Obama’s immigration bill offers amnesty to criminal immigrants, money for lawyers

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama’s draft immigration plan would provide work permits and a “path to citizenship” to illegal immigrants who have fled police and or who await deportation in jail. It would also provide a pathway for immigrants whose convictions are subsequently vacated, and for those who have been jailed for fewer than five years, according to the drafts’ supporters.

The draft, which was leaked on Sunday, would also provide illegal immigrants with many new legal rights, and create a cornucopia of billing opportunities for immigration lawyers.

For example, one section allows illegal immigrants who have committed crimes to stay in the country until their courtroom appeals are settled, perhaps years after their deportation was ordered.

“Sec. 123 of the White House bill would allow immigrants to exhaust their [criminal] appeals before being removed on the basis of a criminal conviction,” said a Feb. 19 tweet from Ben Winograd, an immigration lawyer in D.C. Winograd formerly worked at the American Immigration Council.

Other sections of the draft bill would allow judges to provide illegals with taxpayer-funded lawyers and fine government immigration lawyers.

Judge could also let illegal immigrants stay if their deportations would incur an “extreme” hardship to the deportee, rather than today’s standard of “exceptional and extremely unusual” hardship, according to Winograd.

The much-touted immigration rewrite is being pushed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which helped created the immigration council.

The association’s 12,000 members would profit from the draft law because they would be paid to guide clients through the new complexity, and to help their clients win work visas and also their own slices of American citizenship.

The “provision show that the administration is not serious about enforcing immigration laws,” said Steve Camarota, the research director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

The complex provisions “gut the law when it comes redefine when illegal immigrants facing deportation can stay,” he said.

“Public safety …. and enforcing our immigration laws do not seem to matter,” added Camarota, whose group backs reforms that would halve annual immigration to roughly 500,000 people.

Obama’s draft law would wipe also out all state and local rules that penalize illegal immigrants, sharply reducing the ability of voters in every state, county and city to protect their communities if federal authorities decline to enforce immigration law.

The draft’s details are important, partly because Obama says he will push Congress to pass his draft if legislators do not write their own law.

More importantly, many of the draft’s features are being pushed by immigration lawyers who are lobbying the eight senators in the so-called gang of eight. The leading senators include Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

The White House’s lawyer-friendly draft shows that it “has outsourced the formation of immigration policy to the American Immigration Lawyers Association,” said Camarota.

Some of the eight senators also employ staffers who are trained immigration lawyers or who have lobbied for the immigration association before. In 2003, for example, Cesar Conda, Rubio’s chief of staff, lobbied the White House on behalf of the lawyers’ association.

The pending draft would also allow judges to offer bail to detained illegal-immigrants who claim they would be persecuted if forced to return home.

Once offered bail, many illegal immigrants do not return to the courthouse.

The draft’s offer of bail is a “much needed change,” said a Feb. 19 tweet from Philip Wolgin, an immigration advocate at the Center for American Progress.

The center is an advocacy group for the interests of university-trained progressives who profit from complexity and change. They include rights lawyers, media workers, diversity advocates, social workers, government regulators and education-sector managers.

The interests of the high-status post-graduate class often clash with the interest of unskilled and skilled workers, who tend to prefer simpler laws and rules that can’t easily be exploited by clever and established professionals.

Nationally, roughly 20 million workers are unemployed or underemployed.

Winograd, Wolgin and other immigration-advocates favor an amnesty for at least 11 million illegal immigrants now in the country, and the award of visas to applicants’ relatives and many low-skilled and high-skilled foreign workers.

The legal details are part of a 200-page detailed draft that only covers a portion of the planned immigration rewrite.

The leaked White House plan doesn’t include any language on the contentious demand by companies for a “future flow” of skilled and unskilled workers. Those sections would describe the how many workers could be imported by which companies, and for what purposes.

Currently, industry advocates say companies should be allowed to import as many workers as they wish. But that demand is controversial, because unions and many voters oppose such “open borders” rules.

Those rules would allow companies to import new workers who would compete for jobs against the 20 million Americans are now unemployed or underemployed.

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