Immigration bill could exclude many, source says
by Erica Werner
WASHINGTON - A promised path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally may leave out hundreds of thousands of them.
Bipartisan Senate legislation would make legalization and ultimately citizenship available only to those who arrived in the U.S. before Dec. 31, 2011, according to a Senate aide with knowledge of the proposals. Anyone who came after that date would be subject to deportation.
The bill, expected to be introduced next week, also would require applicants to document that they were in the country before the cutoff date, have a clean criminal record and show enough employment or financial stability that they're likely to stay off welfare, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposals had not been made public.
Although illegal immigration to the U.S. has been dropping, tens of thousands of people still arrive annually, so the cutoff date alone could exclude a large number of people. The aide said hundreds of thousands could be excluded overall. That came as a disappointment to immigrant rights groups that had been hoping that anyone here as of the date of enactment of the bill could be able to become eligible for citizenship.
"The goal is to deal with the 11 million folks who are here without status, and the wider road that we can create for them to get on that path that they can ultimately get residency and citizenship, the better," Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the liberal Center for American Progress, said Friday. "A cutoff date that lops off all of 2012 and whatever part of 2013, that's going to be at least a couple hundred thousand people. It's not ideal."
But Republicans in the eight-member immigration negotiating group have sought strict criteria on legal enforcement and border security as the price for their support for a path to citizenship, which is still opposed by some as amnesty. The aide said that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who's working to sell the plan to the right, pushed Democrats in the group for an even earlier cutoff date, while the Democrats proposed Jan. 1, 2013. The date negotiators settled on was a compromise but also an outcome Rubio can tout to conservatives.
Indeed Rubio's chief of staff, Cesar Conda, took to Twitter this week to describe the bill as tough on illegal immigration.
"Freezes illegal population. No special pathway. No amnesty," Conda wrote. "Registration for provisional status will not be open-ended and there will be a physical presence requirement barring recent arrivals."
Rubio is to appear on all five network and cable talk shows this Sunday - as well as Univision and Telemundo - to discuss the legislation. Negotiators are aiming to introduce the bill on Tuesday. Details on the criminal record requirement were still being finalized, but anyone with a felony conviction was likely to be ineligible, the aide said.
It's impossible to know exactly how many immigrants have arrived illegally in the U.S. since Dec. 31, 2011, because such statistics aren't collected and the numbers that have been developed aren't that recent, according to Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center. One study found that some 384,000 immigrants entered illegally in 2009.
Despite their concerns over the cutoff date, immigration advocates emphasized they intend to evaluate the bill in totality and still expect to find much to like. Kelley and others also pointed out that the last time the U.S.
Advocates also will be looking to see how much will be charged to immigrants here illegally in fees and fines before they can become citizens and what other requirements are imposed, such as English proficiency.
The legislation would put millions here illegally on a 13-year path to citizenship, while also toughening border security requirements, mandating that all employers check the legal status of workers, and allowing tens of thousands of new high- and low-skilled workers into the country with new visa programs. The legislation is expected to include a new emphasis on merit-based immigration over family ties.
Also Friday agriculture growers and the United Farm Workers gave their formal approval to a hard-fought deal finalizing one of the new visa programs, for agriculture workers. Tom Nassif, president of the Western Growers Association, said the deal would allow up to 337,000 workers into the country through 2021 to labor in the nation's fields and farms. After 2021, the agriculture secretary would set numbers of visas.
The deal also establishes minimum wage rates across different agriculture occupations and allows farm workers already in the country illegally to obtain permanent resident green cards in as little as three years, as long as they work 150 days a year in agriculture, Nassif said. "I think both sides believe that we truly made history today. There was jubilation," he said.
U.S. tells N.Korea new missile launch would be 'huge mistake'
by Arshad Mohammed and Jack Kim
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (L) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shake hands before their talks at the presidential Blue House in Seoul April 12. (Kim Jae-Hwan/Reuters/Pool)
Secretary of State John Kerry warned North Korea on Friday it would be a "huge mistake" to test launch a medium-range missile and said the United States would never accept the reclusive country as a nuclear power.
Addressing reporters after talks with South Korea's president and leaders of the 28,000-strong U.S. military contingent in the country, Kerry also said it was up to China, North Korea's sole major ally, to "put some teeth" into efforts to press Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Kerry, like other U.S. officials, played down an assessment from the Pentagon's intelligence agency that the North already had a nuclear missile capacity.
The United States, he said, wanted to resume talks about North Korea's earlier pledges to halt its nuclear program.
But he also stressed that Washington would defend its allies in the region if necessary and pointedly said that Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, "needs to understand, as I think he probably does, what the outcome of a conflict would be".
North Korea has repeatedly said it will not abandon nuclear weapons which it said on Friday were its "treasured" guarantor of security.
Kerry's visit coincided with preparations for Monday's anniversary of North Korean state founder Kim Il-Sung's birth date, a possible pretext for a show of strength, with speculation focusing on a possible new missile test launch.
Kerry, who flies to China on Saturday and to Japan on Sunday, said that if North Korea's 30-year-old leader went ahead with the launch, "he will be choosing, willfully, to ignore the entire international community".
"I would say ahead of time that it is a huge mistake for him to choose to do that because it will further isolate his country and further isolate his people, who frankly are desperate for food, not missile launches."
The North has issued weeks of shrill threats of an impending war following the imposition of U.N. sanctions in response to its third nuclear test in February. Kerry said the threats were "simply unacceptable" by any standard.
"We are all united in the fact that North Korea will not be accepted as a nuclear power," he said.
Kerry later told U.S. executives in Seoul that China, as an advocate of denuclearization, was in a position to press for a change in the North's policy.
"The reality is that if your policy is denuclearization and it is theirs as it is ours, as it is everybody's except the North at this moment ... if that's your policy, you've got to put some teeth into it," he told the gathering.
But North Korea showed little inclination for further talks.
Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party, said Pyongyang would never abandon its nuclear program.
"The DPRK will hold tighter the treasured sword, nuclear weapons," it said, referring to the country by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
North Korean state television showed footage of newscasts from other countries depicting the trajectory a North Korean missile launch might take.
It also showed preparations for the Kim Il-Sung birthday festivities, including floral tributes, and a stadium of thousands of school children of the Korean Children's Union, each wearing a red scarf and saluting and marching in unison.
Speculation has mounted of an impending medium-range missile test launch in the North after reports in South Korea and the United States that as many as five medium-range missiles have been moved into position on the country's east coast.
Officials in both countries believe the North is preparing to test-launch a Musudan missile, whose range of 3,500 km (2,100 miles) or more would put Japan within striking distance and may threaten the island of Guam, which houses U.S. military bases.
The North has been angry about annual military drills between U.S. and South Korean forces, describing them as a "hostile" act. The United States dispatched B52 and B2 stealth bombers from their bases to take part.
Hours before Kerry's arrival, a U.S. lawmaker quoted a report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, one of the 17 bodies that make up the U.S. intelligence community, as saying it had "moderate confidence" that North Korea had developed a nuclear bomb that could be fitted on a ballistic missile.
But Kerry poured cold water on the report said it was "inaccurate to suggest that the DPRK has fully tested, developed capabilities" as set down in the document.
South Korea's Defence Ministry said it did not believe North Korea could mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.
A U.S. official had earlier suggested that Washington's greatest concern was the possibility of unexpected developments linked to Kim Jong-un's "youth and inexperience". Asked if war seemed imminent, he replied: "Not at all."
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, meeting officials from her ruling Saenuri Party before her talks with Kerry, struck a conciliatory note by suggesting Seoul should at least listen to what North Korea had to say.
"We have a lot of issues, including the Kaesong industrial zone," local media quoted her as saying. So should we not meet with them and ask: "Just what are you trying to do?'"
The president was referring to North Korea's closure this week of the jointly run Kaesong industrial park, with the loss of 53,000 jobs.
Kerry said the United States would not object to the South talking to the North. He also did not rule out the possibility of U.S. aid some day flowing to the North, but suggested this could only happen if Pyongyang undertook real denuclearization.
Kerry sounded upbeat about resolving a dispute between the United States and South Korea over a civil nuclear cooperation agreement that expires next year, saying he thought a compromise could be found by Park's visit to Washington next month.
South Korea is believed to want the right to reprocess its spent nuclear fuel, which would allow it to deal with a mounting stockpile of nuclear waste.
However, this could also allow it to produce bomb-grade fissile material, a step Washington is loathe to see it take in part because of its nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea.
"We are ... very concerned at this time about not having any ingredients that could alter our approach ... to either of those," he said. But Kerry added that he was "confident that one option or another will be able to come to fruition (with South Korea) by the time that President Park comes to Washington."
Rockford police officers back on foot patrol to build up community
by Jeff Kolkey
ROCKFORD — Eric Boettcher and Duane Johnson stride through a cold mist, ready with a friendly word for an office worker huddled under an umbrella, a wave to a passerby or a visit with grateful business owners.
They're among a small group of officers assigned to the Rockford Police Department's popular foot patrols downtown, in Midtown and along Broadway in the wake of a recent spate of violence.
“Part of community policing is being more accessible,” said Boettcher, a 15-year veteran. “It's a little easier for us to get to things we wouldn't normally see from the car. A car is a good tool, but it can also be a barrier.”
The patrols are conducted on an as-needed basis in any part of Rockford, day or night, at any time of the year, although they had been on winter hiatus until this month.
Their mission is one that is implicit in community policing — cops as neighborhood problem-solvers — the department's relatively new approach to police work that attempts to break down barriers between officers and the community.
“This is really old-school policing,” Johnson said.
Only extreme weather and bitter cold can stop the patrols.
The officers keep an eye out for panhandlers who tend to disappear when they see the officers coming. They take time to listen to folks who point out neighborhood problems.
Boettcher and Johnson said they welcome the change of pace from going call to call in a squad car.
Business owners almost universally appreciate seeing the officers.
With the elimination of the daytime M3 Streets Team shift, which provided regular daytime bicycle patrols, Palace Shoe Service owner Tom Giamalva said he is glad to see officers walking the area again.
“It's nice to have them stop in,” he said. “It's nice to know they're around. It's good for the community and, in the nicer months when there are more people sitting and eating downtown, it's great to have that police presence.”