Parcel­ing out im­mi­gra­tion re­form

Democrats now will­ing to back off com­pre­hen­sive bill

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Law­mak­ers on Capi­tol Hill ap­peared to be reach­ing con­sen­sus this week that im­mi­gra­tion re­form can be done in pieces — a key pro­ce­dural con­ces­sion by Pres­i­dent Obama and his fel­low Democrats that could help re­vive chances for a bill next year.

But even as they said they could ac­cept the GOP’s plans to tackle im­mi­gra­tion bill-by-bill, rather than one mas­sive mea­sure, Democrats in­sisted that be­fore the process is done, Congress will have to tackle all parts, in­clud­ing rewrit­ing the le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem to grant­ing ci­ti­zen­ship rights to most cur­rent il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

“We have al­ways said on that score that the speaker is the speaker, and any way he wants to bring the bill to the floor, in pieces or in big chunks or what­ever it is, we just want to see leg­is­la­tion come to the floor so that Congress can act upon that leg­is­la­tion, the House can, and send it to the con­fer­ence ta­ble with the Se­nate,” House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, said.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can, last week seemed to close the door on chances for an im­mi­gra­tion bill to pass this year when he said the House would work on its own time­line and would not en­ter into ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Se­nate, which has passed a sin­gle broad bill le­gal­iz­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants and rewrit­ing the le­gal im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem. Mr. Boehner also in­sisted on a stepby-step ap­proach.

Asked this week if that meant the is­sue is dead, Mr. Boehner said, “Ab­so­lutely not.”

“I be­lieve that Congress needs to deal with this is­sue,” he said. “Our com­mit­tees are con­tin­u­ing to do their work. There are a lot of pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions that are un­der­way to try to fig­ure out how do we best move on a com­mon-sense, step-by-step ba­sis to ad­dress this very im­por­tant is­sue.”

He also said he was “en­cour­aged” when Mr. Obama ear­lier this week also sig­naled his will­ing­ness to ac­cept a pieceby-piece ap­proach.

“They’re sus­pi­cious of com­pre­hen­sive bills, but you know what? If they want to chop that thing up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don’t care what it looks like, as long as it’s ac­tu­ally de­liv­er­ing on those core val­ues that we talk about,” Mr. Obama said at The Wall Street Jour­nal’s CEO Coun­cil An­nual Meet­ing.

Mr. Obama said he thinks many House Repub­li­cans want to give il­le­gal im­mi­grants a path­way to ci­ti­zen­ship, which he said would in­volve pay­ing fines and, for many, wait­ing more than a decade be­fore they could ob­tain a green card.

Be­neath this week’s ap­par­ent agree­ment, how­ever, lurk sev­eral hur­dles, in­clud­ing whether House Repub­li­cans in­sist that bor­der se­cu­rity come be­fore any le­gal­iza­tion bill passes. Democrats have con­sid­ered that a non-starter.

Mr. Boehner said Thurs­day that it’s the Amer­i­can peo­ple who are — and should be — skep­ti­cal of com­pre­hen­sive bills.

“The only way to make sure im­mi­gra­tion re­form works this time is to ad­dress th­ese com­pli­cated is­sues one step at a time,” he said.

A sharply di­vided Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion on Thurs­day de­nied a re­quest from a lead­ing tea party group for an ex­emp­tion from dis­clos­ing its fi­nan­cial back­ers to pro­tect them from ha­rass­ment.

The FEC board voted 3-2 against a mo­tion to ex­empt the Tea Party Lead­er­ship Fund. The fund will have to con­tinue to dis­close donors who con­trib­ute more than $200, de­spite its con­tention that its donors should be given an ex­emp­tion given to spe­cial per­se­cuted groups such as the So­cial­ist Work­ers Party and the NAACP dur­ing the civil rights era.

FEC Chair­woman Ellen Wein­traub, quot­ing Supreme Court Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia, said “re­quir­ing peo­ple to stand up in pub­lic for their po­lit­i­cal acts fosters civic courage, with­out which democ­racy is doomed.”

Com­mis­sioner Steven Walther, who also voted against the fund’s mo­tion, said the group was “not a mi­nor or­ga­ni­za­tion” re­quir­ing spe­cial pro­tec­tion from the nor­mal rules of dis­clo­sure.

The TPLF “has a lot more mus­cle and a lot more money,” Mr. Walther said. “I don’t think the donors are re­ally wor­ried about threats to them­selves and safety is­sues that plagued the So­cial­ist Work­ers Party.”

But Com­mis­sioner Matthew Petersen, one of the two Repub­li­can mem­bers of the panel who sup­ported the ex­emp­tion re­quest, said the TPLF’s pe­ti­tion doc­u­ment­ing past ha­rass­ment jus­ti­fied the group’s re­quest. The fund sub­mit­ted more than 1,400 pages con­tain­ing ex­am­ples of ha­rass­ment, ridicule and threats against tea party mem­bers from the me­dia and the gen­eral pub­lic. The sub­mis­sion also noted the still-sim­mer­ing scan­dal over whether the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice de­lib­er­ately tar­geted some con­ser­va­tive groups ap­ply­ing for fed­eral tax-ex­empt sta­tus for spe­cial scru­tiny and reg­u­la­tory de­lays.

The case of the TPLF, Mr. Petersen said “is just as strong as, if not stronger than that of the So­cial­ist Work­ers Party. I think [TPLF] is en­ti­tled to ex­emp­tion.”

Com­mis­sioner Ann Ravel ar­gued that the TPLF did not meet ei­ther of the re­quire­ments laid out in pre­vi­ous court cases that would make it el­i­gi­ble for ex­emp­tion.

“My view is that is doesn’t meet those pro­vi­sions for ei­ther rea­son, ei­ther that you are a mi­nor party or or­ga­ni­za­tion or that the ha­rass­ment reaches the kind of ha­rass­ment that is the his­tor­i­cal back­drop of the court de­ci­sions that speak to this is­sue,” she said.

“Cer­tainly no one at this ta­ble wishes to con­done any ha­rass­ment for any­one who wishes to ex­press their po­lit­i­cal views in any way.”

The ex­emp­tion needed four votes to pass.

Some out­side lib­eral groups had been openly crit­i­cal of the fund’s re­quest for an ex­emp­tion, and praised the FEC’s move.

“It is en­cour­ag­ing that the FEC re­jected the ou­tra­geous re­quest by the Tea Party Lead­er­ship Fund, but it is dis­ap­point­ing that even two com­mis­sion­ers were will­ing to go along with the idea that the tea party group should be el­i­gi­ble for an ex­emp­tion orig­i­nally granted to the im­per­iled mem­ber­ship of the NAACP in the Jim Crow South,” said Paul S. Ryan, se­nior coun­sel for the Cam­paign Le­gal Center.

“Had the jus­ti­fi­ably high bar for this ex­emp­tion been low­ered enough to al­low the Tea Party Lead­er­ship Fund to qual­ify, it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine what po­lit­i­cal groups would not qual­ify for the ex­emp­tion — in­clud­ing the Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tees.”

On a sep­a­rate is­sue, the elec­tion com­mis­sion broke new ground by mak­ing its first rul­ing on the boom­ing new In­ter­net cur­rency known as bit­coins, rul­ing that po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions can’t ac­cept con­tri­bu­tions in the form of bit­coins, at least for now, ac­cord­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The com­mis­sion passed on a re­quest by the Con­ser­va­tive Ac­tion Fund, a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee, to use the dig­i­tal cur­rency. That group re­cently asked the FEC whether it could ac­cept bit­coins, how it could spend them and how donors must re­port those con­tri­bu­tions. It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether the same rul­ing would ap­ply to in­di­vid­ual po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates.

The com­mis­sion­ers dead­locked 3-3 along party lines on the bit­coin pe­ti­tion.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia said Democrats would like to see im­mi­gra­tion re­form leg­is­la­tion come be­fore the House, whether as a com­pre­hen­sive bill or in chunks. Pres­i­dent Obama and his party have backed off on their in­sis­tence for a sin­gle bill.

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