Survey: Religiously, Congress doesn’t reflect America

Of interest. Haven’t seen a comparable analysis of Canadian MPs but in general Canadian MPs are relatively more diverse than their American counterparts:

Religiously speaking, the incoming 118th Congress looks like America — that is, the America of decades past, rather than today.

Congress is far more Christian, and religious overall, than today’s general population.

Even though nearly three in 10 Americans claim no religious affiliation — a rate that has steadily risen in recent years — only two of the 534 incoming members of Congress will admit to as much.

Those are among the conclusions of an analysis by Pew Research Center of the 118th Congress, which was expected to start this week pending a House leadership vote.

The Congress “remains largely untouched by two trends that have long marked religious life in the United States: a decades-long decline in the share of Americans who identify as Christian, and a corresponding increase in the percentage who say they have no religious affiliation,” said the Pew report, released Tuesday. It was based on a CQ Roll Call survey of members of Congress.

Nearly 88% of members of Congress identify as Christian, compared with only 63% of U.S. adults overall. That includes 57% of congresspersons who identify as Protestant and 28% as Catholic, both higher than national rates. Also, 6% of members of Congress identify as Jewish, compared with 2% of the overall population.

While 29% Americans claim no religious affiliation, they’d have to squint to see themselves reflected in Congress. The only overtly non-religious members are U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., who identifies as humanist, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, independent of Arizona, who says she’s religiously unaffiliated.

Pew listed 20 other members of Congress as having unknown religious affiliations, either because they declined to answer CQ Roll Call’s query or because the answers are otherwise muddled (such as in the case of New York Republican George Santos, along with much else in his background).

Historically, lacking a religious identity was seen as a political liability.

Only 60% of Americans told a Gallup survey in 2019 that they’d be willing to vote for an atheist — fewer than would vote for gays or lesbians or various religious or ethnic groups.

But Huffman said he experienced no political blowback.

“If anything, there’s a political upside,” he said. “People appreciate the fact that I’m just being honest.”

He said many colleagues in Congress find religion to be politically useful, “particularly across the aisle, how so many of them exploit and weaponize religion but seem to be totally divorced from any authentic connection to the religion they’re weaponizing.”

The ranks of Christians in Congress has dipped only slightly over the decades, though it’s a different story with the general population. Since 2007, Christians have gone from 78% to 63% of the population, while the non-affiliated rose from 16% to 29%, according to Pew. The trend line is even more dramatic when looking back to 1990, when nearly nine in 10 Americans identified as Christian, while less than one in 10 identified as non-religious, according to researchers at Trinity College in Connecticut.

In some ways, the two political parties conform to perception.

The Republican congressional delegation is a staggering 99% Christian, with the rest Jewish or unknown. Republicans — who have long embraced Christian expressions in their political functions and where an aggressive form of Christian nationalism has become more mainstream — include 69% Protestants, 25% Catholics and 5% other Christians (such as Mormon and Orthodox).

Democrats have more religious diversity, at about 76% Christian (including 44% Protestant, 31% Catholic and 1.5% Orthodox) and 12% Jewish. They have about 1% each of Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Unitarian Universalist representation.

But Democrats’ paucity of openly non-affiliated members contrasts starkly with a constituency to which it owes much.

Religiously unaffiliated voters opted overwhelmingly for Democrats candidates in the 2022 midterms. They voted for Democrats over Republicans by more than a 2 to 1 margin in House races, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide. And in some bellwether races, the unaffiliated went as high as 4 to 1 for Democrats.

“The fact that the (Democratic) leadership doesn’t reflect an open, secular identity is paradoxical, but I think it’s the nature of realpolitik,” said Phil Zuckerman, professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. He said Democrats know that non-religious voters align with them on the issues, but party leaders also don’t want to alienate other, more religious parts of the party’s base, particularly Black Protestants.

Party leaders “speak to the politics of secular people but don’t want to take on the identity,” he said.

Zuckerman added that conservative Christians face the “branding problem” similar to what atheists once faced. Many voters, he said, have reacted against Christian nationalism, and young voters in particular are alienated by conservative Christian stances against LGBTQ people, while many voters of all ages have reacted against Christian nationalism.

He cited a prominent incident in 2020 when authorities forcibly cleared Black Lives Matter protesters in Lafayette Park in Washington, after which President Donald Trump walked to a nearby church and held up a Bible.

“When Trump held up that Bible in front of that church in D.C., he did more damage to the Christian brand than Hitchens and Dawkins and Harris combined,” Zuckerman said, referring to popular atheist authors.

In 2018, Huffman helped found the Congressional Freethought Caucus. It had a roster of about 15 members in the previous Congress.

“It’s people of different religious perspectives, but what brings us together is a common belief that there should be a bright line of separation between church and state and that we should make public policy based on facts and reason and science, and not religion,” he said.

He predicted that in time, more members of Congress would identify with secular values.

“It’s going to be a trailing reflection of this change that has been happening for a couple of decades now,” he said. ”It takes a while for politicians to figure out that it’s OK to do things like this.”

The Pew report analyzed one short of Congress’ capacity of 535 because one member, Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D-Va., died in November after being re-elected

Source: Survey: Religiously, Congress doesn’t reflect America

USA: What Happened To The Bills On Employment-Based Immigration?

Good but disconcerting recap:

The new Congress began with hope for a lasting solution to the employment-based green card backlog problem but may soon end with no solution at all. What happened?

Economists have found foreign-born scientists and engineers are vital to the competitiveness of companies in the United States and the American economy. “The ability to recruit global talent is a key factor that has contributed to U.S. leadership in science and research,” according to the MIT Science and Policy Review. “This talent has been vital for the development of U.S. science and responsible for numerous discoveries and innovations that have improved quality of life.” At U.S. universities, international students account for 74% of the full-time graduate students in electrical engineering and 72% in computer and information sciences as well as 50% to 70% in fields that include mathematics and materials sciences.

Due to a low annual limit on employment-based green cards and a per-country limit of 7% from a single country, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimates that more than 2 million peoplefrom India will be waiting in the U.S. employment-based immigrant backlog by 2030. Many foreign-born scientists and engineers will potentially wait decades before gaining permanent residence and a chance to become U.S. citizens. 

The impact on competitiveness is significant. At U.S. universities, Indian graduate students in science and engineering declined by nearly 40%, between 2016 and 2019, according to a National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis. “During the same period (2016 to 2019), Indian students attending Canadian colleges and universities increased 182%. The difference in enrollment trends is largely a result of it being much easier for Indian students to work after graduation and become permanent residents in Canada compared to the United States.” Chinese student interest in attending U.S. universities has also declined.

In February 2021, the U.S. Citizenship Act (H.R. 1177), developed by the Biden administration, was introduced in Congress. The bill contained many immigration provisions and would have put an end to the employment-based immigrant backlog within 10 years. It included a higher annual green card limit, eliminated the per-country limit, provided permanent residence for those waiting with an approved immigrant petition for 10 years and excluded dependents from being counted against the annual limit. (See here.) It also would have exempted individuals with Ph.D.s in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields from numerical limits. 

Due to GOP opposition and the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate, the U.S. Citizenship Act turned out to be a messaging or placeholder bill that did not move in Congress. To obtain green card relief, a different measure would need to become law.

The America COMPETES (CHIPS) Act

The best opportunity for employment-based immigration looked like legislation aimed at enhancing U.S. competitiveness in semiconductors. On February 4, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act 222 to 210. The bill contained several immigration provisions but garnered only one Republican vote. In June 2021, the Senate passed a similar billwithout any immigration measures.

The House bill created an exemption from annual green card limits and backlogs for foreign nationals with a Ph.D. in STEM fields and those with a master’s degree “in a critical industry,” such as semiconductors. The bill also included Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s (D-CA) LIKE Act to give foreign-born entrepreneurs an opportunity to earn lawful permanent residence. A recent NFAP report on immigrant founders of billion-dollar companies concluded many innovations only become useful through entrepreneurship.

During a House-Senate conference committee, Rep. Lofgren urged the Senate to accept the House’s immigrant measures. The Biden administration, businesses and universities wanted to see, at minimum, the exemption for individuals with Ph.D.s in STEM fields become law.

The exemption for STEM Ph.D.s was likely doomed the moment Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appointed Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) to the bill’s conference committee. McConnell gave Grassley, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, a veto, in effect, over any immigration provision. Over several months, he exercised that veto and no group of Senate Republicans stepped forward to prevent it.

In June 2022, Grassley asserted he was against including immigration measures in a non-immigration bill. Critics pointed out Grassley had no problem, indeed lauded, including a restrictive measure on EB-5 immigrant investor visas in a non-immigration bill only a few months earlier (March 2022). It appeared evident that Grassley opposed any liberalization of U.S. immigration laws, no matter how beneficial economists and others believed a specific provision would be for the country and claimed a procedural reason.

Senate Democrats approached Grassley with iterations of the Ph.D. STEM provision, but he refused to budge, according to sources. He did not vote for final passage or the motion to proceed to the bill on the Senate floor (a 64 to 34 vote) but got his way on the legislation. The final bill included no measures to exempt Ph.D.s in STEM fields from green card limits or any other significant positive immigration provision. (The legislation was H.R. 4346, renamed the CHIPS Act of 2022.) 

letter (July 27, 2022) to House and Senate leaders from the chief human resource officers of leading semiconductor companies called on Congress to admit more high-tech talent: “We are writing to you about an underappreciated but vital issue for both our economy and national security interest: the need for more talented and highly skilled individuals to fill the immediate labor demand of the technology industry. Workers with advanced education and knowledge in cutting-edge technical areas, specifically in science, technology and engineering (STEM) fields, are the fuel that will propel our economy and country into the next industrial and technological era.”

Budget Reconciliation

Another legislative vehicle, a budget reconciliation bill, became law without any measures to relieve the green card backlog or make other positive immigration changes. For months, Democrats in Congress talked about using budget reconciliation to enact immigration reforms. The reconciliation process overcomes Senate filibuster rules by allowing passage with a simple majority. However, under Congressional rules, reconciliation can only include certain measures.

The Senate parliamentarian advised in late 2021 that including provisions to legalize undocumented immigrants in a budget reconciliation bill would violate Senate rules. Senate Democrats also gave green card backlog reduction language informally to the Senate parliamentarian, but she did not provide a ruling on it, according to a Congressional source.

Immigration reform supporters pointed to language recapturing unused employment-based green cards that became law in budget reconciliation in 2005. However, the Senate parliamentarian said, according to the Congressional source, that the earlier parliamentarian never approved that language and it was allowed because nobody at the time raised a budget point of order since the provision was supported on a bipartisan basis.

In that context, it becomes clearer why, at different times, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) threw cold water on the idea of including green card provisions in reconciliation. A Senate parliamentarian’s advice can be overcome by a vote but Sen. Durbin indicated getting all Senate Democrats to vote against a parliamentarian’s ruling on immigration was not “realistic.”

The issue appeared to be moot until Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) reached a deal with other Democrats and the reconciliation bill became the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill passed Congress without any green card measures. Senate Democrats voted against all amendments to the legislation, including those that would have restricted access to asylum via the public health measure Title 42. 

Based on Sen. Durbin’s earlier statement, it seems unlikely Sen. Manchin or Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) would have supported including green card recapture in the bill if, as appears probable, the current Senate parliamentarian advised the measure would violate budget reconciliation rules. Note also Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) adopted a strategy of zeroing out spending within the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction to force Republican amendments on immigration to meet a 60-vote margin for germaneness. (Title 42 did not fall within the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction.)

Other Legislation

Another legislative vehicle emerged due to international events. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, a weak point for the Putin regime was its ability (or inability) to keep high-skilled technical talent living and working inside Russia. Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell recommended using legislation to “Drain Putin’s Brains.” 

In a letter to the House on April 28, 2022, the Biden administration provided legislative language on Russian scientists and engineers as part of the FY 2022 emergency supplemental funding for Ukraine. The language would have allowed Russians with a master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM field to obtain permanent residence (a green card) without a backlog or employer sponsorship. 

The emergency supplemental for Ukraine passed Congress without any non-spending measures, including the provision for Russian scientists and engineers.

In July 2022, hopes were high the FY 2023 defense authorization bill would include an amendment on green cards for individuals with Ph.D.s in science and engineering. In what has become a familiar story, it was not to be. 

“According to a Congressional source, the House Rules Committeedid not rule the amendment in order because the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said the provision would cost $1 billion over 10 years,” as reported in July. “To address the issue and offset the cost, a $7,500 fee was added for the individuals who received permanent residence under the provision. However, the House Ways and Means Committee said the fee could not be included because it amounted to a tax and, therefore, violated Clause 5(a) of Rule 21 of the rules of the House of Representatives.” 

It is unclear how CBO determined the $1 billion cost and how advocates can address the issues raised by the CBO score in the future. There is no word about adding the provision to the Senate’s defense bill.

A few bills related to employment-based immigration remain in play in Congress. On June 7, 2022, H.R. 3648, the Eagle Act of 2022, was reported out of the House Judiciary Committee on a 22-14 vote. The bill would eliminate the per-country limit for employment-based immigrants, with a phase-in period. It also would add new restrictions and requirements on H-1B visas, raise the per-country limit on family applicants from 7% to 15%, provide protection to children from aging out on a parent’s application and allow for adjustment of status within two years of an approved employment petition. Individuals would receive work authorization and advance parole for travel purposes.

In the House defense authorization bill, an amendment was included by Rep. Deborah K. Ross (D-NC) and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) to “protect dependent children of green card applicants and employment-based nonimmigrants who face deportation when they age out of dependent status,” reported Roll Call. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the America’s Children Act, the Senate companion. The measure in the defense authorization bill would need to pass in the Senate to become law. (See here for more on this issue.) Sen. Grassley said in an August 2022 town hall meeting the measure could be included in an omnibus or the defense bill “if we can get bipartisan agreement,” which is positive but short of a personal commitment to support the legislation.

In June 2022, in the House Appropriations Committee, an amendment was added to the House Homeland Security spending bill to provide relief for individuals waiting for green cards in the family and employment-based backlog. The amendment authorizes using unused green cards going back to 1992, per Bloomberg Government. “The language of the amendment (see here) . . . means tens of thousands of individuals waiting in the employment-based immigrant backlog would benefit, as well as individuals waiting in family backlogs,” as reported in this Forbes article in June.

The Senate Appropriations bill for FY 2023 for Homeland Security also contains green card measures for those waiting in family and employment backlogs. The House and Senate green card measures face significant obstacles since non-spending provisions face a high hurdle to remain in a spending bill.

Blocking High-Skilled Immigrants

House and Senate Democrats and the Biden administration have supported or proposed several bills and measures to reduce the employment-based green card backlogs and exempt highly skilled foreign nationals from immigration quotas. Senate Democrats did not sacrifice a chance to pass the CHIPS Act after Sen. Grassley opposed including a STEM Ph.D. exemption. 

Republicans in Congress in a position to influence legislative outcomes are now opposing any positive measures on legal immigration. As one executive of a leading technology company told me, “If there are people in Congress who aren’t going to support more green cards for Ph.D.s in STEM fields, what will they support?”

Source: What Happened To The Bills On Employment-Based Immigration?

Why Judges Are Basically in Charge of U.S. Immigration Policy Now

Of note. Reflects ongoing political failure:

When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a new lawsuit against the Biden Administration last week challenging the allegedly “unlawful” move to grant asylum officers authority to decide some asylum cases, no one was surprised. It’s the 11th immigration-related lawsuit Paxton has filed against the Administration since President Biden took office.

But the Texas attorney general is hardly alone in his enthusiasm for litigation. Because Congress has failed to act meaningfully since the 1990s to reform the U.S. immigration system, immigration policy has been increasingly shaped by court challenges. In recent years, liberal and conservative attorneys general, nonprofit organizations, and individual plaintiffs have filed an avalanche of immigration-related suits in federal courts, resulting in a profusion of complex and often-contradictory court rulings, experts tell TIME. With Congress on the sidelines, federal judges are now on the frontlines of interpreting and dictating the scope of executive actions, federal guidelines and agency rules—thereby determining how U.S. immigration policy actually works.
[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]

“This is a manifestation of our broken immigration system,” Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law at Cornell University, tells TIME. Congress’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform has resulted in an explosion of agency rules and executive actions—which, in turn, lead to more legal challenges, he says. “Today, almost every executive action on immigration is being challenged in the courts.”

This ad-hoc system has resulted, both at the U.S.-Mexico border and within government agencies, in “peak confusion,” says Theresa Cardinal Brown, managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), a Washington think tank. New federal rules or guidances are often blocked, terminated, or forcefully reinstated, sometimes with additional restrictions or requirements, just days or weeks after they were announced. Government officials, immigration lawyers, and lay people are often baffled about the contours of U.S. law, says Elora Mukherjee, professor of law at Columbia University and director of the school’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.

Giving judges so much power to determine immigration policy also puts the U.S. judicial system in a delicate spot, Yale-Loehr says. Federal judges are often wary of being drawn into issues of national sovereignty or of ruling in a way that impinges on the executive branch’s authority to conduct foreign policy. But, these days, they often have no choice. “Courts are loath to weigh in,” Yale-Loehr says.

Recently, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer questioned the role of his own court in deciding a case about the Trump-era policy, Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which requires the Biden Administration to negotiate with the Mexican government over sending migrants back to Mexico to await asylum hearings. During April 26 oral arguments, Breyer warned his fellow justices to move gingerly. “Foreign affairs is involved,” he said. “And, Judges, this is above your pay grade, okay? Stay out of it as much as you can.”

How did we get here?

Immigration-related litigation has been around for decades, but many experts point to a moment, in 2016, when the floodgates opened.

On June 23, 2016, the Supreme Court voted 4-4 on a case brought by Texas challenging whether a key Obama Administration executive action known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), could move forward. (Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016, had yet to be replaced.) DAPA, an expanded version of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), would have granted some parents of those who arrived unlawfully in the U.S. as children protection from deportation. The tie vote meant the lower court’s decision blocking DAPA remained in place—a very high-profile win for Texas. The victory provided a key roadmap for other attorneys general in the years that followed.

When President Donald Trump was inaugurated, it was the liberals’ turn at bat. Within days of Trump taking office, the ACLU brought a suit challenging the new Administration’s ban on foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the U.S. Over the course of his tenure, the Trump Administration was sued hundreds of times over immigration policies. Overall, the Trump Administration was sued 110 times by then California Attorney General Xavier Bacerra, a Democrat, according to an analysis by CalMatters, and at least 400 times by the ACLU in lawsuits. The lawsuits contested a range of immigration, environmental, and other types of executive policies.

Another reason for the recent explosion of court challenges was the pace at with the Trump Administration moved on immigration issues. Over the course of his presidency, he enacted 472 immigration policy changes according to the Migration Policy Institute, a bipartisan research institution. That “unprecedented pace” begot an unprecedented wave of new lawsuits. “That really accelerated the legal challenges,” Yale-Loehr says.

After President Biden was inaugurated, conservatives picked up where liberals had left off. “Conservative states are suing every chance they get to challenge everything that the Biden Administration is doing on immigration,” Yale-Loehr says.

An explosion of confusion at U.S. borders

Texas Attorney General Paxton’s most recent lawsuit targets the Biden Administration’s tweak to asylum processing designed to eliminate immigration court backlogs. The idea is that, by allowing asylum officers to decide straightforward asylum cases, rather than always relying on an immigration judge, authorities can drop the wait time for asylum cases from an average few years to a few months. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) first announced the shift on March 24, saying it would go into effect on May 31. Texas filed suit on April 28.

The asylum tweak coincides with the Administration’s attempt to end Title 42, a controversial COVID-19 health measure implemented in March 2020 that the government has used to immediately expel thousands of migrants, including those planning to claim asylum. Title 42 expulsions are slated to end on May 23, and DHS says it expects an uptick in migration flows as a result, including an increase in people seeking asylum. Granting asylum officers the authority to decide some cases, DHS says, will help address growing migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But at this point, that entire policy—the Administration’s move to end Title 42, as well as its move to mitigate the effects of ending Title 42—are mired in court. On April 4, Louisiana, Missouri, and Arizona sued to block the Administration from ending Title 42 at all. The states’ challenge came on the heels of another lawsuit, brought by the ACLU and other organizations, demanding that the Biden Administration end Title 42 immediately.

This fog of judicial warfare has resulted in a confusing patchwork of temporary policies. On March 4, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that DHS can expel migrants under Title 42, but could not return families to a country where they faced fear of persecution or torture. That same day, Texas District Court Judge Mark Pittman ruled that the Biden Administration can’t exempt unaccompanied migrant children from Title 42 expulsions.

“That kind of back and forth is just terrible for any sort of consistency or continuity in any policy,” Cardinal Brown says.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will weigh in this summer on whether the Biden Administration can end MPP, also known as “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Congress fails to pass any real immigration reform

President Joe Biden sent an immigration reform bill to Congress on his first day in office, but it hasn’t gone anywhere. On Sunday, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the bill’s lead sponsor, told Politico that there is “zero” chance immigration reform will come this year, even though Democrats hold a slim majority in the House and Senate.

The odds of passing Biden’s comprehensive immigration reform bill may worsen after the midterms, when Democrats are widely expected to lose seats.

Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators including Dick Durbin, Ill., Alex Padilla, Calif., Thom Tillis, N.C., and John Cornyn, Texas, resumed discussions of passing immigration measures, according to Roll Call. Even their efforts are unlikely to go anywhere, many Americans may be happy to see that discussions are taking place. According to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey, 75% of Americans say they support Congress creating a legal pathway to citizenship for undocumented people, including 57% of Republicans or those who lean Republican, and 89% of Democrats or those who lean Democratic.

“The American public overwhelmingly supports immigration,” Mukherjee of Columbia says. “The challenge is that our Congress is not functional.”

Source: Why Judges Are Basically in Charge of U.S. Immigration Policy Now

The Most Pro-Immigration House of Representatives in Over a Century

David Bier of the Cato Institute on the midterms and immigration:

In this election, journalists following the immigration beat will focus on the outcomes of individual races. Dave Brat, the Virginia nativist whose defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014 doomed hopes of immigration reform, lost in a previously safe GOP seat. Democrats blew out Corey Stewart in Virginia and Lou Barletta in Pennsylvania, the most anti-immigrant Senate candidates. Kris Kobach, the author of state anti-immigrant laws across the country, cost Republicans the governorship in Kansas.

But the two most important outcomes of this election are in the big picture. First, nativists have officially squandered their last, best chance to restrict legal immigration. There may never be another moment like the one in 2017 and 2018, where the House, Senate, and White House were all controlled by Republicans with nativist agendas. They held multiple votes in the House and Senate on various measures to make legal immigration cuts, and all their efforts went down in flames.

The second outcome is even more important: the House of Representatives is now the most pro-immigrant that it has been since the 19th century. Current House Democrats would not only pass the broadest legalization in the history of the United States—they also would greatly expand legal immigration. No elected House Democrat is opposed to legalization, even if they would want it paired with some enforcement measures.

The last Democratic House from 2007 to 2010 did pass the Dream Act for a very small portion of the illegal population—only a subset of the Dreamers qualified—but it didn’t even reach a majority of the House (216, not 218, voted yes). House leadership lost 38 “blue dog” Democrats and got the votes of just five Republicans. Today, the Dream Act would easily pass the House with more than a dozen Republicans voting for it, even after moderate-Republican losses.

The last Democratic-majority House could not—and did not—pass any comprehensive immigration reform bill that would offer a path to citizenship for most illegal residents or expand legal immigration. From 1995 to 2006, the GOP majority bookended its tenure by passing the two harshest immigration enforcement bills since the 1920s: the Sensenbrenner enforcement bill in 2005 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996.

Except for one Congress from 1933 to 1994 Democrats controlled the House and during that time the House did pass several bipartisan immigration bills, a mix of expansive and restrictive measures. The Immigration Act of 1990 expanded legal immigration, while hiring more Border Patrol Agents. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 provided for amnesty, but it was generally seen as a restrictive measure (which is why most of the Hispanic Caucus voted against it) because it made it illegal to hire someone without a valid photo ID, which naturally led to discrimination against Hispanic workers.

Prior to that, a Democratic-majority House passed the Refugee Act of 1980 which increased legal immigration for refugees. The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 legalized the status of Cubans who made it to the United States, and the Immigration Act of 1965 replaced the old national origin quotas and expanded legal immigration (though more than anyone expected at the time). Before 1965, House Democrats did only very slight liberalizations, ending the Asiatic Bar Zone and allowing some Jewish refugees to resettle in the United States. They mostly maintained the restrictive system created by Republicans in the 1920s.

House Democrats today would not just protect every expansive immigration measure enacted from 1965 to 1990—they would greatly build upon them if they could reasonably expect them to be signed into law. The starting place for reform for them is the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill, H.R. 15, a version of which the Senate had passed. At the time, every House Democrat except two cosponsored the legislation. The bill would legalize more than 8 million illegal residents and at least double permanent legal immigration.

However, the bill also had some provisions that are unlikely to remain. In particular, while it expanded immigration overall, it ended the Diversity Visa Lottery and cut so-called “chain migration,” two issues that President Trump has championed. Because the lottery disproportionately benefits African immigrants—who Trump reportedly referred to as coming from “shithole” countries—many Democrats are now opposed to repealing it as a matter of principle.

Rather than cutting family-sponsored immigration, Democrats will seek to expand it. The legalization provisions were also very restrictive, covering just three quarters of the illegal resident population. Democrats would certainly go further now. Especially after seeing how their colleagues did in this midterm, the remaining moderate Republicans would likely sign onto these measures if tied to stricter enforcement.

As importantly, this House will have the backing of the most pro-immigration general public in recorded history. More Americans oppose cuts to immigration and favor expanded immigration than at any point since at least 1965. Because the Senate is still in GOP hands, however, Democrats will have to focus on chipping away at the numerous legal immigration restrictions and enforcement measures that the Trump administration has implemented or has plans to implement. Republicans would be wise to work with them in a bipartisan manner.

Source: The Most Pro-Immigration House of Representatives in Over a Century

82% of Dreamers Won’t Benefit from House Bill’s Citizenship Path

Solid analysis:

House Republicans will vote on their “compromise” immigration bill this week. Moderate Republican supporters of the bill may argue that its many restrictionist features—including draconian asylum provisions, cancelling the applications of 3 million people waiting to immigrate legally, and permanent reductions in legal immigration—are a small price to pay to help the entire Dreamer population gain a “pathway to citizenship.” However, an analysis of the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act (BSIF) shows that even under the most generous assumptions, the bill would likely initially legalize only 821,906 people, provide permanent residence (i.e. a pathway to citizenship) to 628,758, and result in citizenship for 421,268.

As provided in Table 1, only a third of the Dreamer population would likely receive status under the House plan (H.R. 6136), and just 18 percent would likely make it onto the pathway to citizenship. Only 12 percent would likely apply for and receive citizenship. Moreover, even the pathway to citizenship is tenuous, since—for all Dreamers in DACA or without legal status today—it is contingent on a future Congress appropriating money for a quite expensive (at least $25 billion) wall and security system along the Southwest border of the United States.

Table 1: Dreamer Populations and Eligibility Under Border Security and Immigration Reform Act

Sources: Authors’ calculations (see below) based on population estimates from Migration Policy Institute (DACA eligible and total Dreamer Population based on American Hope Act); Border Security and Immigration Reform Act (H.R. 6136)
*As of December 31, 2016

If Congress wants to help a larger number of Dreamers, then it would need to establish clear legalization criteria with lower costs and fewer risks, while providing greater legal certainty for the parents of Dreamers to mitigate fears of coming forward. Members of Congress should not exaggerate the extent of the legalization of Dreamers as a way to justify politically questionable policy choices, including reducing the annual level of legal immigration and eliminating several current immigration categories.

Restrictive Criteria in the House Bill

Back in January, President Trump promised a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers—up to 1.8 million of them. That’s still just half of the 3.6 million Dreamers—unauthorized immigrants who entered the country as minors—estimated by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) to be in the United States as of January 1, 2017, but it’s still far more than the estimated number of Dreamers who will likely receive permanent residence under the House compromise legislation that will receive a vote this week.

The BSIF Act creates a four-part framework for potentially receiving permanent residence—a “path to citizenship”—and later citizenship (see Table 2 at the end). First, Dreamers would need to meet a set of basic criteria to receive conditional nonimmigrant status, a temporary renewable legal status. Second, after six years, most would need to apply for a renewal of this status. Third, they could apply for permanent residence over a 15-year period if they met a final set of requirements. Fourth, they could apply for citizenship five years after receiving permanent residence. Each stage will reduce the population that ultimately will become U.S. citizens.

The House immigration bill would use the same restrictive basic criteria as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Its authors argue that if the requirements were good enough for President Obama who created DACA in 2012, they should be good enough for Democrats today. But as an act of prosecutorial discretion, DACA was never meant to be permanent immigration law, and in any case, President Obama tried to update its eligibility requirements in 2015, only to be stopped by the courts. The bill wouldn’t stop there. The House plan imposes additional eligibility requirements that would exclude even more Dreamers from receiving permanent protection.

The House bill will exclude Dreamers who entered after June 15, 2007, who entered at any age over 15, or who were over the age of 31 on June 15, 2017 (or 37 today). By the time the bill is implemented, people who had been residing in the United States for 10 or 11 years would be excluded from receiving status under the bill. The bill also requires a high school degree or equivalent or high school enrollment if the applicant is younger than 18. These restrictions were also in DACA, but the new bill would go even further to restrict eligibility. An applicant would be disqualified for having more than a single non-traffic-related misdemeanor, including immigration-related offenses; ever having missed an immigration court appearance; or having ignored an order to leave the country.

The biggest new restriction would be the requirement that Dreamers who are not students, disabled, or primary caregivers demonstrate that they can maintain an income of at least 125 percent of the poverty line. Not only do many Dreamers have incomes beneath this threshold, but also, if they have already lost DACA or never applied, it will be impossible for them to receive a legal job offer or demonstrate legal employment for the purposes of their application. This creates a catch-22 for applicants: prove you can support yourself in order to get work authorization in order to support yourself. (This provision should also concern employers which could see their records become the focus of government attention.)

In addition, receiving status under this bill will be far more expensive than receiving status under DACA. The bill would impose a fine—what the bill refers to as a border security fee—of $1,000. In addition, applicants would need to pay a fee to cover the cost of their application. DACA also had an application fee of $495, but the fee under this new bill would likely be more than double that because it requires an in-person interview and a medical examination. This will make the legalization more like applying for permanent residence, which costs $1,225. All told, applicants would need to pay about $2,225—4.5 times as much as DACA. This comes on top of any attorney fees. Many DACA applicants cite the cost as a primary challenge. MPI’s analysis also points to income as “strongly affecting” Dreamers’ ability to apply.

Finally, the bill would impose a 1-year filing deadline. This means that applicants would have just one year to gather their information, find an attorney, and save $2,225 to apply. For comparison, only 64 percent of DACA applicants submitted applications in the first 13 months of the program. This time limit will needlessly suppress applications.

Why Relatively Few Dreamers Would Even Receive Temporary Relief

In January 2018, the Migration Policy Institute used the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to estimate that there were 1.3 million Dreamers eligible for DACA. Another 120,000 were too young to apply for DACA, but would be eligible under this legislation so long as they were enrolled in school. However, this eligible population must be reduced based on the new requirements. We estimate conservatively that the income threshold would exclude about 15 percent of the DACA eligible population. This figure is based on the share of Central American immigrants who entered between 1982 and 2007 who are below 125 percent of the poverty line, are not in school, and are not unable to work due to disability or being the primary caregiver, as recorded in the 2017 Current Population Survey.

The misdemeanor requirement is more difficult to place a precise number to, but the government says that 17,079 DACA recipients have at least two arrests, assuming that 75 percent of those arrests ended in conviction. That would reduce 12,809, or 2 percent of the DACA recipient population. Assuming that this rate would apply to the DACA eligible population as a whole (even though it is more likely that that population has more convictions that the DACA population itself), this would reduce the eligible population by another 26,000. Thus, the maximum number of Dreamers initially eligible for status under the House bill is 1.17 million. Even this is likely an overestimate because we cannot estimate how much the noncriminal restrictions (e.g. prior removal orders, false claims of U.S. citizenship, etc.) could further reduce the eligible population.

Even fewer will actually apply. Even after six years of DACA, only 61.4 percent of the eligible population applied for and received DACA. While the promise of a pathway to citizenship could result in a higher participation rate, other elements in this bill will suppress application rates, neutralizing the greater incentives to apply. Furthermore, the initial status is temporary, and the pathway to citizenship is not guaranteed. In fact, unless Congress funds the border wall repeatedly in future years, the path to citizenship would never materialize at all. Moreover, the fact that the cost will be about 450 percent higher will prevent many Dreamers from applying (as noted above).

Many Dreamers failed to apply for DACA because they didn’t realize that they were eligible, believing that they had to have finished high school or that those who had been ordered to leave the country could not sign up. This bill’s new and more complex eligibility requirements will only introduce more confusion. The risk of a denial may keep some from taking the risk to apply. Nearly 8 percent of applicants for DACA were rejected.

The uncertainty and distrust associated with the Trump administration’s enforcement actions would only add to the concern about handing over information. As we’ve noted before, many Dreamers expressed concern that their application could be used to target their families. The House bill attempts to address this fear by limiting how their application information can be used, but it amplifies the fear in other areas by providing enforcement resources and new legal authorities to the administration to speed up deportations. A future Congress could change this privacy protection at any time, and at this point, few immigrants may trust the administration to follow this type of technical “firewall.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the last major legalization—the 1986 amnesty—had only a two-thirds participation rate, despite the less strict criteria than the ones contained in BSIF. Ultimately, we conservatively chose to use the CBO’s higher rate of 67 percent, rounding it up to 70 percent—10 percentage points higher than DACA’s initial enrollment rate. Based on this analysis, we can conclude that at most 820,000 Dreamers would receive initial legal status under the House GOP proposal.

Why Relatively Few Dreamers Would Receive Permanent Residence & Citizenship

Under DACA, which had no additional requirements at all to extend status other than maintaining residence in the United States for another two years, just 85 percent of initial enrollees maintained status through the end of the program. Some of this drop-off can be explained by people failing to graduate high school for a variety of reasons, but the additional cost is important as well. Under the House bill, applicants for extension of their temporary status would be required to pay a fee of another $1,225 fee (2.5 times more than DACA) and have stayed in the United States for another 6 years. Assuming this rate remains roughly the same, only 698,620 would likely end up receiving an extension under the House bill.

After receiving the extension, Dreamers—as well as some legal immigrant Dreamers*—would be able to apply for a pathway to permanent residence. The bill creates a complex points system that will prioritize applications from those with more education, longer work histories, or better language skills. But the minimum threshold for points is low enough that anyone who qualified for the initial status would be eligible to apply. Of course, there is not a strong incentive even to apply for this status, and the cost of applying for permanent residence is another $1,225. They would have to apply over the course of a 15-year period, starting five years after the initially received status. We assume that about 90 percent would apply for permanent residence. Thus, only 628,758 Dreamers would likely receive permanent residence—a path to citizenship—under the House proposal.

Finally, only about two thirds of those who receive permanent residence are likely to apply for citizenship. While Dreamers are probably more likely to apply for citizenship than other immigrants, immigrants from Mexico and Central America are much less likely to apply for citizenship than immigrants from other countries—all have naturalization rates below 50 percent—and 89 percent of DACA recipients are from Central America or Mexico. These two facts work in opposite directions, leading us to assume that Dreamers will naturalize at the average rate for all immigrants—67 percent. Based on this assumption, just 421,268 immigrants are likely to become U.S. citizens under the House compromise bill.


In the best case scenario, the House GOP plan would likely provide a pathway to citizenship to fewer than 630,000 Dreamers—barely a third of the president’s promise in January and just 18 percent of the entire Dreamer population. Moreover, only an estimated 421,000 immigrants are likely to become citizens.

If Congress wants to fulfill the president’s promise of a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers, it would need to institute a broader legalization program for Dreamers with as few risks and costs, and as little confusion, as possible. Congress would also need to provide legal certainty in some form for their parents to mitigate fear of coming forward. Members of Congress should also not exaggerate the extent of the legalization of Dreamers as part of a strategy to justify questionable policy choices, including reducing legal immigration and eliminating several immigration categories.

Table 2 compares the eligibility criteria and requirements under the BSIF Act to those under DACA and the Securing America’s Future (SAF) Act, which is the other bill under consideration this week.

Table 2: Comparison of Pathways to Status & Citizenship Under House Bills and DACA

*The legal immigrant Dreamers would slightly increase the eligible population, but there are so few who would meet the requirements (10 years of continuous residency before the bill passes plus 5 or 6 more after it is implemented) that it would not substantially alter these numbers. In any case, the estimates of the Dreamer population from MPI could include people in temporary statuses that have characteristics similar to those without status (inability to access welfare or receive certifications for legal employment).

Source: 82% of Dreamers Won’t Benefit from House Bill’s Citizenship Path

Some of Congress’s Fiercest Immigration Critics Lead Groups That Celebrate Immigrants – Mother Jones

Fun article, with the time old nostalgia for older waves of immigrants in contrast to anti-immigration views for newer non-European waves:

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) thinks President Donald Trump’s immigration framework goes too easy on undocumented immigrants. Appearing last week on a Baltimore radio program, he blasted Trump’s proposed pathway to citizenship for Dreamers—undocumented immigrants who came to United States as children—as an “amnesty” plan. Instead, along with 87 colleagues, he supports a more extreme House Republican proposal that would sharply curtail legal immigration and treat Dreamers as criminals if they fall into poverty.

So it might come as a surprise that Harris is a leader of a group that celebrates an immigrant tradition. The son of immigrants who fled Hungary and Ukraine after World War II, Harris co-chairs the Congressional Hungarian Caucus, a bipartisan group that aims to “represent interests of Hungarian American constituents.”

Harris is not alone among immigration hardliners in his advocacy for existing immigrant populations. He is just one of 11 co-sponsors of the House Republican bill who chair one of the more than 60 congressional caucuses that advocate on behalf of other nations, their immigrants, and those immigrants’ descendants. These lawmakers celebrate their own immigrant heritage as they voice support for ending the legal immigration practices that helped bring most of those immigrants to America in the first place.

Congressional caucuses are informal bodies that direct policy activity around a particular issue and serve as forums for information exchange, says Matt Glassman, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute who studiedcaucuses for the Congressional Research Service. The ethnic- and country-focused groups, like the Congressional Italian American Caucus and the Congressional Friends of Ireland Caucus, are typically bipartisan, serving to highlight immigrants’ contributions while also strengthening diplomatic ties with their countries of origin. Members of Congress might join one because of their own personal heritage, or to show support for an ethnic group that dominates their districts. Unlike powerful legislative blocs like the House Freedom Caucus or the Congressional Black Caucus, however, these caucuses typically serve as “interest group box-checking,” says Glassman. “I think of the vast majority of caucuses as signals to voters, more so than influencing the legislative processes.”

Some of the fiercest critics of immigration are among the most vocal cheerleaders of immigrant heritage, including their own. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.)—a grandson of Italian immigrants and member of the Congressional Italian American Caucus, who has supported legislation to celebrate Italian Heritage Month—recently wrote an op-ed urging an end to “chain migration,” a term used by immigration opponents to describe the practice of allowing immigrants to join their families in the United States. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), a co-chair of the German-American Caucus who has said Pennsylvania is “proud of its German heritage,” called Trump’s immigration plan “reasonable” and said in 2009 that “if they [immigrants] are here illegally, it may be a good time for them to go home.” And Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a co-chair of both the Congressional Friends of Norway Caucus and the Congressional Friends of Liechtenstein Caucus—roles his office says stem from diplomatic efforts, cultural interest, and family relations—introduced his own hardline immigration bill in 2005, which would have criminalized living in the United States as an undocumented immigrant. All three are co-sponsors of the House Republican immigration bill, which has little chance of becoming law.

GOP hardliners have attempted to reconcile this conflict by separating the past from the present. “If people coming into the United States don’t have a job, that weighs on local resources,” says an aide to Barletta, arguing that today’s 327 million Americans strain land and economic opportunity more than ever before. Barletta, who previously served as mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, passed the nation’s first local ordinance that punished employers and landlords for hiring or leasing to undocumented immigrants, a response to Central American immigrants settling in the small city. The aide said these measures help keep revenue and population growing at the same rate.

Thomas Guglielmo, a scholar of American immigration history at George Washington University, says the tendency to celebrate old immigrant populations while demonizing new ones has a long history. In the 1920s, Congress established a policy that set quotas based on the number of immigrants already in the United States from each country. The system significantly restricted southern and eastern European immigrants while favoring those from northern and western Europe, which had sent the first mass wave of immigrants to the United States in the mid-19th century. As the second wave of immigrants—who came from eastern and southern Europe in the early 20th century—gained political power, they advocated for a new system that prioritized family ties, giving immigrants from their homelands a leg up over those from elsewhere in the world.

After the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act curtailed immigration from Europe, Irish- and Italian-American lawmakers led the push to establish the diversity immigrant visa lottery, which provides visas to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Thanks in part to the lottery, the share of immigrants from outside Europe has increased from one out of eight in 1960 to nine out of 10 in 2010. Republicans are now trying to end the diversity lottery.

Guglielmo says many lawmakers fail to recognize the similarities in the struggles of the European immigrants of the past and the immigrants from elsewhere in the world today. “These folks who revel in their Euro-ethnic heritage don’t really understand that history at all,” he says. “To the extent that they see difficulty in the past, it’s held up as this badge of honor.”

via Some of Congress’s Fiercest Immigration Critics Lead Groups That Celebrate Immigrants – Mother Jones

U.S. Congress split over whether criticizing Israel constitutes antiSemitism –

Expect we would have similar divisions if there were hearings on an antisemitism definition, and how it applies to criticism of Israel and Israeli policies:

A U.S. House of Representatives committee heard tough exchanges between proponents and opponents of a bill that would codify a definition of anti-Semitism that incorporates a controversial component addressing attacks on Israel.

The nine witnesses appearing Tuesday at a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee were split: Five among those said the proposed addition to federal anti-discrimination statutes is a necessary means of stemming anti-Semitism on campuses, and four who argued it infringes on speech freedoms. The law if enacted would apply to Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which addresses institutions — including universities — that receive federal funding.

The witnesses at times directly addressed one another, violating congressional protocol. Barbs were exchanged, with each side questioning the bona fides of the other in defining anti-Semitism. In a bizarre twist, the coauthors of the language that the bill would codify argued opposing viewpoints.

Lawmakers — who also bickered at times — marveled at the Jewish family food fight they were witnessing.

“It’s like throwing a ball and having a scrum and seeing who wins,” Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said.

At issue is the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act — a version also is under consideration in the Senate — which would codify the State Department’s definition of the phenomenon, which is used by diplomats to identify the problem and report on it.

Top officials of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Christians United for Israel advocated for the proposed statute, as did Paul Clement, a former U.S. Solicitor General. Opposing were two Jewish studies professors, the director of PEN America –  a speech freedom umbrella, and the head of an outfit that combats anti-Semitism.

Representing the American Jewish Committee, which backs the bill, was Rabbi Andy Baker, the AJC’s director of International Jewish Affairs. Ken Stern, who in 2004 when both he and Baker were employed by AJC  drafted the language in question,  now directs the Justus & Karin Rosenberg Foundation, which combats anti-Semitism. Stern opposes codifying the language into law, although he still endorses the language for its intended use, as a means for diplomats to identify anti-Semitism.

The language, in its current State Department formulation, includes a section that defines as anti-Semitism language that “demonizes” Israel. It breaks down the term “demonizes” as: “Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, blaming Israel for all inter-religious or political tensions.”

In his testimony, Stern said that the tough standards he would apply in assessing whether a speech at the United Nations by Iran’s president was anti-Semitic should not devolve onto college freshmen. He said it would be especially cruel to young Jews still testing their boundaries within the community.

“Whether or not you can be an 18-year-old anti-Zionist and within the (Jewish) community is not a debate Congress should decide,” he said.
Proponents said that the bill would not inhibit speech because the definition would only be applied when assessing whether a Title VI-banned act — violence or a bid to shut off speech — was anti-Semitic, and not to anti-Semitic speech in and of itself.

“It wouldn’t raise First Amendment problems, it would only be triggered by harassment,” said Clement.

That, Stern said, was “disingenuous” — a federal statute would naturally inhibit speech. “When you prioritize a certain definition it has the weight of having Congress behind it,” he said.

Barry Trachtenberg, a Jewish studies professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, seemed to accuse proponents of the legislation of bad faith. “They are part of a persistent campaign to thwart scholarship, debate, and activism critical of Israel,” he said.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper and the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt fired shots at Trachtenberg, and at Pamela Nadell, the president of the Association for Jewish Studies, saying that academics were not in the trenches. Cooper chided the committee for inviting them. “It’s like inviting people from the Flat Earth Society to a hearing about NASA,” he said. Greenblatt mocked them as being ensconced in an ivory tower.

Cooper seemed visibly uncomfortable, crowded next to Trachtenberg at the witness table, who kept staring at him. Cooper kept emphasizing that the Jewish leadership in its entirety backed the bill, seeming to sideline Stern’s organizational affiliation. At one point Cooper’s insistence that the entire Jewish community backed the bill drew a correction from Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., who produced a letter from J Street U, the liberal Middle Eastern lobby’s campus affiliate, opposing the bill.

via U.S. Congress split over whether criticizing Israel constitutes anti-Semitism – U.S. News –