Beto O'Rourke Rolls Out Immigration Plan: No Border Wall, Citizenship for 11 Million, New Guest Worker Program

WASHINGTON - Beto O'Rourke released a plan Wednesday to rewrite U.S. immigration law, vowing to sweep away Trump-era family separation policies, create a new guest worker program, and provide a path to citizenship for 11 million people in the country illegally.It's the second formal policy rollout from the El Paso Democrat, a former three-term congressman who put demands for a more compassionate approach to migrants at the center of his Senate bid last year.As a presidential candidate, he's been criticized for offering few specifics. The new immigration plan may help to overcome that image, though it lacks details in many of the controversial elements of immigration policy that have kept Congress snarled for years.For instance, it dangles an "earned pathway" to citizenship and an "immediate path" for Dreamers -immigrants brought to the country illegally as children - without laying out a time frame or any of the hoops O'Rourke foresees for obtaining a green card and eventual citizenship.The vagueness makes the plan more an outline of principles than legislative manifesto.O'Rourke will be in Dallas on Thursday for a noon roundtable to discuss the plan.Unlike so-called "comprehensive immigration reform" plans that Congress has debated in the last decade, without resolution, the O'Rourke plan doesn't emphasize beefing up border security as the tradeoff for a more liberal immigration policy, though it does include tighter interior enforcement and other steps.The plan vows zero outlays for a border wall, codifying O'Rourke's outspoken rejection of President Donald Trump's vision, which he calls wasteful, ineffective and offensive.Some key points:DREAMERSO'Rourke would reinstate Obama-era protections for young immigrants and others. His plan says that he would· Immediately remove the fear of deportation for Dreamers and their parents and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) beneficiaries, and begin work towards a permanent legislative solution.The Wall/border securityO'Rourke has been an outspoken critic of Trump's border wall, arguing that there is already more barrier than needed, and that expanding barriers further from urban areas pushes migrants into dangerous remote areas, increasing the risks and the death toll. He would· Immediately halt work on the border wall - and his first budget, and every budget, will include zero dollars for this unnecessary wall zero dollars for this unnecessary wall· Boost staffing at ports of entry, "reducing wait times" and increasing capacity to inspect cargo and intercept illicit drugs such as fentanyl.Guest workers and visa capsO'Rourke's plan doesn't use the term "guest worker" but alludes to a return to a system that allows temporary employment without the need to apply for permanent residence or to sneak across the border. The plan says he would:· Ensure that industries that depend on immigrant labor have access to a program that allows workers to legally come here and legally return to their home country with appropriate labor and mobility protections.The plan likewise would increase visa caps "so that we match our economic opportunities and needs - for work, education, investment, and innovation."And it would create a "new, first-of-its-kind community-based visa category" to allow communities and religious congregations to sponsor refugees.Future of ICEAt one point during last year's Senate race, O'Rourke said that he was "open" to the idea of abolishing Immigration and Customs and Enforcement, or ICE, though he quickly clarified that even if the agency were dismantles or reconfigured, its enforcement duties would not go away. They would just shift to some other agency.The plan released Wednesday makes no mention of such a dramatic move, but it does call for steps to improve transparency and accountability in law enforcement, including ICE and its sister agency, Customs and Border Protection. Among other steps, he would demand better tracking and prevention of migrant deaths along the border.  Continue reading...

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