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Advocates Welcome U.S. Senate Approval Of Immigration Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. May 26, 2006: The U.S. Senate’s approval of a bill that could put millions of undocumented migrants on a path to citizenship as ‘blue card’ holders, was greeted with joy by many immigrant advocates yesterday.
For Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, who has helped lead a pro-immigrant advocacy lobbying for reform, the measure was “… a historic bipartisan breakthrough.”
“Thanks to the leadership of the Senate, victory is at least and at last imaginable,” stated Sharry yesterday. “May the Senators’ demonstration of political courage and bipartisan cooperation inform and inspire all of the key actors in the next act of this drama.”
The Senate voted 62 to 36 on Thursday to approve compromise immigration reform legislation, S. 2611, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. The bill provides a path to permanent legal status for and 8 to 8.5 million undocumented immigrants in the country who have lived here out of status for five years or more but they must meet the same requirements for English and Civics knowledge as someone who is applying for citizenship.
It also provides temporary visas to allow 200,000 persons to come legally each year and take jobs that are not being filled by American workers. This program includes worker protections, gives workers the ability to change employers, and provides a path to permanent residence for those who want to stay.
It also updated the family-based immigration system to speed up family unification and added a million undocumented agricultural workers would be put on a path to permanent residence through provisions targeted to these workers, employment-based visas were more than doubled to more realistically allow immigrants to come legally in the future to work undocumented immigrant students will be put on a path to citizenship and so will be able to continue on to college along with their classmates.
However, undocumented immigrants in the United States less than two years would be returned to their home countries to enter a temporary-worker program. An estimated 2.5 million to 3 million undocumented immigrants will not be eligible to legalize. The bill also calls for at least 370 miles of fence on the U.S.-Mexico border and requires that information on immigrants who are confirmed to be out of status be put in the National Crime Information Center database. This database is used by local police to find wanted criminals and the bill will flood the database with hundreds of thousands of names of immigrants who have not committed a criminal act.
The bill’s passage now sets the stage for what will likely be a contentious House/Senate conference, in which the Senate-passed bill will now have to be harmonized with the harsh, enforcement-only bill (H.R. 4437) passed by the House in December.
Sharry, like Irwine Clare of the Caribbean Immigrant Services remains concerned over what will now happen in the House of Congress.
“Enforcement-only measures or half-baked reforms have been tried in the past and failed,” he said, referring to the House bill, past last December that wants to make criminals of all undocumented migrants and those who help them as well.
Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania seems well aware of the tough negotiations ahead, and yesterday, after the vote said, “We look forward to the president’s more intense participation” on the immigration issue.
Yesterday, White House spokesman Tony Snow, drilled on the future of the bill, stated, “It’s pretty clear that members of both houses understand that they pay a heavier political price for failing to act, than for acting. And so that’s one thing that I’ve heard from Republicans in both houses. They want to get something done.
“So we’ll figure out what comes out of conference, but don’t forestall the possibility that House members may say to themselves, you know what, my constituents really are worried about people hiring illegals, illegally, and knowing it; they’re worried about trying to identify who’s here illegally, for security reasons; they want to go ahead and start grappling with these issues.”
And Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist seems ready to help. The 2008 Republican presidential candidate said he has changed his position after two weeks of debate in the Senate and now is hopeful that lawmakers in the House would be willing to compromise.
“People ask me all the time, ‘How’re you going to put these two together?’ I think we will be able to,” CNN quoted him as saying.
The measure will hopefully come up in the House after the Memorial Day holiday.
Alberta Looks to Immigrants to Fill Skill Shortages Series of Actions Aim to Attract at Least 24,000 Immigrants to Alberta Each Year
Edmonton… A new Alberta policy to attract and retain immigrants will help address skill shortages and support the successful transition of immigrants into Alberta’s economic, social and cultural life. The province aims to increase the number of immigrants to Alberta by working to improve the processing time for foreign-credential recognition and offering more training to address skill gaps and enhance language training.
“While our first priority is to increase the skills and employment of Albertans, we also recognize the importance of immigrants in building a sustainable Alberta labour force,” said Mike Cardinal, Minister of Human Resources and Employment. “Government will increase its efforts to let people from other countries know that Alberta is a great place to live.”
In Alberta, 28 out of 53 occupational groups report an unemployment rate of less than three per cent, which indicates a skill shortage. Government forecasts predict a potential shortfall of 100,000 workers within the next ten years, which could significantly impact $107 billion worth of expected capital projects in the province.
Supporting Immigrants and Immigration to Alberta, a government-wide policy, sets out specific strategies in four broad areas for attracting and retaining immigrants:
- Welcoming communities – supporting communities to help immigrants successfully transition into Alberta society
- Attracting immigrants – increasing the number of immigrants who move to Alberta
- Living in Alberta – enhancing existing programs and services that help immigrants adapt to Alberta life
- Working in Alberta – improving recognition of foreign-earned credentials and enhanced language training
“The province is working with post-secondary institutions and community organizations to increase access to English language programs. We’ll also work to improve the way that qualifications of immigrants are assessed and recognized. Together we’ll ensure that immigrants have the opportunities to acquire the learning needed to successfully live and work in Alberta,” said Minister of Advanced Education Dave Hancock.
The policy reflects feedback from a variety of stakeholders including immigrant serving agencies, employers, business, labour and post-secondary institutions. “Alberta Economic Development is supporting this policy by marketing Alberta as the best place in the world for people to live and work,” said Clint Dunford, Minister of Economic Development. “Expanding our Provincial Nominee Program would help Alberta employers attract and recruit skilled foreign workers to fill positions that could not be filled across Canada – after extensive searching.”
The Provincial Nominee Program is separate from the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Worker program. While temporary foreign workers can be a source of skilled labour for short periods of time, this new policy is aimed at immigrants settling permanently in Alberta.
Through a series of actions, the province aims to attract at least 24,000 immigrants to Alberta each year, up from the nearly 16,500 immigrants who moved here in 2004.
“The economic prosperity that Alberta enjoys today was built by generations of immigrants and Canadians from other provinces, who seized the opportunities that Alberta provides. Alberta’s tradition of welcoming newcomers into our economy, and our communities, will lead us to success in our second century,” said Ed Stelmach, Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations.
Visit www.gov.ab.ca/hre/immigration for more information on the policy, immigration and immigrants. Visit www.alberta-canada.com/pnp/index.cfm for more information on the Provincial Nominee Program. – 30 – Note to Editors: Backgrounders attached Media inquiries may be directed to: Leanne Stangeland Communications Alberta Human Resources and Employment (780) 427-5585
Cultural Diversity Policy Voted in Protection for National Cultures – Only Israel, U.S. Oppose Convention
GRAHAM FRASER, NATIONAL AFFAIRS WRITER, Toronto Star
Despite intense pressure from the United States not to, over 150 countries voted yesterday to create an international convention on cultural diversity. Commission IV of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which has been meeting in Paris, voted 151 to 2 in favor of the Canadian initiative, with only the United States and Israel voting against. The international agreement formally the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions reaffirms the right of sovereign states to “maintain, adopt and implement” policies that protect and promote cultural expression, and exempt certain cultural products from free-trade agreements. The impetus behind the convention was the Chrétien government’s 1999 attempt to protect the magazine industry in the face of pressure from the U.S., which successfully argued that the magazine law was in breach of the World Trade Organization’s subsidy rules. The campaign led to a remarkable coalition, not only between English- and French-speakers, but also between the federal and Quebec governments. What brought them together and kept them united was their agreement that cultural products have a double quality: they involve identity as well as commercial value. The U.S., which has consistently fought any guarantees for films that might put any restrictions on Hollywood, as well as opposing any subsidies for film production and magazines, has argued that UNESCO does not have the authority to enact the convention, and that it would interfere with the free flow of ideas. More recently, a U.S. official argued that the convention could lead to censorship and, because of the focus on national culture, make intercultural activities more difficult. Heritage Minister Liza Frulla said yesterday from Paris that the U.S., which returned to UNESCO after a long absence, first complained that it did not have enough time to study the convention, and then raised a different series of objections as time went on. Frulla said that the U.S. put a lot of pressure on countries, with its Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, sending letters to foreign ministers, and U.S. ambassadors conducting an international diplomatic campaign against the convention. But despite efforts by the U.S. to water down the convention, with the introduction of 27 amendments, the text was approved without modification. The convention, to be voted on by UNESCO on Thursday, then has to be ratified by 30 countries within the next year in order to become a binding international instrument. Vancouver publisher Scott McIntyre, co-chair of the Coalition for Cultural Diversity, yesterday applauded the vote, saying that it recognizes the right of countries to have cultural policies that establish national content quotas, subsidies, tax credit and foreign ownership rules to ensure that their citizens have access to their own culture. “If you don’t have these policies, you simply will not have a meaningful choice of Canadian books, music, films or television programs,” he said. “This is what has been at stake all along in this debate.” Pierre Curzi, the other co-chair of the coalition, said yesterday that it was urgently important to have the UNESCO convention in place because of the pressure that countries were facing in trade negotiations to give up the right to protect their cultures.