After the immigration measure was approved by the Senate Committee on Tuesday night, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told reporters, “I’ve never seen a more calculated, cold-blooded PR campaign managed to advance a piece of legislation than this one.” In actuality, the immigration bill considered bipartisan sensibilities to ensure some partisan amendments were dropped and others were begrudgingly accepted.
In a post-vote press conference, Sessions said, “The political consultants and pollsters and people (managing the bill) … anticipated everything that was going to occur…they planned on careful attacks to neutralize critics.” The crux of Sessions’ argument was that the Obama administration was not doing enough for border security. Yet, the bill would expand on enforcing a photographic biometric system that would track entries and exits. He also made a last attempt to use the cost of immigration reform to strongly rebuke his fellow Republicans from approving the measure. He cited the $6.3 trillion figure that the Heritage Foundation had used in its findings done in part by the widely-criticized author Jason Richwine.
Hours before Rene Rivas was set to be sent back to Mexico, his 18-year-old son Carlos made a plea at a townhall meeting with Congresswoman Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) to halt Rene Rivas’ 4 A.M. deportation. After making a personal call to the ICE agent in charge of Rivas’ case, Rep. Wilson was successful in stopping the deportation, but Rivas remains incarcerated in ICE legal limbo.
Because illegal re-entry is a felony, Rivas can be held in prison for up to two years even though he does not have prior convictions. Rivas had once before voluntarily left after being captured by ICE officials in a raid targeted at his coworker who has a criminal record.
Under the Senate immigration bill, Rene Rivas would qualify for registered provisional immigration (RPI) status, even though he violated federal law for reentering back into the U.S. Both Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) have createdamendments that will prohibit deportees from being considered for RPI status.
A study released in March shows that one of the top immigration offenses was “reentry of deported alien.” While in the past, illegal re-entry had been used to describe violent criminals, the uptick in deportations shows immigrants with lesser offenses being given such labels. If passed under the Title II provision at the Senate markup hearing, this would impact numerous deported immigrants, some of whom had been deported for misdemeanors like marijuana possession. The Senate bill would not automatically grant deportees the right to return, but it would allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to have discretion in granting waivers.
The article has been corrected to reflect Mr. Rivas’s first name as Rene, not Rena.
As the Senate considers a bipartisan immigration reform bill, Sen. Jeff Sessions has offered a series of amendments that create more obstacles on immigrants’ path to provisional and permanent legal status. One of Sessions’ amendments would require that undocumented immigrants have a minimum average income and consistent employment over the 10 years of provisional status before they can apply for permanent legal status.
Sessions sets such a high income bar that 70 percent of his home state or more than 3.3 million Alabamans would not meet his requirements.
Under the current bill, individuals must be regularly employed throughout the 10-year period or demonstrate that their average income was not less than 125 percent of the federal poverty line. That translates into $29,440 in household income for a family of four.
But Sessions wants to mandate that immigrants maintain an average income or resources above 400 percent of the poverty line, which means a person must on average earn more than $46,000 or $94,000 for a family of four.
Nationwide, more than 206 million of the U.S. population fall within 400 percent of the poverty line, while mean personal income is $39,660.
Sessions also offered a second amendment that forbids legalized immigrants from receiving federal assistance like the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) and temporary assistance for needy families (TANF).
A bipartisan group of senators — the so-called Gang of 8 — has yet to officially introduce its comprehensive bill to reform the immigration system, but Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is already complaining that the measure would allow immigrants to obtain higher-paying jobs and improve their standard of living.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sessions warned that the nation’s undocumented immigrants would “be able to immediately apply for much better jobs than they currently have.” “Maybe they were working at a restaurant part time. Now they’re going to be truck drivers, heavy-equipment operators competing at the factories and plants and we’ve got an unemployment rate that’s very high,” he said.
Millions of Americans are still looking for work, but there is little economic evidence to support Sessions’ concerns. Research shows that immigrants and native-born workers have different levels education, occupation, and skill sets, compete in different job markets and are actually more “likely to compete against offshoring than against each other.” Economists argue that legalization leads to better jobs and higher earning power, significantly increasing tax revenue, boosting consumer spending, and supporting 750,000 to 900,000 additional jobs. Studies conducted in the aftermath of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act also concluded that legal status raises the “wage floor” for the economy and increases take-home pay for immigrants and native workers alike.
Sessions’ worries don’t end there, however. The Alabama senator also claimed that the border-security requirement in the proposed bill are “in some ways appears weaker than the one in 2007″ — even though border security has improved significantly since the last time Congress tackled immigration reform. The federal government spent $18 billion — more than on every other federal law enforcement agencies combine — to secure the border during the 2012 fiscal year and has now exceeded the goals and targets set out in the failed 2007 immigration legislation. For instance, there are now more border agents deployed at the Southern border and increased consequences for illegal crossings. Read more
Minutes after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) emphasized the need for bipartisan support on a carefully negotiated immigration reform deal that could be announced this week, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) revived the tired argument that bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows is bad for American workers. “It’s logical that if you bring in a massive supply of low-wage workers, you’re going to pull the workers down,” Sessions said Sunday morning on This Week With George Stephanopoulos.
But his so-called logic is not supported by the research — a point emphasized by conservative columnist George Will in urging Sessions to focus on “the facts”:
WILL: Every conservative sympathizes with what Jeff Sessions was saying about not rewarding lawbreaking. However, conservatism begins with facing facts. And the facts are 11 million people are here illegally. Two-thirds have been a decade or more. 30%, 15 years or more. They’re woven into our society. They’re not leaving. And the American people would not tolerate the police measures necessary to extract them from our community. Therefore, the great consensus has to be on the details of a path to citizenship. The most important thing Rubio said in your interview is, even if the system weren’t broken, if we had no illegal immigrants, we’d need to do something about this. We need the workers. As the baby-boomers retire, and as the birthrate declines, we need something to replenish the workforce to sustain the welfare state.
In an exchange with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sessions also asked whether Schumer would continue to support immigration reform if “this legislation is established by reputable economists, as pulling down the wages of suffering American workers.” “That’s not going to happen, Jeff,” Schumer retorted, citing recent analysis by the conservative CATO Institute. And that’s just one of numerous economic studies to find that the economic benefits to immigration reform far outweigh any harm.
As economists have explained, immigration reform not only stops under-the-table exploitation of workers from driving wages down; it also fills gaps in the economy by creating a labor force for jobs that are complementary to low-wage jobs typically held by native worker. “Contrary to common fears, immigrants are not frequently in direct competition with native-born American workers, in part because they tend to have different skill sets,” a Center for American Progress analysis of economists’ research explains. While studies by restrictionist groups like the Center for Immigration Studies have suggested immigration reform would harm the economy, they fail to account for the fact that 11 million undocumented workers are already in the United States, which is why even Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform has rejected this conclusion.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has introduced measures that could permanently bar undocumented immigrants from receiving federal tax credits and health care benefits under the Affordable Care Act — even if they achieve legal status through comprehensive immigration reform.
The amendments, which could be offered when the Senate debates the budget later this week, seeks to prevent the undocumented population from qualifying for all refundable tax credits — including the homebuyer credit, the health coverage credit, and the child tax credit. Immigrants would be unable to take advantage of the tax benefits after they earn legal status and seek to integrate themselves into American society. They’ll pay the same taxes as others, but would be denied the assistance that their taxes are intended to cover.
Below is the text of the two amendments:
SEC. 3__. DEFICIT-REDUCTION RESERVE FUND TO ACHIEVE SAVINGS BY PROHIBITING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS OR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS GRANTED LEGAL STATUS FROM QUALIFYING FOR A REFUNDABLE TAX CREDIT.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget may revise the allocations of a committee or committees aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, motions, or conference reports that achieve savings that may be related to the prohibition of illegal immigrants or aliens who were unlawfully present in the United States prior to receiving a grant of legal immigration status from qualifying for refundable tax credits, provided that such legislation would reduce the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2013 through 2018 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2013 through 2023. The Chairman may also make adjustments to the Senate’s pay-as-you-go ledger over 5 and 10 years to ensure that the deficit reduction achieved is used for deficit reduction only. The adjustments authorized under this section shall be the amount of deficit reduction achieved.
SEC. 3__. DEFICIT-REDUCTION RESERVE FUND TO ACHIEVE SAVINGS BY PROHIBITING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS OR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS GRANTED LEGAL STATUS FROM QUALIFYING FOR FEDERALLY SUBSIDIZED HEALTH CARE.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget may revise the allocations of a committee or committees aggregates, and other appropriate levels in this resolution for one or more bills, joint resolutions, amendments, motions, or conference reports that achieve savings in health care that may be related to prohibiting illegal immigrants or aliens who were unlawfully present in the United States prior to receiving a grant of legal immigration status from qualifying for Federally subsidized health care without raising revenues, provided that such legislation would reduce the deficit over either the period of the total of fiscal years 2013 through 2018 or the period of the total of fiscal years 2013 through 2023. The Chairman may also make adjustments to the Senate’s pay-as-you-go ledger over 5 and 10 years to ensure that the deficit reduction achieved is used for deficit reduction only. The adjustments authorized under this section shall be the amount of deficit reduction achieved.
Undocumented immigrants are currently ineligible for most federally subsidized health care benefits like non-emergency Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Medicare, and are unable to purchase full-price, unsubsidized health insurance through the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act.
Under the bipartisan immigration reform framework that is currently being drafted in the House and Senate, unauthorized immigrants would eventually be eligible for federal benefits once they attain permanent legal status. Sessions, however, would effectively force the population — estimated at 11 to 12 million — to use emergency rooms as primary care providers, shifting the costs of health care throughout the system, while economically disadvantaging immigrants who are seeking to become citizens.
Sessions has a long history of anti-immigrant sentiment. During a Senate Juidiciary hearing on Monday, the Alabama senator called for cutting out families entirely from the immigration system, arguing that keeping families together is not in the best interest of the U.S.
The same day the Republican National Committee released its high-profile rebranding report, specifically calling for the party to embrace comprehensive immigration reform, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) went off-message. At a Senate Juidiciary hearing Monday, Sessions called for cutting out families entirely from the immigration system, arguing that keeping families together is not in the best interest of the U.S.
Sessions asked President of Asian American Justice Center Mee Moua if a country can legitimately decide that it wants to admit one productive family member, but not another, less motivated individual. Moua schooled Sessions about what would happen under his plan to shift entirely to an employment-based system: it would rip apart families and disadvantage women:
MOUA: Senator Sessions, coming from the Asian American community when in the 1880s we were the first people to be excluded explicitly by the United States immigration policy I’m well aware that this country has never hesitated in the way that it chooses to exercise its authority to permit people to either enter or depart its borders. And we know that the Asian American community in particular didn’t get to enjoy the benefit of immigration to this country until the 1960s when those restrictive policies were lifted. So I know very well and very aware that…
SESSIONS: Well let me just say, it seems to me. It’s perfectly logical to think there are two individuals, let’s say in a good friendly country like Honduras. One is a valedictorian of his class, has two years of college, learned English and very much has a vision to come to the United States and the other one has dropped out of high school, has minimum skills. Both are 20 years of age and that latter person has a brother here. What would be in the interest of the United States? …
MOUA: Senator I think that under your scenario people can conclude about which is in the best interest of the United States. I think the more realistic scenario is that in the second situation that individual will be female, would not have been permitted to get an education and if we would create a system where there would be some kind of preference given to say education, or some other kind of metrics, I think that it would truly disadvantage specifically women and their opportunity to come into this country.
Sessions became flustered by Moua’s reply, saying, “Well, it certainly is a problem around the world.” Watch it:
Two-thirds of legal immigration is family-based, and a majority of immigrants are now women, thanks to the emphasis on family visas since the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Today, 70 percent of immigrant women gain permanent residence through family-based visas, compared to 61 percent of men. With 4 million people caught in the backlogs and country-specific quotas, it can take two decades for a sibling to immigrate.
This morning, the biggest political story in Washington was a Republican National Committee “autopsy” of the GOP’s 2012 election loss. In it, the RNC proclaimed that “[i]t is imperative that the RNC changes how it engages with Hispanic communities to welcome in new members of our Party” and that “the Republican Party must be committed to building a lasting relationship within the African American community year-round, based on mutual respect and with a spirit of caring.” Within a few hours, three top Republicans already took the first steps to doom this effort.
Earlier today, President Obama nominated Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez to be the next Secretary of Labor. Perez is eminently qualified for this job, having served in a similar role for the state of Maryland before becoming the top civil rights attorney in the Justice Department. As head of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Perez restored that office’s historic commitment to protecting voting rights — something that was notablyabsent duringthe Bush Administration. In 2012, Perez’s division claims to have brought “the largest number of new [voting] litigation matters in any fiscal year ever” — 43 new voting rights cases — many of them protecting the voting rights of the very same minority groups the GOP claims it wants to form relationships with. Perez also brings a compelling personal story to the Department of Labor. As the President explained in his speech nominating the Secretary-in-waiting, Perez is the son of Dominican immigrants and helped pay for college by working as a garbage collector.
So, of course, several top Republicans are already trying to scuttle his nomination.
During a Budget Committee Hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) announced that the Affordable Care Act — which had been projected to reduce the deficit by billions over 10 years — would actually increase long-term debt by $6.2 trillion, undermining administration claims that the law would expand coverage to millions of Americans and help reign in federal spending.
“A new government report dramatically proves that the promises made assuring the nation that the largest new entitlement program in history since Medicare — the president’s health care program — would not add a dime to the long or short term debt of America was false,” Sessions said, referring to a recently released study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
“The results of this report confirm everything critics and Republicans have been saying about the health care bill and reveal the dramatic falsehoods that were used to push it to passage.” He went on:
SESSIONS: According to the GAO under a realistic set of assumptions the health care law will increase the deficit by 7/10th percent of GDP or roughly $6.2 trillion over the next 75 years. $6.2 trillion unfunded liability of the United States. In other words, the GAO reveals that the big tax increases in the bill come nowhere close to covering the massive spending.
How is it possible that one report — requested by Sessions — conflicts so starkly with almost all other government assessments to confirm Republican talking points about the law? It’s simple: Sessions designed it that way.
The Alabama senator asked the office to estimate would would happen if the cost containment provisions in the law — the Independent Payment Advisory Board, excise tax on high-cost plans, and reductions in Medicare payments to providers — are “phased out over time” while the coverage provisions remain. Unsurprisingly, the GAO concluded that if the portions of the law that were specifically designed to keep costs under control don’t go into effect, then the law won’t be effective in lowering health care costs. Sessions is touting the government expenditures included in the law — the affordability credits and Medicaid expansion — while ignoring its cost savings. The same report concluded that if “both the expansion of health care coverage and the full implementation and effectiveness of the cost-containment provisions” are sustained, “there was notable improvement in the longer-term outlook.”
To be sure, economists disagree on how best to implement the law’s cost containment provisions. The GAO report notes that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Office of the Actuary has found that providers will not be able to “improve their own productivity to the degree achieved by the economy in large,” proving the savings to be unsustainable. Other economists, however, contend that the actuary doesn’t score savings from preventive care and system modernization and estimate that if those factors are included, the annual growth rate in national health expenditures falls significantly.
The responses of individuals, employers, insurance companies, and Exchange administrators may be hard to predict and Congress may have to adjust the law and its cost containment mechanisms. But for a senator to design a study that purposely underplays the law’s cost controls is not only disingenuous, but also fundamentally misleading and dishonest.
A Congressional source tells ThinkProgress that including Affordable Care Act’s cost containment provisions in the analysis could generate more than $13 trillion in deficit reduction over that same 75-year period.
Page 13 of the report shows how the law’s efficiencies can lower spending on major federal health care programs in the out years:
Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Credit: Melina Mara, The Washington Post
As Republicans prepare to mount an unprecedented filibuster of Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be Secretary of Defense, they will demand that 60 Senators (a three-fifths super-majority) agree to proceed before he receives a majority vote on confirmation. But just a few years ago, when Republicans controlled the Senate, many of the same Senators pushed for the elimination of this same threshold for President George W. Bush’s nominees.
Three Senators considered likely to join in the Hagel filibuster, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) made comments during the Bush years that indicated they opposed filibuster of any presidential nominee — judicial or otherwise.
McConnell told CNBC’s Kudlow & Company in 2005, “I think the President is entitled to an up-or-down — that is simple majority — vote on nominations, both to his cabinet and to the executive branch and also to the judiciary.” McConnell was one of the first Republicans to raise the possibility of a Hagel filibuster (Hagel actually once voted to make McConnell the Senate Republican leader).
In a 2008 release called “Confirming President’s Nominees Matter of Fairness, Senate Duty,” Cornyn wrote:
Far too many judicial and executive nominees have been delayed by the majority party of the Senate. An up-or-down vote is a matter of fundamental fairness, and it is the Senate’s constitutional duty to act on each nomination. It is also critically important to our judicial system and the proper functioning of our federal government to fill these positions.
Senators have a right to vote for or against any nominee—but blocking votes on nominations is unacceptable.
The vote, historically, since the founding of this Republic, is a majority vote. Lets [sic] look at that. The Constitution says that the Congress shall advise and consent on treaties, provided two-thirds agree, and shall advise and consent on judges and other nominees. Since the founding of the Republic, we have understood that there was a two-thirds super majority for ratification and advice and consent on treaties and a majority vote for judges. That is what we have done. That is what we have always done. But there was a conscious decision on behalf of the leadership, unfortunately, of the Democratic Party in the last Congress to systematically filibuster some of the best nominees ever submitted to the Senate. It has been very painful.
If these and other Senate Republicans care at all about consistency and their own interpretations of the Constitution they took an oath to uphold, they must support giving Hagel and all of the president’s other nominees the up-or-down confirmation vote they say is required.