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Border Roundup: Congress considers immigration reform bills

Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto visits the United States; Republicans reconsider immigration policies; the unintended side effects of immigration legislation

Politics and policy

Franco Ordoñez wrote that while the public is focused on the the issue of amnesty and citizenship, immigration reform also faces the challenge of how to deal with guest workers who are considered a necessity by farmers and industry (including plant managers in North Carolina and South Carolina who've turned to prisons for manpower as immigration slowed, but a threat by labor unions who say that guest worker programs can be abused and can threaten U.S. workers. Lee Wicker, deputy director of the North Carolina Growers Association, said guest workers must be streamlined because U.S. workers don't want these jobs and that this year, “We had 270 U.S. applicants apply for 7,500 openings.”

Arizona senator and former GOP presidential candidate John McCain continued to call for Republicans to reconsider their stances on immigration reform, and possibly also leave abortion "alone" in a efforts to "make a bigger tent." McCain and retiring Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Tex.) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.) have written a bill that, like the DREAM Act, addresses young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. Unlike the DREAM Act it would grant them legal residency, not a path to citizenship, if they enlist in the military or pursue college degrees.

Other prominent Republicans advocating a more moderate stance include Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C. who says that the party's policies have "built a wall" between them and Hispanic voters and former President George W. Bush's commerce secretary and chair of Mitt Romney's Latino outreach campaign group Juntos con Romney Carlos Gutierrez who's helped found a new Super PAC called Republicans for Immigration Reform. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, says that Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who previously proposed legislation addressing deportation stays for high achieving students that some considered an alternative to the DREAM Act, will be "critical" and "key" to immigration reform.

The House approved Republican sponsored legislation known as the STEM Jobs Act Bill for science, technology engineering and mathematics in a vote that fell primarily along party lines and will now proceed to the Senate.

Legislative side effects

On Thursday civil rights groups filed suit to overturn Gov. Jan Brewer's order denying Arizona driver's licences to those qualifying for deportation stays under the new federal program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The DACA program includes issuing work permits to approved applicants to work but Brewer states that "a 1996 Arizona law specifically requires proof the person’s presence in the United States “is authorized under federal law.”" The suit contends that Brewer's order is at odds with federal policy and is "counterproductive." The groups involved in the lawsuit include the American Civil Liberties Union, which has also filed several lawsuits over Arizona's SB 1070 including one by Asian-American Jim Shee. They state that Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman's similar policy on driver's licenses may also generate a similar lawsuit.

Georgia physicians say state legislation requiring physicians and other health workers to prove their citizenship is leading to expired licenses because the medical board cannot keep up with the deluge of paperwork. House Bill 87, one of the provisions of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011, went into effect in January and requires health workers to prove their citizenship or legal residency when renewing their licenses - but administrative offices can't keep up. Physician renewals that used to take minutes online now typically take around 10 days but in some cases can take more than 30 days and board data showed that the percentage of licenses expiring while in the renewal process jumped to 13.5% from 2.8% the year before. Nursing renewals are taking longer at about 17 days while new nursing licenses can take up to three months.

Mexican relations

Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto has been touring Canada and the U.S. in advance of his Saturday inauguration. Pena Nieto told President Obama, whom he invited him on a state visit to Mexico early next year, that when it comes to immigration reform, “we want to contribute toward the accomplishment." However, Pena Nieto also wants to "reboot" Mexico's relationship with the U.S. and refocus on economic and trade relationships. Mexico's economy has been showing signs of strength and recovery despite the brutal drug violence of the last six years. When it comes to dealing with the cartels, Pena Nieto is expected to echo President Felipe Calderon's approach of leading with federal police but may controversially reorganize them into a single agency. Pena Nieto has also said he will shift his focus from kingpins and capos to focusing on stopping "the murders, the extortion, the associated violence with the drug trade instead of an all-out military offensive."

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Agents at the Douglas Port of Entry arrested a local woman after discovering 199 bundles of marijuana (estimated value $131,000) in the Mercury sedan she was driving after being alerted by a canine agent.

Border Patrol Activity

As reported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection press releases:

Sunday, Nov. 25Agents at the Douglas Port of Entry arrested a local woman after discovering 199 bundles of marijuana (estimated value $131,000) in the Mercury sedan she was driving after being alerted by a canine agent

Tuesday, Nov. 27Agents at the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry arrested a 27-year-old U.S. citizen attempting to cross south into Mexico after 33 packages of unreported currency equalling $321,000 was discovered hidden in a spare tire in his Chevrolet truck

Wednesday, Nov. 28

Ajo station agents discovered 1,365 pounds of marijuana (estimated value $683,000) near Pisinemo in an abandoned Chevy Tahoe reported stolen out of Phoenix

Thursday, Nov. 29

Wilcox Station agents arrested three U.S. citizens in two separate incidents at the State Route 90 checkpoint for attempting to smuggle six people in the vehicles' trunks

Sources

American Medican News: Physician licenses become collateral damage of immigration law

Arizona Republic: Asian-American says Latinos not only ones hit by SB 1070

East Valley Tribune: ACLU sues to overturn denial of driver licenses to 'deferred action' illegal immigrants

Fox News Latino: House Passes Immigration Reform, STEM Act May Head to Senate

Hill: Dem Rep. Gutierrez: Sen. Rubio key to immigration reform

Houston Chronicle: Mexican president-elect Peña Nieto praises Obama, wins bipartisan applause from Texans

International Business Times: Another Republican For Immigration Reform: McCain

National Public Radio: Can Mexico's New President Turn The Corner?

National Public Radio: High Expectations As Mexico's Pena Nieto Takes Helm

News & Observer: Biggest challenge to immigration bill may be guest workers

Omaha World Herald: ACLU sues Arizona governor; Heineman could be next

Politico: McCain urges immigration reform, leaving abortion 'alone'

San Francisco Chronicle: GOP immigration reform backers speak out

Washington Post: Senators introduce GOP alternative to Dream Act