by Dana Bash and Ted Barnett, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Washington (CNN) - A bipartisan amendment intended to increase Republican support for a Senate immigration bill would require 20,000 more border agents, completing a 700-mile fence on the frontier with Mexico and taking other steps before undocumented immigrants can get green cards, conservative Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday.
The proposal, negotiated by a group of senators from both parties known as the "Gang of Eight," also calls for deploying $3.2 billion in technology upgrades sought by the border patrol. Additionally, it seeks worker verification and border entry-exit controls before the 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States can get full legal residency, according to the South Carolina Republican.
He noted it would take "a couple of years" to train and deploy the new agents in an expansion that would almost double the current force, and that the Department of Homeland Security would verify when the triggers for improved border security had been met to begin issuing green cards.
Graham, one of the four Republicans in the "Gang of Eight" that put together the compromise bill, also said the measure would include increased fees and other mechanisms to pay for the cost expected to exceed $20 billion.
Other GOP members of the "Gang of Eight" said they supported the plan.FULL STORY
By Paul Steinhauser, CNN
Washington (CNN) – While a small majority of Americans are in favor of the immigration bill currently before the U.S. Senate, according to a new national poll the old and young don't see eye to eye on the issue.
And a CNN/ORC International survey also indicates that more than six in ten say border security rather than a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants should be the bigger priority.
The poll's Tuesday morning release comes as a bill backed by the bipartisan 'Gang of Eight' senators faces more legislative hurdles. The measure would offer a 13-year path to eventual citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country. If the legislation passes through the Democratic Senate, it would face an uncertain future in the Republican dominated House of Representatives.
According to the poll, 51% say they support a bill that would attempt to increase border security and create a pathway to citizenship for many undocumented immigrants, with 45% saying they are opposed to such a measure.Read the full post on CNN's Political Ticker blog
By Ted Barrett, CNN Senior Congressional Producer
(CNN) - The Senate is to vote later Tuesday to begin debate on immigration reform, an emotionally charged proposal with huge political stakes that may never get through Congress despite years of negotiation and major compromise.
It aims to create a 13-year path to citizenship for most of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants, a bipartisan proposal hammered out by the so-called "Gang of Eight" senators this spring that has the backing of President Barack Obama.
Polls show many Americans also favor some form of immigration policy overhaul, depending on the details of legislation.
GOP leaders have signaled their support for starting debate, so a procedural motion aimed at doing so is expected to receive the 60 votes necessary to take that next step even if the fate of the legislation is uncertain.
Obama and congressional Democrats are anxious to fulfill a long-delayed pledge to Latino voters to pass reforms to the troubled immigration system. Passage could pay political dividends for their party for many years.
Republicans are in a more difficult bind.
Latinos backed Obama over Mitt Romney by a 44-point margin in November and GOP strategists are concerned about the party's long term viability in national elections if that trend is not reversed.
Some congressional conservatives say opposing the "Gang of Eight" plan is a matter of principle and they won't bend. They remain skeptical about any measure offering a path to citizenship. A lot of them consider it amnesty.FULL STORY
Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.
By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
San Diego (CNN) - Former Wyoming Sen. Al Simpson knows a thing or two about passing landmark immigration reform. My friend and former graduate school professor did it in 1986 with the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which he co-authored with former Rep. Romano Mazzoli.
Simpson knows that the endeavor is not for the faint of heart, or the thin-skinned or the easily disillusioned. It means navigating one of the wackiest and wickedest debates in our public discourse. The immigration debate, he likes to say, is filled with "emotion, fear, guilt and racism."
It is no wonder that most lawmakers won't go anywhere near the immigration issue. For those who grab the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground, things can get frustrating.
So began the education of Marco Rubio. The Florida senator is the de-facto leader of the Gang of Eight, the bipartisan group of senators pushing for immigration reform. Rubio has become the face of immigration reform. He is the most articulate advocate and the game's most valuable player in large part because he is charged with rounding up Republican votes.
Meanwhile, if Rubio were to withdraw support for the bill, it wouldn't just be a game changer. It would be game over.FULL STORY
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
(CNN) - Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa insists, "I just think of myself as a regular guy."
It's an incredible statement from someone who grew up in an impoverished Mexican village, illegally hopped the fence into California, attended Harvard Medical School and now works at Johns Hopkins Medicine as a neurosurgeon.
"I've never been one who declines adventure," he says.
The oldest of five children, Quinones-Hinojosa as a child had nightmares that he had to save his mother and siblings from fires, floods, avalanches, says his memoir, "Becoming Dr. Q," which he co-authored.
His interest in medicine may have stemmed from this sense of responsibility, along with his baby sister's death from colitis (the memoir is dedicated to her). At 6, though, he wanted to be an astronaut.
His father owned a gas station, and Quinones-Hinojosa worked there at age 5; his family lived in an apartment in the back. But as Mexico's economy took a dive, the business collapsed, along with the family's livelihood. Quinones-Hinojosa's father had to sell it for almost no profit. They later learned that gasoline had been leaking out of holes in the underground tanks.
The family used to eat meat once a week, but that became a luxury of the past. After the station was sold, they had to make do with flour tortillas and homemade salsa, he wrote.
Short visits to California's San Joaquin Valley, where Quinones-Hinojosa's uncle Fausto was a foreman at a ranch, gave Quinones-Hinojosa a glimpse into the United States - and the American dream. At age 14, he spent two months there pulling weeds, making money to bring back to his family.
That hard-earned cash proved that people like me were not helpless or powerless," he wrote.
As a teenager, Quinones-Hinojosa thought he would become an elementary school teacher. Despite his excellent grades at a teacher-training college, however, he was assigned a position in a remote, rural area; only politically-connected, wealthy kids got jobs in cities, he wrote. Quinones-Hinojosa's salary would be paltry.
His uncle agreed to let him work a short stint again at the California ranch to supplement his income, as doubts began to accumulate about his future as a teacher. A plan began to form in his mind.
Passage into the United States
Quinones-Hinojosa had $65 in his pocket when, the day before his 19th birthday in 1987, he decided to cross into the United States for a longer stay. He wasn't thinking about laws, he just wanted to escape poverty so that he could go back and feed his family, he says.
Risking arrest, deportation and even death, Quinones-Hinojosa had a plan: He would cross the border in a "Spider-man climb" up an 18-foot-fence, hop over the barbed wire and make a leap into California, he wrote.
Just when he made it across, border agents picked him up and sent him back to Mexico.FULL STORY
By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
Washington (CNN) - The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" immigration reform bill on Tuesday, sending the measure to the Senate floor for consideration and giving the bill's backers their first major legislative victory.
Members of the Democratic-controlled panel voted 13-5 in favor of the measure.
If enacted, the plan would constitute the first overhaul of the nation's immigration policy since 1986.
"The dysfunction in our current immigration system affects all of us and it is long past time for reform. I hope that our history, our values, and our decency can inspire us finally to take action," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said.
Spectators cramming the committee room applauded and cheered loudly following the vote.
The panel's 10 Democrats were joined in supporting the bill by three Republicans: Arizona's Jeff Flake, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, and Utah's Orrin Hatch. Flake and Graham are two of its four Republican authors.
Both party leaders in the Senate appeared supportive of the effort, a positive sign for backers hoping to win a solid majority in the full chamber.FULL STORY
By Alan Silverleib, CNN Congressional Producer
Washington (CNN) - Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform won their first major legislative victory this week when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to approve the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" plan.
If enacted, the measure will create a 13-year path to citizenship for most of the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants.
It aims to strengthen border security while raising the cap on visas for high-skilled workers and establishing a new visa program for low-skilled workers on America's farms and elsewhere.
Here are five key things to know about the state of play on this issue:
1) There's still a long way to go
The Judiciary Committee's 13-5 vote was significant partly because three Republicans - Arizona's Jeff Flake, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, and Utah's Orrin Hatch - joined the panel's Democrats in backing the measure. Now, however, attention turns to the full Senate, where the level of GOP support remains an open question.
Assuming every member of the Democratic caucus backs the bill, five Republicans will be needed to ensure it receives the 60 votes needed to pass the 100-member chamber. The bill's backers have been hoping for as many as 70 votes, in order to give the proposal significant bipartisan momentum heading into the tougher GOP-controlled House.
And make no mistake - serious momentum will be needed in the House, where conservatives remain deeply skeptical about any measure offering a path to citizenship. A lot of conservatives consider that to be amnesty, which may as well be a four-letter word in this debate.FULL STORY
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Here's something to consider as Congress debates overhauling America's immigration system: For the first time since at least 1850, immigrants will be the primary driver of U.S. population.
Births have been the leading cause of population growth since the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting data in 1850. That may change within the next 14 years.
The population growth shifts could happen as early as 2027 or as late as 2038, depending, of course, on the numbers of international arrivals over the next few years.
Not that immigration levels are at their highest, cautioned Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau's senior adviser. The rates were much higher during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
"This projected milestone reflects the mix of our nation's declining fertility rates, the aging of the baby boomer population and continued immigration," Mesenbourg said.
The Census Bureau issued three projections of population growth shifts based on different immigration levels. A high immigration projection showed that the nation's non-white population would jump from 37% in 2012 to 58.8% in 2060. Hispanics would make up 29.9% of the population, compared with 17% in 2012, and Asians would climb from 5.1% to 9%.
Non-Latino whites are projected to no longer be a majority by 2046, even if immigration levels stay the same.
By Mariano Castillo, CNN
(CNN) - Known for his outspoken, unapologetic support of migrants in Mexico, the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde is bringing his message to the United States.
The priest is part of a caravan of migrants and their supporters traveling from Los Angeles to Washington to push for immigration reform.
In Mexico, Solalinde has criticized the government, and even the Catholic Church, saying that both can be more compassionate to migrants. His views are shaped by the years he has spent leading a migrant shelter in Oaxaca that offers support to Central Americans who embark on the dangerous route north by clinging to trains.
A number of threats last year led to his leaving his post, located in Ixtepec, in the southern state of Oaxaca, but he has since returned.
"I don't know how to live with fear," Solalinde told CNN.
Immigration issues must be tackled both at the source and the destination of the migrants, he said.FULL STORY
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) - Aparna Bhattacharyya opened her e-mail on April 16 and there it was: a note from the White House informing her she was a Champion of Change.
The 41-year-old Atlanta woman was surprised. But those who know her say she shouldn't have been.
She's been working for almost two decades with Raksha, an Atlanta-based organization that addresses a host of issues in the South Asian community. Over the years, Raksha has done the simplest of things, like helping someone set up online banking. But mainly, they've done a whole lot of heavy hitting by supporting victims of domestic and sexual abuse.
She is one of 15 Asian-American and Pacific Islander women who will be honored Monday at the White House for "doing extraordinary things to create a more equal, safe, and prosperous future for their communities and the country." The event is part of the White House's observance of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. FULL POST