Morning News, 12/2/10

By Bryan Griffith, December 2, 2010

1. Dems hope to get DREAM passed
2. Study: $6.2 billion cost for Act
3. DREAM could cost FL $472m
4. FL lawmaker wants support
5. Reactions to UT plan

Is There a Last Gasp for Immigration Reform?
By Brian Montopoli
CBS News, December 1, 2010

Among the many initiatives Democrats are trying to get passed in the lame-duck session is an immigration bill known as the DREAM Act that would allow certain young undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship.

The DREAM Act is a major priority of Hispanic groups, who represent a growing and crucial voting bloc. Without them Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, among other western Democrats, would now be preparing for retirement.

What these groups want is comprehensive immigration reform, something Reid promised to get done this year back in April, vowing "no excuses" for failure. They aren't getting it, but they view the DREAM Act as a start: The bill would allow illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children (before age 16), have lived in America for five consecutive years, have no serious criminal record and who have a high-school degree or GED certificate to apply for citizenship on the condition that they attend college or serve in the military for two or more years.

Republicans have hammered the DREAM Act as amounting to "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.

"The American people did not vote for amnesty in this past election," Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said Wednesday. "I think it's clear, as Senator McCain said, the national consensus is and he's accepted this, that we have to have lawfulness in the immigration system before we start giving millions amnesty--as this bill will do."

Reid has vowed to bring the DREAM Act up for a vote in the lame duck session of the Senate. But it's a heavy lift. For starters, Republicans say they will block any and all other legislation until the Bush tax cuts have been extended and the government, which runs out of money on Friday, has been funded. (The House on Wednesday afternoon passed a bill to fund the government through December 18th, and the Senate is expected to follow suit, but that's not a permanent solution.)

In addition, the DREAM Act is just one of the issues Democrats are trying to deal with before the new, more Republican Congress takes over next year. President Obama is pushing hard for the Senate to ratify the new START arms treaty with Russia before the new year for fear that it will otherwise fall apart; Democrats are also vowing to pass repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, something that could take two weeks of Senate time if (as Republicans insist) it goes through a full amendment process.

Also to be dealt with is an extension of unemployment benefits, which expired Tuesday, putting two million people in jeopardy of not seeing checks this holiday season. Keep in mind all this has to happen before senators go home for the year, something that will happen at the very latest on December 24th.
. . .


Immigration Center Estimates DREAM Act Tab at $6.2 Billion, December 1, 2010

A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies predicts that the so-called DREAM Act Congress is considering to provide the so-called "road to citizenship" for illegal immigrants could cost U.S. taxpayers $6.2 billion, partly because most of the immigrants who would take advantage of it would attend state universities and community colleges. The Washington, D.C.-based think tank’s report estimates that number at 1.03 million, and it describes the figure as conservative.

DREAM Act, billion, Obama, illegal, immigrantsThe proposed act would offer permanent legal status to illegal immigrants up to the age of 35 but who came to the United States before they were 16, provided that they complete two years of college. The controversial proposal would allow beneficiaries to receive in-state tuition.

“Given the low income of illegal immigrants, most can be expected to attend state schools, with a cost to taxpayers in the billions of dollars,” says the report, which center research director Steven A. Camarota wrote. “As both funds and slots are limited at state universities and community colleges, the act may reduce the educational opportunities available to U.S. citizens.”

Noting that the DREAM Act would not provide funding to states and counties to cover the costs it imposes, the report says, “Since enrollment and funding are limited at public institutions, the act’s passage will require some combination of tuition increases, tax increases to expand enrollment or a reduction in spaces available for American citizens at these schools.”
. . .


Sponsor of controversial immigration bill wants Hispanic support
By Kathleen Haughney
Miami Herald, December 2, 2010

The lawmaker spearheading an effort to pass an Arizona-style immigration law in Florida is trying to get the state's Hispanic community on board with his plans in an attempt to dispel fears that the measure will lead to flagrant racial profiling.

``The reality is the members of the Hispanic community are very nervous about this,'' said state Rep. Will Snyder, R-Stuart, who is pushing the measure. ``I don't think it is right for us to blow past that.''

Snyder, alongside outgoing Attorney General Bill McCollum, unveiled the outline of an immigration proposal this summer that would require police to check the status of suspected illegal immigrants during a lawful stop, require businesses to use a federal database to check the status of new hires and subject illegal immigrants who commit crimes to harsher penalties than legal immigrants or U.S. citizens.

Snyder has not yet filed his bill, but Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has filed a similar measure in the Senate. Bennett told the News Service that his goal is to largely focus on the ``criminal element'' of illegal immigration that has sometimes led to gang violence and drug trafficking. He also said that he believes he will get the support of much of the Cuban community.

``Most of them are in agreement because their families are in agreement and they went to get rid of the bad element,'' he said.

How far the Florida Legislature will go in advancing the immigration debate isn't clear. Snyder, who chairs the House Judiciary committee, will likely be able to advance the measure to the full House and Bennett is a member of the Senate's leadership team, giving him clout as well.

The idea, at least, will have the support of Gov.-elect Rick Scott and Attorney General-elect Pam Bondi who both campaigned on the issue.

Snyder is slated to meet with Bondi"s transition staff next week in Tallahassee and has reached out to the governor-elect's staff as well.

Bondi has said she would support a bill only if it made significant provisions to ban racial profiling. In Arizona, the major backlash to the law has centered on the fear that it will lead to the violation of the rights of legal immigrants, or even Hispanics who may have been in the country for generations.
. . .


Florida DREAMing: $472 Million For Illegals at College
By Kenric Ward
Sunshine State News, December 2, 2010

The DREAM Act would cost Florida taxpayers an estimated $472 million more a year in college tuition subsidies while potentially crowding out citizens, according to a new report from the Center for Immigration Studies.

The Washington, D.C.-based research organization that advocates for strict immigration enforcement and border control pegs DREAM's national price tag at $6.2 billion annually.

Another report, as yet unconfirmed, claimed Wednesday that an unreleased Congressional Budget Office analysis estimates the cost at four times the CIS figure.

The DREAM Act -- currently being considered by the lame-duck, Democrat-controlled Congress -- would grant permanent legal status to illegal immigrants up to age 35, who arrived in the United States before age 16, provided they complete two years of college.

Under the act, these illegal migrants would receive in-state tuition on their so-called path to citizenship.

At Florida universities, there's a $20,140 per-student difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates. Granting in-state discounts to illegal immigrants would have to be made up by increased taxpayer subsidies to universities, officials say.

The in-state/out-of-state tuition differential at Florida's community colleges is considerably smaller: $3,508.

Overall, taxpayer tuition subsidies currently run $6,834 per student in Florida, which is estimated to have the third largest share of illegal immigrants in the nation.

CIS policy analyst Steve Camarota estimates that 69,000 illegals in Florida would qualify immediately for in-state tuition under the DREAM Act.

"Conservatively assuming that 80 percent of those go to community college, that adds up to $472 million a year," Camarota told Sunshine State News.

"That's pretty tough when these colleges are already bursting at the seams," he said.

"Given the low income of illegal immigrants, most can be expected to attend this country's state schools, with a cost to taxpayers in the billions of dollars. As both funds and slots are limited at state universities and community colleges, the act may reduce the educational opportunities available to U.S. citizens," the CIS report stated.
. . .


Reactions mixed on immigrant reform plan
By Dennis Romboy
Deseret News, December 1, 2010

Many elements would have to come together in a perfect storm for a proposed immigration reform plan calling for illegal immigrants to obtain state-issued work permits to be a viable way to fix a complex problem.

In unveiling her legislation, Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake, called it a "more realistic solution" that brings individual and business accountability to the undocumented immigration issue.

And in offering his support, Paul Mero, president of the conservative Sutherland Institute, says the program is practical and reasonable. "It asks something of everyone and yet burdens no one needlessly."

Under the proposal, state government, the business community and illegal immigrants themselves would have to make some significant, possibly expensive, changes to make the idea work. It also would need cooperation from the federal government.

A draft of the bill released Tuesday calls for undocumented people to undergo criminal background checks, meet an English proficiency standard and apply for "accountability cards" allowing them to work in Utah.

Local Hispanic groups are at odds over Robles' bill.

Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, calls it "another false start" on immigration reform. Though he finds the plan well-intentioned, he said it isn't practical and won't work because the federal government won't give it a thumbs up.

"We are concerned that this approach gives undocumented immigrants false hope," he said.

Archie Archuleta, president Utah Coalition of La Raza, says the proposal is "sound strategy" for dealing with Utah's undocumented immigrant population.

"It forces the forces of anti-immigration and the forces of pro-immigration to look at a different approach," he said. "It adds a positive note to solving the problem rather than a punitive one."

Still, Archuleta said undocumented immigrants would eye the program with suspicion. When the federal government declared amnesty for illegal immigrants in the 1980s, he said, "it was like pulling teeth from people to get them to bring in their paperwork.

"The hard part is, will they go forward and take those cards? … I would be leery if I were undocumented. But at the same time, it would give me hope that there is a better way."
. . .