The White House is trying to hide unpopular provisions in the Senate’s immigration bill that would allow immigrant criminals to stay in the country and would increase the inflow of low-skill refugees from war-torn countries, says a top White House official.
“The bill has a number of other important provisions that have stayed under the radar, and we’d actually like to keep them under the radar,” said Esther Olavarria, the White House’s director of immigration reform.
“We haven’t played [them] up because we want to be able to maintain them as we go through the legislative process,” she told about 50 attendees at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual conference, on Sept. 19.
At the CBC foundation event, Olavarria described the sections in the Senate bill that she’s trying to hide from the public and the GOP.
The first section reverses parts of the 1996 immigration reform, which allowed law-enforcement authorities to deport long-term residents who have committed crimes.
The Senate bill “redefines ‘convictions,’ it redefines ‘sentences,’ to make it more realistic, so individuals who get suspended sentences would not be found inadmissible or deportable under these new provisions,” she told the attendees.
The liberal pre-1996 rule “was a very good provision,” and its revival in the Senate bill will “allow long-time residents who committed minor crimes to be able to stay here,” she said.
By accepting criminals and increasing the inflow of poor refugees, “they’re putting non-citizens in a higher position than native Americans,” said D.A. King, who runs the Dustin Inman Society, which seeks to reduce the annual inflow of legal immigrants.
“When you have over 22 million Americans that are out of work or underemployed, we have to have to an immigration system that puts these American citizens back to work,” King said.
Olavarria also suggested that the GOP leadership in the House, led by House Speaker John Boehner, may help pass an bill to increase immigration, despite opposition from the base and the possibility that immigrants will eventually vote for Democratic politicians.
“The House is a very difficult place. … The [leadership is] not sure how they’re going to get to immigration reform,” she said when asked by The Daily Caller if the GOP leadership wants to pass an immigration rewrite.
“The speaker has difficulties with lots of things,” she said.
Last week, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Republican chairman of the House’s judiciary committee, revived progressives’ hopes that the GOP leadership is quietly looking for a way to pass an immigration bill. “We have to find the appropriate legal status for people who are not lawfully here,” Goodlatte told an audience of Hispanic politicians and activists attending an event planned by the House Republican Conference.
If any bill is passed by the House, Boehner will be able to schedule a joint bill-writing conference with Democratic Senators. In turn, Boehner will be able to bring that joint bill to the House floor, where it would be approved by nearly all Democratic legislators and become law despite overwhelming disapproval from GOP legislators.
“If Speaker Boehner were to bring the [Senate] bill to the floor … we would have the votes to pass it, but he has not found a way yet do this,” said Olavarria, who played the leading role in drafted a 2007 immigration-boosting bill for Sen. Ted Kennedy.
“So it is important that we continue to work together … to bring it to the floor,” she said.
The number of minor or major crimes committed by illegal immigrants, and the number of American victims is high but uncertain, partly because the federal and state governments do not keep close track. The number of illegals who would be shielded from deportation, or be allowed to become citizens because of the rule-change, is also unclear.
Some courts have been very solicitous of criminal immigrants. In January, the federal 9th circuit blocked the deportation of an kidnapper who is an illegal immigrant.
The Senate bill also includes a section that offers a “path to citizenship” to illegal immigrants convicted twice of drunk driving. Only drivers who have been caught drunk more than two times would be excluded, according to the bill. In a July debate, Democrats defeated a more stringent rule proposed by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn.
Olavarria also said she wishes to hide sections in the bill that will boost immigration of refugees.
One of the secret bill changes, said Olavarria, “will allow more groups [of people] to be identified as refugees and come into the country under that program.”
The Senate bill also allows people who have been staying in the United States for more than a year to apply for a refugee visa, Olavarria said. The change is important because it would allow people who have been in the country illegally for more than a year to ask for a residency visa.
In the last 10 years, roughly 55,000 Africans have won refugees status, and that number will increase if the Senate bill passes, Olavarria told the CBCF audience.
Olavarria’s support for increased immigration reflects the progressives’ desire to diversify the country’s population so that voters can be manipulated via staged but damaging ethnic and racial conflicts, said King. “They’re trying to erase the bigger picture [of a united America]. … They have a new idea where the country is no longer unified and is basically Balkanized,” he said.
The Senate bill was passed in July. If approved by the House, it could triple legal immigration to 33 million over the next 10 years, and double the resident population of non-agricultural guest-workers to 2 million, according to matching estimates from rival groups seeking to increase or reduce immigration. The bill would effectively approve the arrival of one new immigrant for every two Americans that turn 18.
“Comprehensive immigration reform, common sense immigration reform… is a top legislative priority for President [Barack] Obama, and he has worked very, very hard to get us where we are so far, and is not giving up,” Olavarria said.
“I know there’s lot of stories in the press … that declare immigration reform dead, [but] it is far from dead.”
“We don’t think it’s over,” she said.