federal law… [t]his opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.

Notably, the Court clearly signaled to Governor Brewer and other Arizona officials that arresting and holding someone for the purpose of checking their immigration status was out of constitutional bounds, declaring, “Detaining individuals solely to verify their immigration status would raise constitutional concerns.”

While the Court did not strike down §2(B) today its ruling makes it crystal clear that America stands for the greater principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination, and racial profiling is unconstitutional and won’t be tolerated. As for Governor Brewer and the State of Arizona, they are now on notice that when they enforce what’s left of SB1070 they’d better do so very carefully.

Follow David Leopold on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DavidLeopold

The House Votes Against Common Sense and Family Unity

Originally published by Huffington Post

Evil does its bidding in the dead of night.

Maybe that explains what happened Thursday when the House passed H.R. 5855, the fiscal year 2013 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, on a vote of 234-182. The bill included a laundry list of immigration-related amendments, but two in particular underscore the self-destructive mean-spiritedness that dominates the American immigration debate.

The first, offered by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), might as well have been called the “Let’s Prevent Common Sense Immigration Enforcement Act.” King’s goal is to stymie the Obama administration’s stated policy of prosecutorial discretion — summarized in a June 17, 2011 memorandum by ICE director John Morton — which prioritizes the deportation of violent criminals, egregious immigration violators and national security risks. To do that King attached an amendment to the appropriations bill that would, in effect, prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from spending tax dollars with the aim of keeping our borders secure and our communities safe.

Sadly, the joke may be on King. He and his cohorts in the House may have wasted their precious midnight oil because, while the administration has talked a good game on common sense enforcement, there is little evidence that the Morton memo is worth the paper it’s written on. All across the U.S. ICE agents are still engaged in the foul task of splitting up American families and deporting the promising undocumented youth known as DREAMERS. Of the nearly 300,000 immigration cases reviewed, a paltry 1.5 percent of the immigrants in deportation proceedings were actually granted prosecutorial discretion, and even those were granted only a temporary reprieve, keeping their lives completely in limbo. In fact, in most cases immigrants are better off taking their chances before an immigration judge where at least they have a fighting shot at remaining with their loved ones or avoiding the prospect of being deported to a dangerous country.

The other amendment, tacked onto the legislation by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), would effectively derail the Obama administration’s proposed “Family Unity Waiver” — a processing tweak that will allow undocumented immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens to remain in the U.S. while the Department of Homeland Security determines whether or not denial of their green card would cause extreme hardship to their spouse or parent. The procedural fix is important to American families who face long-term separation from a loved one who, under the current rules, must travel abroad and wait many months to process their green card and waiver applications. Over the years immigrants and their families have been seriously injured, even murdered, while stuck in dangerous cities like Ciudad Juarez waiting for bureaucratic backlogs to clear.

It’s hard to imagine what House members were thinking late Thursday night as they walked through the corridors of Congress to vote for H.R. 5855. No wonder they waited until America was fast asleep.

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Marco Rubio’s Immigration Pivot: A Search for Solutions or Politics as Usual?

Originally published by Huffington Post

Recently Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said something that went largely unnoticed by the media but could foreshadow a seismic shift in the immigration debate.

Speaking with reporters after his keynote speech to the Latino Coalition Annual Economic Summit, the first-term Florida Republican speculated that Democrats may be better off politically with a broken immigration system than with one that actually functions.

“I think there are some in the Democratic Party — not all — but I think there are some people in the Democratic Party that think that the immigration issue is more valuable to them unsolved,” CNN quoted Rubio as saying. “That it gives them something to talk about, that they can go back to Hispanic communities and make unrealistic promises every two years and win votes.”

Rubio added, “And I think for some — not all — but for some Democrats, the issue of immigration is better politically if they just leave it the way it is now because they can use it against Republicans.”

Rubio’s claim is a serious indictment. Given the millions of people whose lives are impacted daily by immigration dysfunction — including the hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens whose families are torn apart each year by the deportation of a loved one — it follows that if Rubio were sincere about his allegation then he — and the Republican party — would be all about fixing the immigration system so that it works for American families and businesses.

Yet, since he arrived in Washington in January 2011, Rubio has seesawed between anti-immigrant and vaguely pro-immigrant positions, but doesn’t really seem to have a core on the issue. And he has done little to set himself apart from those in the GOP who continually do what they can to stymie legislative and administrative attempts to ameliorate the harshness of the current law. Nor has Rubio stood up to the anti-immigrant fringe that rabidly opposes anything short of deporting the 12 million undocumented immigrants and virtually locking America’s doors to newcomers.

But lately Rubio has been talking immigration. A few months ago be began peddling a watered down version of the DREAM Act — one which offers undocumented youth temporary immigration status but stops short of providing them a pathway to earned citizenship. More recently Rubio, as part of a bipartisan group of senators, introduced the Startup 2.0 Act; legislation would create visas for entrepreneurs who invest in America and foreign students who graduate from American Universities with degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

Of course Rubio, widely believed to be on Mitt Romney’s vice presidential short list, may simply be angling to increase his value to the GOP ticket. According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll, President Obama enjoys a whopping 34% lead over Romney among registered Latino voters. Romney is going to need all the help he can get to cut into that margin.

But vice presidential politics might not be the only reason for Rubio’s newfound interest in immigration. Coupled with the claim that Democrats benefit politically from immigration dysfunction, his recent positioning suggests a broader pivot toward a more economic/solutions-based approach to the issue. If Rubio starts talking about immigration as a means by which to create American jobs, he and perhaps the GOP as a whole will suddenly challenge the Democrats on a more even playing field. No longer will the party’s discussion of immigration be limited to the inane babble about border fences, boots on the ground and “self-deportation,” which dominated the GOP primaries. The national debate about immigration would transform into a robust discussion about how to best secure the border, keep American families safe and together, promote America’s global economic competitiveness and restore due process.

Or not.

It depends on whether Rubio — and his colleagues in the GOP — are sincere about putting forth serious policy solutions or simply engaged in a cold political move calculated to outflank the Democrats on immigration — an issue over which the President currently enjoys a commanding political advantage.

Unfortunately, it appears to be the latter. Rubio’s DREAM Act, for example, would relegate undocumented youth to a permanent underclass, allowed to physically remain in the U.S., but never to earn their place in the American family. As the French and German guest worker experience demonstrates, this is a recipe for social disaster. Moreover, there is nothing wrong with the current DREAM Act, which, in fact, was a bipartisan bill at one point, and allows young talented people to earn citizenship in the only country they’ve ever known.

What’s more, neither Rubio nor Mitt Romney have publically disassociated themselves from the anti-immigrant nativists — people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has built his brand by terrorizing Latino neighborhoods in Phoenix, and nativist lawyer Kris Kobach, who Romney embraced during the primaries and claims to directly advise the candidate. Nor has Rubio named a specific Democratic office holder who benefits politically from the current immigration mess or given any evidence to back up his claims, given that it was the Republicans who blocked passage of immigration reform in 2006 and 2007, and the DREAM Act in 2007 and 2010.

It would be wonderful if Rubio led with his heart, not his political self-interests. The GOP needs a courageous leader with the guts to wrench the party out of the dark corner of the restrictionist fringe and into an open debate about immigration policy solutions. In the meantime, it remains to be seen whether Rubio’s claim that Democrats benefit politically from America’s immigration dysfunction comes from true compassion or is just more hot air from an ambitious young senator.

Follow David Leopold on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DavidLeopold

The Startup Act 2.0 Offers Immigration Solutions That Will Create American Jobs

Originally published on Huffington Post

What do Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) have in common?

Not much when it comes to their voting records. But today these Republican and Democratic Senators did something we haven’t seen in long time — they showed uncommon bipartisan leadership by introducing the Startup Act 2.0, legislation designed to boost the American economy by creating incentives for entrepreneurs to start new business.

In introducing Startup 2.0 the Senators recognize what the credible studies have told us for years — that creating incentives for immigrant entrepreneurs is the key to America’s economic vitality because immigrants are job creators. In an op-ed published in Politico they explained:

Vital to any new business are the talented individuals who turn ideas into reality — including foreign-born entrepreneurs. More than a quarter of technology and engineering companies created in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005 had at least one key founder who was foreign-born, according to researchers at Duke and at the University of California, Berkeley. Yet current immigration policies have hurt U.S. efforts to compete in the global contest for entrepreneurial talent.

The Senators propose to solve this problem, attract foreign talent, and “jump start” the economy by creating an Entrepreneur’s Visa for immigrants who establish businesses in the U.S. that create American jobs. The proposal recognizes that the best way to attract foreign born entrepreneurs is to create a business investment/job creation friendly path to citizenship. The proposal also creates a green card for foreign students who have graduated from American Universities with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics. The STEM visa would go a long way toward ending the absurd policy of educating foreign nationals in our schools only to send them back home with their American education.

Amid the rancor and squabbling that has come to characterize Washington it’s refreshing that Senators Moran, Warner, Rubio and Coons are talking solutions in a bipartisan effort to strengthen the economy and create jobs. They should be applauded for setting aside their political differences and getting to work on behalf of the American people.

There are at least 8 other bills touching on job creating business visas under consideration in Congress, with more likely to come — showing a strong interest in updating America’s obsolete employment-based visa policies. But the real challenge will be working with other stakeholders in the immigration debate to craft a reform package that will make it through the legislative process and on to the president’s desk.

In the meantime, whatever one might think of the Startup 2.0 Act, it’s certainly a welcome respite from the same old blabber about border fences, boots on the ground, and self-deportation.

Follow David Leopold on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DavidLeopold

The House Declares War On The Most Vulnerable Women Among Us

Originally published on Huffington Post

Every day the news is replete with stories showing the immigration system is badly broken. Amid the dysfunction — the approximately 12 million unauthorized aliens living in the shadows; the scores of American families torn apart by deportation; and the inability of American businesses to bring in workers to fill shortage occupations — there are a few bright spots within the immigration system that actually work. One is the Violence Against Women Act enacted by Congress seventeen years ago, in a bipartisan effort to protect victims of domestic violence, stalking, sex crimes, and human trafficking.

VAWA stands as a shining example of what Congress can do when it leaves politics at the door of the Capitol building, rolls up its collective sleeves, and gets to work for the good of the American people. While not perfect, VAWA is among the few provisions of the immigration law that all Americans can be proud of because it keeps American families safe, secure and together, and honors America’s commitment to stand as a beacon of hope and freedom to deserving immigrants in need of shelter.

But now VAWA is in danger. It has become the latest victim of the vicious partisanship that plagues Washington.

It started a couple of weeks ago when the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), put VAWA front and center in what can only be described as an attack on battered immigrants and victims of violence. The Judiciary Committee, discarding nearly 20 years of bi-partisan commitment to VAWA, reported out H.R. 4970 with ugly provisions that would roll back the law’s steadfast commitment to the protection of women, children, and elderly victims of crimes. Even with amendments to the House bill that the sponsors filed, the bill will unnecessarily curtail important protections for battered immigrants.

Most egregious is the requirement that immigration officers consider any and all evidence provided by the abuser, even if it is uncorroborated and the only source of negative information. Abusers frequently use the immigration process as a tool of abuse, threatening to report them to immigration authorities and refusing to help their spouses apply for lawful status. VAWA removes that tool, allowing victims of domestic violence to apply for lawful status on their own. Taking into account an abuser’s side of the story is unworkable — after all, what abuser is going to provide useful, credible information when he has already done all that he can to prevent his victim from obtaining the legal status for which she is eligible.

And that’s not all. There are other amendments which do heavy damage to VAWA’s protections for victims, including one that closes off the opportunity for victims to apply for green cards — subjecting them to deportation for reporting a crime, and makes it harder for victims of domestic violence and other crimes to qualify for protective visas. In order to qualify for a U visa, law enforcement must sign off certifying the victim’s helpfulness. Under H.R. 4970, only victims who obtain these certifications while the investigation or prosecution is on-going would qualify, leaving many victims vulnerable to further abuse and violence.

Take Julia — a victim of repeated physical and sexual violence during her marriage. Her husband, Raul, repeatedly raped, punched, and strangled Julia during drunken rages. After a particularly serious attack, Julia found the courage to call the police. The police arrested Raul and, with Julia’s help, Raul pled guilty and was deported to his home country — Julia’s home country also. It was not until after his conviction that Julia learned about U visas. Today, she and her children are protected from deportation. If H.R. 4970 passed, Julia would have been ineligible for a U-visa because the prosecution already occurred, and she would be facing deportation back to her abuser.

Last night, as the VAWA bill was considered and passed by the full House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and the Republican leadership squandered a golden opportunity to show much needed leadership by rejecting this ugly legislation designed to do nothing more than hurt defenseless victims of domestic violence, stalking, sex crimes, and human trafficking. The Speaker, who hails from the politically critical swing state of Ohio, should have seized upon this rare opportunity to show the nation (and his state) what he and the GOP are really made of. Sadly, Boehner and the Republican House leadership turned their backs on America’s families and collaborated to pass the VAWA bill in what has now become an ugly war against immigrant women and other victims of violent crime.

But amid the cowardice and betrayal that infected the House floor were 23 shining lights — the Republicans who had the guts to defy their misguided leadership and vote to reject the bill. Knowing they will face serious political heat for doing the right thing, these members of Congress demonstrated something Speaker Boehner and his political lieutenants did not — a steadfast commitment to women, children and all victims of violence.

Follow David Leopold on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DavidLeopold

Passover In The First Person

A version of this blog was originally posted on April 19, 2011 and on the Huffington Post

This week Jews all over the world celebrate Passover. Extended families, friends and strangers gather together and relive the story of the Exodus from the bondage of the Pharaohs of Egypt. It is a holiday of freedom and hope. And also a celebration of springtime and renewal. At the seder table, we not only tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, we relive it. In fact, the Haggadah (“the story telling”) that we read at the seder table, and which recounts the story of redemption from slavery, instructs that the history of liberation be remembered as a personal experience, commanding that parents tell the story to their children in the first person — a recounting of what happened when “I myself went free from Egypt.”

Unfortunately, that is not hard to do.

My father, for example, need only describe his harrowing escape from Nazi Germany in 1938. To me, Passover is not the recounting of an ancient biblical story, it is personal family history.

Passover is also about welcoming the sojourner, the stranger in our midst. Abraham, we are reminded, was a stranger in a strange land. Today, in America, there are millions of undocumented “strangers” who, regardless of how they came here, also deserve to be welcomed with kindness, compassion and respect. They are not faceless “illegal aliens” as some would label them, but mothers, fathers, children, uncles, aunts, neighbors and friends.

They include thousands of undocumented youth who grew up as Americans, but lack the papers necessary to take part in the American Dream. Many of them grace the high end of their class honor rolls and dream of working toward a higher education. Others long to serve our nation in uniform. But their lives and futures are put on hold once they finish high school. Their lack of immigration status makes it impossible for them to study or serve their country.

This spring, as many of us celebrate Passover or Easter, we should all hold in our hearts those among us who are bound by the injustice of a broken immigration system. Let’s hope that next year they too will be able to celebrate a new life in America governed by a safe, orderly and fair immigration policy.

Follow David Leopold on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DavidLeopold