Monday, October 16, 2006


Immigration Reform as The Mid-Term Congressional Election Approaches

I think we were all disillusioned by the Congress's failure to move forward on Comprehensive Immigration reform, or indeed to do anything other than vote to build a fence along parts of the Mexican boarder. The likelihood of anything further being done in the near future is nil as the Republican Party fights for its electoral life. The GOP is faced with high profile scandals (the Foley case and its very interesting subsidiary effects and the continuing residue of the Abramoff affair) as well as discontent around the Iraq War, which has been heightened immeasurably and with impeccable timing by the publicity around Bob Woodward's book. I'm reading the book right now and will report on it next week. I've read a number of his books over the years and have found most of them slow trudges. By comparison this is a real page turner.

In any event, I hope the next Congress has a more realistic, less partisan (perhaps fewer ideologues controlling the debate and in leadership positions?) approach to immigration reform. Maybe then we'll get something done.


Sunday, September 10, 2006


Thoughts on the Effects of September 11th

It has been five years since the 9/11 attacks. I was not in New York when two hijacked airliners destroyed the World Trade Center buildings. I was living in Texas, working for Dell Inc., as their immigration counsel. However, from 1978 to 1983 and again from 1985 to 1988, I worked in and in buildings immediately around the WTC, knew many people who worked there and frequently visited the restaurants and shops in the shopping arcade at the bottom.

In fact my current office location, One Liberty Plaza, is where I started my practice in 1978 and is directly overlooking ground zero.

When I returned to New York to live in 2002 and made my first visits downtown to the WTC area, it was not the hole in the ground that caught my attention. No disrespect meant, but if you come upon Ground Zero now that it is cleaned up, and somehow don't know the significance, it is just that: A huge excavation waiting for something.

Rather, it was the immense emptiness in the air above Ground Zero that virtually overwhelmed me.

Spending any time in the financial district in the 1970's, and until September 11, 2001, meant that your physical surroundings were dominated by the WTC. There is no way of conveying just how gigantic those two buildings were. To stand near the centuries-old St. Paul's church and look through "their" space all the way to the World Financial Center Buildings (built on the landfill created by "their" construction) causes me a disorienting feeling even today.

As far as I know, I did not know anyone who died on 9/11. However, when you start taking account of friends of friends and relatives, the number of people I know who were affected starts spiraling upward.

I wanted to make clear that I understand fully the concerns of the government to make this country as safe as possible from terrorist attack. However, I feel that in the initial frenzy, even panic, to prevent further attacks and make the country safer, reason and some of our fundamental values are getting lost. The latest indications of this are first, the decision of the House Republication Leadership's to dump Comprehensive Immigration Reform altogether and work on passing a border security measure instead. Second, is the Bush administration's attempt to get Congressional authorization for military tribunals to try "terrorists." This comes after the President's admission (of what everyone seems to have known for some time) that individuals are being held in secret CIA administered prisons around the globe.

We've lost sight of two basic reasons for this country's existence. First, that it is an immigrant nation. Its culture and natonal profile are defined by the contributions of immigrants. In saying this I count everyone from the original colonists, and African slaves and early Europeans to the more recent Latinos, Asians, Indians, Muslims and on and on. Our history has been a continual process of immigration and that is not going to stop no matter how high the walls are built.

Second, the United States is built on the notion that it is better than other countries. Why? Because it is based on rule by consent of the governed. We the people run the government, not a king or a dictator. Because we rule the country, we've given ourselves basic rights (in some cases by way of the Supreme Court) that the government may not touch. These include freedom of expression, freedom of religion and of association and of privacy. It also guarantees due process under the law and the right to be presumed innocent before proven guilty. Anyone who has observed how some other countries are run should give thanks every day for living a country where the rule of law governs.

Apparently it is to avoid these safeguards that the government is setting up "military tribunals" in Cuba to try terrorists. Yes, we consider ourselves the good guys and we're just trying to protect our homeland; but with every "terrorist" kept in a secret prison or tried by a military tribunal; with each debate on how high to build the wall on our borders or how many more guards to hire; with every email or telephone call that is intercepted or investigated in the name of national security, small parts of our country's culture and our basic guarantees of freedom are being chipped away. We should be vigilant and careful about the safety of ourselves and all of fellow Americans, citizens or not, but we should also be extremely vigilant, careful and fearful of losing those parts of our nation's heritage that are most precious.


Sunday, August 27, 2006


Summertime is Over - Let's Do Something

In June we anticipated that Congress would reach a compromise on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill which had just passed the Senate. We were all quickly disillusioned by the House's reluctance to reach any kind of compromise at all. Indeed, the whole discussion was tabled while the Republication controlled House began a series of hearing in various parts of the country to gauge the support for CIR. Those hearings that are not stacked against CIR by anti immigration organizations are essentially telling the House leadership what we already know: The country is divided on the issue and some decisions are going to have to be made that are guaranteed to make a good chunk of the electorate unhappy.

The Republicans in Congress are caught in a quandary. Many of them are adamantly opposed to any form of legalization program. However, President Bush strongly supports the whole CIR program. The President's problem is that his administration's failures (or perceived failures, I don't want to get off subject here) of the handling of the war in Iraq, Social Security Reform, Katrina response, corruption and/or incompetence among his appointees and among fellow Republicans, on and on, have severely hurt his and his party's support among voters.

Congressional Republicans trying to save their own skins in the next election don't see any upside to going in support of a program pushed by the President, but that they see as not helping them with their constituants. However, they don't want to add to the damage by directly opposing their own party's leader. So, they stall with useless hearings around the country, which they hope will let them survive past the election in November. Once the election has come and gone, with voters unable to take immediate revenge against them for supporting the President, Republicans can bit the bullet and pass a compromise immigration bill with some sort of guestworker program.

This may be wishful thinking on their part. Most commentators think that the GOP will lose control of the House after the next election. Even apart from immigration related needs, the record of this Administration and this Congress of getting things done has been especially dismal.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006


El Paso Times - Lawmakers must start to mesh immigration bills

El Paso Times - Lawmakers must start to mesh immigration bills

With the exhaustion of the H-1B quota as of May 26, 2006, by far the earliest that it has ever been reached, there's an immediate need for action; at least on an increase to the H-1B quota. An increase in the quota is contained in the Senate bill. The last thing we need is for Congressional conference discussions to resolve differences between the House and Senate bills to come to a halt over "amnesty."

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Senate Passes Immigration Reform Bill

On Thursday afternoon, the Senate voted 62-36 to pass S. 2611, the "Hagel-Martinez compromise" immigration bill, paving the way for conference negotiations with the House, which enacted the highly damaging "Sensenbrenner Bill", HR 4437, last December. Despite attempts by a handful of Senators to fundamentally alter the bill that was reported out of the Judiciary Committee in March, the basic architecture of comprehensive immigration reform survived intact after nearly four weeks of Senate Floor debate on the measure and votes on more than 40 amendments.
The Senate bill includes a path to permanent legal status for most of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, a new temporary worker program, significant increases in family- and employment-based permanent visas, important reforms to the agricultural worker program, significant reforms to the high-skilled immigration programs, and relief for undocumented high school graduates (DREAM Act). The bill also includes some very harsh enforcement provisions and erosion of due process protections that will need to be addressed and corrected as negotiations move forward.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


JURIST - Paper Chase: Senate advances immigration reform bill by voting to limit debate

JURIST - Paper Chase: Senate advances immigration reform bill by voting to limit debate

The Senate has voted to end discussion and further amendment of the immigration reform bill. It is likely that the final vote will take place on Thursday. With the battle with the House yet to come.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Maybe I Spoke To Soon. Hastert Threatens to Derail Immigration Bill

The Washington Post reports today that Backers of President Bush's bid to revamp immigration laws are increasingly concerned about a House Republican policy that could block final agreement even if a bipartisan majority is within reach.

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's insistence that major legislation reach the House floor only if it appears to be backed by a "majority of the majority" could throw a high hurdle in front of efforts to reach a House-Senate compromise on immigration later this year, lawmakers said. Hastert (R-Ill.) has invoked the policy in blocking bills that appeared likely to win approval from more than half of the House's 435 members but less than half of its 231 Republicans.

If this is the case, then it appears that the Republican's have a death wish (politically speaking) that could wipe out their control of Congress for years to come. I don't believe that the country whole heartedly favors a guest worker program. However, the failure to pass a comprehensive bill that takes a shot at trying to solve the massive immigration problems that this country faces, will only further solidify this Republican government's image of failure on all fronts.

The full story is at

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