State Senate Rejects Bill Granting Tuition Aid to Illegal Immigrants
ALBANY — In a surprise vote, the New York State Senate on Monday rejected legislation that would have granted state tuition aid to undocumented immigrants, dealing a blow to immigrants’ advocates who had made it their top priority in the capital.
The Senate, controlled by Republicans and a small group of Democrats, failed to pass the measure despite a vote of 30 in favor and 29 opposed. It required 32 votes in favor to pass.
Immigrants’ advocates have been leaning on the Senate for months. But Republicans had shown no interest in considering the legislation, and the decision to hold a vote on Monday came abruptly, with almost no notice.
Even advocates were surprised: Latino activists who had planned to visit the Capitol on Tuesday to lobby for the measure said they would now use the trip to express their frustration.
All of the Republicans present voted against the measure; two Democrats, Simcha Felder of Brooklyn and Ted O’Brien of the Rochester area, also voted no.
“So many legal families are struggling with the high cost of college education right now,” said Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo.
The vote on Monday came after a tense debate that stretched for more than an hour and was filled with emotional pleas for support from many Latino and black senators. “This is an opportunity — an opportunity to do the right thing,” said Senator José R. Peralta, Democrat of Queens.
The legislation would have allowed undocumented students who met certain conditions to receive financial aid through state programs, like the Tuition Assistance Program. It would also have created a private scholarship fund for the children of immigrants, and allowed undocumented students and their families to open college savings accounts.
The Democratic-controlled State Assembly passed the measure last month. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, had not been a vocal advocate for its passage, which irritated a number of Hispanic lawmakers, but he had been expected to sign it if the Senate passed it. But it had been unclear for months if the bill had the necessary Senate support.
The measure, known as the Dream Act, got its name from federal legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for young immigrants who entered the country illegally. The New York measure would not offer an opportunity to gain legal status.
More than a dozen states offer in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants. New York has done so for more than a decade, and an estimated 8,300 undocumented immigrants were attending public institutions of higher education in the state in the fall of 2013.
But only four states — California, New Mexico, Texas and Washington —offer state financial aid to undocumented students, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The decision to hold a vote in the Senate was orchestrated by Senator Jeffrey D. Klein of the Bronx, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, a five-member group that shares power with the Senate Republicans.
It was a rare instance of Senate-floor drama. It is highly unusual to hold a vote on legislation in Albany when passage is not guaranteed. Last year, not a single piece of legislation was defeated in a floor vote in the Senate, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group.
But Mr. Klein had been criticized for partnering with Senate Republicans, who have blocked a number of measures sought by liberal lawmakers. Democrats suspected he wanted to put the measure to a vote to avoid accusations from the left that he was complicit in bottling it up.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Mr. Klein recalled his own family history of immigration to the United States, as well as the nation’s tradition of welcoming people from foreign lands.
“You’re either standing up for these students to get their shot, or standing in the way,” he said.
But Javier H. Valdés, the co-executive director of Make the Road New York, a Latino advocacy group, questioned why Mr. Klein had pushed for the vote when one Republican senator who was seen as a possible supporter, Phil Boyle of Long Island, was absent.
“Our sense was that we were set up to lose, and that’s very concerning,” Mr. Valdés said. “Why would they call a vote so quickly that’s been debated for so long?”
A version of this article appears in print on March 18, 2014, on page A18 of the New York edition with the headline: State Senate Rejects Bill Granting Tuition Aid to Illegal Immigrants.
Deportation Policy Shift Is Signaled by Obama
A demonstration against immigration policies greeted President Obama on March 5 at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Obama and his top aides have for months rejected demands from Hispanic activists that Mr. Obama wave a magic wand to end deportations, an action the White House saw as so antagonistic to Republicans that it would destroy any hope for a bipartisan immigration overhaul and even open the door to impeachment.
But the growing sense of desperation among Latinos about the deportation of nearly two million illegal immigrants has engulfed top Democrats on Capitol Hill, who fear that Hispanic voters’ anger at the president could disastrously sink turnout in the coming midterm elections.
The result is a shift in direction for the president, who signaled on Thursday night that he wants to find a legal way to reduce the number of otherwise law-abiding families who are torn apart by deportation. In a two-hour meeting with immigration activists on Friday, the president again pledged to refine enforcement of immigration laws.
In the meeting, the president pressed the activists to remain focused on his push for legislation to overhaul immigration laws and said that a new system remains the best way to permanently fix the problem of deportations, according to participants. Mr. Obama reminded the activists, the participants said, that any action he took on his own would be fleeting and not comprehensive.
But Mr. Obama promised that Jeh C. Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, would review his department’s actions to address what he called a moral crisis among immigrants. Several of the activists pledged to help Mr. Obama keep the pressure on Republicans, but at the meeting said that Mr. Obama needs to do more than that.
“We agree with the president that the only permanent solution is legislation,” said Lorella Praeli, a leader of United We Dream, a youth organization. “We disagree that he cannot act today to halt deportations and be bold on the administrative front. We don’t need a review at this time. We need him to act.”
Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, said activists vowed to continue pressing for an end to deportations. “The community needs broad relief,” Mr. Bhargava said, adding: “The progress today was the president’s willingness to engage. But the verdict is still out.”
Mr. Obama’s decision to review immigration enforcement is a recognition of the election-year dangers his party faces and an attempt by White House officials to reassure Latino supporters that the president is not immune to their pain. It is also a message to House Republicans to stop blocking passage of the stalled immigration overhaul.
But it remains unclear whether Mr. Obama can do anything that would satisfy Latino activists without providing fuel for Republican accusations that he is baldly sidestepping the nation’s laws.
“What are we to do when a president, regardless of motivation, nullifies our vote by failing to faithfully execute the law?” Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, said in a fiery floor speech this week. “Why pursue immigration reform if presidents can turn off the very provisions that we pass?”
A move by Mr. Obama to limit deportations on his own would enrage House Republicans, who in recent weeks have cited Mr. Obama’s various executive actions — as well as his State of the Union promise to use a “pen and phone” to circumvent Congress when possible — as reasons they do not trust him enough to work with him on a broad issue like immigration.
“It looks to me like he’s preparing another trial balloon to go forth with more likely unconstitutional executive actions,” said Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, who has long been a vocal opponent of the president on immigration. “I don’t know how trust can be restored.”
Even the Republican leadership in the House, which has expressed an interest in passing some form of an immigration overhaul, said that Mr. Obama’s latest announcement could further hamper any immigration progress in Congress.
“There’s no doubt we have an immigration system that is failing families and our economy, but until it is reformed through the democratic process, the president is obligated to enforce the laws we have,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner. “Failing to do so would damage — perhaps beyond repair — our ability to build the trust necessary to enact real immigration reform.”
Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said Friday that Mr. Obama “does not have the authority to achieve comprehensive immigration reform” through executive action. “There is no fix here that does not include legislation,” he added.
Mr. Carney’s answer does not satisfy some activists and Hispanic lawmakers, who are tired of waiting. In a meeting on Tuesday with Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel, aides to three senior Democratic senators argued that the president has the authority to choose how to enforce current laws with finite resources.
They suggested that the White House extend protections from deportation to undocumented immigrants who are parents of American citizens. The senators’ staff also suggested that Mr. Obama tell immigration officials that their priority in deportations should be people ineligible for legalization if an immigration overhaul that has passed the Senate became law.
The White House and Senate Democrats are hoping that the threat of unilateral action by Mr. Obama will prompt some Republicans to accept the Senate bill, which passed with bipartisan support.
“Or they can sit idly by and watch the president greatly curtail deportations while 11 million continue to live in limbo here in America,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. “The choice is clear: A reform bill has the support of liberals, moderates and conservatives, and all we need is the courage of the Republican leadership to make the right and obvious choice.”
Several legal scholars said Friday that the president has only some leeway to give protection from deportation to larger numbers of immigrants here illegally.
They said the president’s best options would be modeled on a program Mr. Obama started in 2012 that has given temporary reprieves from deportation to more than 500,000 young immigrants who came to this country illegally as children. That program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, does not provide any visa or legal immigration status, which scholars agree only Congress can do. It defers deportations case by case as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion.
Hiroshi Motomura, an immigration law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the president might offer reprieves to otherwise law-abiding immigrants who had been here without documentation for a decade or more.
“As long as he is not trying to change the law unilaterally but he is trying to impose order on the system, he is well within his discretion,” Mr. Motomura said.
Ashley Parker contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on March 15, 2014, on page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: Obama Signals Deportation Policy Shift
Arizona Governor With Tough Immigration and Abortion Stands Won’t Run Again
By IAN LOVETTMARCH 12, 2014
Jan Brewer, governor of Arizona, said on Wednesday, “There does come a time to pass the torch of leadership.” Credit Matt York/Associated Press
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, a Republican whose approval of controversial measures on immigration and abortion have repeatedly put her in the national spotlight, announced Wednesday that she would not run for re-election, ending speculation that she might seek a third term.
“There does come a time to pass the torch of leadership,” Ms. Brewer said during brief comments at an elementary school here. “After completing this term in office, I will be doing just that.”
Even though the Arizona Constitution limits governors to two consecutive terms, Ms. Brewer had lately talked of finding a way around the term limits. She was Arizona’s secretary of state in 2009 when the governor at the time, Janet Napolitano, left to become President Obama’s Homeland Security secretary. Under the state’s succession rules, this meant that Ms. Brewer got the top job.
This year, with a roster of candidates lining up to replace her, Ms. Brewer toyed with the idea of trying to stay in office, saying she could make a case in court that although she had served two terms, one of them was not an elected term, so it should not count.
In her five years in office, Ms. Brewer, 69, has presided over one of the more tumultuous legislative periods in the state’s history. She first emerged as a nationally polarizing figure in 2010 when she signed into law some of the nation’s toughest measures against illegal immigrants. In 2012, she signed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. An appeals court struck the law down last year.
Late last month, Ms. Brewer was again in the national spotlight when the Arizona Legislature passed a bill that would have given business owners the right to invoke religion to refuse service to gays, lesbians and others. She vetoed the measure after a dramatic few days of speculation about what she would do.
Speaking at the elementary school that her children had attended — where she first decided to run for office, after a school board meeting in the cafeteria — Ms. Brewer spoke of what she viewed as her accomplishments as governor.
“We have been steadfast in fighting for state sovereignty and individual liberty,” she said, adding that her administration had steered Arizona out of a recession that hit the state harder than most others. “We’ve worked relentlessly to rescue Arizona from the economic brink.”
Few who are involved in Arizona politics had expected Ms. Brewer to run again, given the court challenge that would most likely have followed. She did not take questions after her statement, but Andrew Wilder, a spokesman for the governor, said that term limits were not what had motivated her decision to step aside.
“This was a very personal decision,” Mr. Wilder said, adding that if she had run, “she would have done so believing she would prevail.”
Mr. Wilder said that Ms. Brewer “hasn’t indicated an intention to run for another office,” but that she did plan to stay involved in politics, supporting “candidates that share her approach to governing.”
With Ms. Brewer out of the race for governor, the primary now amounts to a battle for the ideological future of the Republican Party.
The Republicans who have already signaled their candidacies range from Tea Party favorites to business advocates to moderates. They include
On the Democratic side is Fred DuVal, a former chairman of the state’s Board of Regents, who may face an uphill fight in a state long dominated by Republicans.
Nathan Sproul, a Republican strategist, called the contest the most wide-open Republican primary in more than two decades of governor’s races.
“This primary will definitely determine the direction of the Republican Party in the state; there are very distinct differences between the candidates,” he said. “If anyone told you that they knew where this race stood, they would not be telling the truth. This race is as wide open as it can possibly be.”
Ms. Brewer has not yet endorsed any of the candidates, but she may yet play a defining role in the campaign. She has deep reserves in her political action committees, money that she can use to help candidates running for office both in Arizona and nationally.
She has not always sided with her party. Ms. Brewer was a driving force behind the expansion of Medicaid in Arizona, a stand that put her at odds with Republicans in the State Legislature and the Center for Arizona Policy, a powerful advocacy group behind the bill on refusing service to gays and other controversial legislation. She also helped push through a sales tax to stave off cuts to education and other services.
“In Arizona, I think she’s going to be remembered for guiding the state through this very difficult recession,” said Patrick J. Kenney, a professor of political science at Arizona State University. “And nationally, she’ll be remembered for being at the forefront of these tough immigration policies.”
Fernanda Santos contributed reporting from Phoenix.
A version of this article appears in print on March 13, 2014, on page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: Arizona Governor With Tough Immigration and Abortion Stands Won’t Run Again.
Obama, Citing a Concern for Families, Orders a Review of Deportations
By MICHAEL D. SHEARMARCH 13, 2014
WASHINGTON — President Obama said Thursday that deportations of illegal immigrants should be more humane, and to make that happen, he has ordered a review of his administration’s enforcement efforts.
Mr. Obama revealed the effort in an Oval Office meeting with Hispanic lawmakers on Thursday afternoon, telling them that he had “deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system,” according to a White House statement.
Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez, Democrat of Illinois, said afterward that it was “clear that the pleas from the community got through to the president.” He added that he and his two colleagues at the meeting — Representative Rubén Hinojosa, Democrat of Texas, and Representative Xavier Becerra, Democrat of California — “were adamant that the president needed to act.”
Mr. Obama — who told the lawmakers that he had ordered Jeh C. Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, to conduct the evaluation — is under increasing pressure from Latino advocates to all but suspend aggressive efforts to deport illegal immigrants. Activists and Hispanic lawmakers say the government is ripping families apart by deporting people whose only crime was coming to the country illegally. Some groups said Thursday that a review by Mr. Johnson would not go far enough.
“Relief delayed is relief denied,” said Pablo Alvarado, the director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “The president has no excuse to continue his unjust deportation policy.”
Many Republican officials have said they already do not trust Mr. Obama to adequately enforce the security of the nation’s borders, and early reaction to his new order was sharp.
“Fifty million working-age Americans in this country don’t have jobs,” said Stephen Miller, communications director for Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama. “And what does the president do? He takes more steps that would provide companies with illegal workers.”
More illegal immigrants have been deported during the Obama administration than under any previous president, officials have said. Within weeks, the government is likely to have deported two million immigrants during Mr. Obama’s six years in office, a milestone that has intensified anger among some Hispanics.
The issue could be a critical one in midterm elections this year for Democratic candidates, many of whom rely on Latinos to turn out and vote for them in big numbers.
But any effort to pull back on deportations could threaten to undermine longer-term hopes for bipartisan legislation to overhaul the immigration system. In the past several months, Mr. Obama and top advisers have repeatedly told activists that the president’s hands are tied by laws that require him to spend millions of dollars in an effort to eject people who have crossed into the country without the proper papers.
During a November speech, Mr. Obama responded to a heckler who shouted that the president had “a power to stop deportation for all undocumented immigrants in this country.”
Mr. Obama responded, “Actually, I don’t.”
White House officials said late Thursday that the president would not suspend deportations because his advisers did not believe such a move would be legal. He also will not expand his 2012 order to defer deportations of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as young children, aides said.
But activists have refused to back down. Janet Murguía, who leads the National Council of La Raza, said last week that Mr. Obama was the “deporter in chief” and accused his administration of leaving “a wake of devastation for families across America.”
Privately, top Obama aides have expressed frustration at the push from Hispanic activists that the president act unilaterally to stop deportations. But the pressure has moved in recent weeks from fringe activists to the mainstream. Last week, Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, a leading Latino voice in Congress, called on Mr. Obama to do something drastic.
“While we continue waiting for the House of Representatives to wake up and move on immigration reform legislation, I urge the president to take action today and halt needless deportations that are splitting apart our families and communities,” he said.
On Tuesday, aides to four Democratic senators, including Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, met with Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel, to discuss how the president could curb the number of deportations, perhaps by exempting the parents of children who were brought to the United States when they were very young, according to two people familiar with the meeting.
White House officials said that Mr. Obama would meet on Friday with activists from a number of Latino organizations to further discuss legislation to overhaul immigration and to hear their concerns about deportations.
Angela Kelley, the vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, said that activists also understood the importance of keeping up pressure on Republicans in the House, who have refused to consider a bipartisan Senate bill to overhaul immigration.
“Make no mistake,” she said. “It is the Republicans who are responsible for the fact that we don’t have reform today.”
In the meantime, Ms. Kelley said, she and other advocates for illegal immigrants were looking to Mr. Obama to slow the record number of deportations. She noted that more than 5,000 American children are in foster homes because one or both parents have been deported.
“We have reached a crisis point,” Ms. Kelley said.
“The question is,” she added, “which end of Pennsylvania Avenue” will fix the problem.
Peter Baker contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on March 14, 2014, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: Obama, Citing a Concern for Families, Orders a Review of Deportations.