Behind Closed Doors, Obama Crafts Executive Actions

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By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVISAUG. 18, 2014

WASHINGTON — When President Obama announced in June that he planned to bypass congressional gridlock and overhaul the nation’s immigration system on his own, he did so in a most public way: a speech in the White House Rose Garden.

Since then, the process of drafting what will likely be the only significant immigration changes of his presidency — and his most consequential use of executive power — has been conducted almost entirely behind closed doors, where lobbyists and interest groups invited to the White House are making their case out of public view.

President Obama spoke in the Rose Garden of the White House on Monday.Obama Says He’ll Order Action to Aid ImmigrantsJUNE 30, 2014
Mr. Obama’s increasingly expansive appetite for the use of unilateral action on issues including immigration, tax policy and gay rights has emboldened activists and businesses to flock to the administration with their policy wish lists. It also has opened the president, already facing charges of executive overreach, to criticism that he is presiding over opaque policy-making, with the potential to reward political backers at the expense of other interests, including some on the losing side who are threatening to sue.

With comprehensive immigration reform on hold in Congress, Nancy Paredo’s family is waiting on a promise from President Obama to take executive action. Here’s a look at some steps he might take. Video Credit By Emily B. Hager and Natalia V. Osipova on Publish Date August 18, 2014.
“We look at what they’ve been doing with executive action and are deeply concerned, and have focused a lot of our energies on how we can roll back these things,” said Geoff Burr, the vice president of federal affairs for Associated Builders and Contractors, whose member companies do 60 percent of federal construction jobs.

Mr. Burr said an executive order issued by Mr. Obama last month that would block companies with a history of workplace violations from receiving federal contracts had prompted his group to contemplate “the virtues of a litigation strategy.”

White House officials say Mr. Obama has been inclusive as he looks to wield his authority, reaching out to an array of lawmakers, experts and business leaders for a wide range of perspectives to inform his plans for executive actions. Since the president first announced his intention to use his “pen and phone” to advance his agenda during his State of the Union address in January, White House officials have held weekly meetings to compile ideas from inside and outside the administration.

In some cases, the public has gotten a glimpse of the process, such as during a summit meeting on working families in June. More often, though, the talks have occurred behind the scenes. Administration officials have convened more than 20 so-called listening sessions this summer alone on executive options for revising immigration policy, a White House official said, declining to discuss the sessions in detail because the conversations were private.

“The president has been clear that he will use all of the tools at his disposal, working with Congress where they are willing but also taking action on his own where they aren’t, to expand opportunity for all Americans and help more families share in our economy’s continued progress,” said Jennifer Friedman, a White House spokeswoman. “As part of this process, the administration has engaged a wide range of stakeholders and has solicited input from groups and individuals representing a diverse set of views.”

“We’ve been talking to them about what we believe they can do while we wait for Congress to act,” said Scott Corley, a lobbyist for Compete America, a coalition of Silicon Valley companies seeking relief for foreign-born technology workers. “We’ve looked at where the legal authority exists, and we’ve found lots of ways in which the administration can move forward.”

On a host of issues, the list of requests is growing. Technology companies would like Mr. Obama to provide more visas for their workers, or at least more flexibility for them and their families as they await green cards for permanent residency. Consumer groups and organized labor want the Treasury Department to act on its own to limit financial incentives for companies that move overseas for tax breaks and stop so-called inversions. Democratic lawmakers are joining in as well, asking the president to act on his own on their pet issues.

“During your State of the Union address, you stated that you want to make 2014 a ‘year of action,’  ” Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, wrote to Mr. Obama in March, in a letter requesting that he issue an executive order banning the import of assault or military weapons.

The go-it-alone approach has left the administration — which claims to be the most transparent in United States history — essentially making policy from the White House, replacing congressional hearings and floor debates with closed meetings for invited constituencies. ​

“The executive branch is not really set up to be a deliberative body like the Congress is,” said Andrew Rudalevige, a government professor at Bowdoin College who has studied the consequences of executive action. “The process is certainly stacked toward the policy preferences of the administration, and they’re going to listen to the people they think are right, which usually means the ones who agree with them.

“Those who are ‘in’ will engage the White House and the agencies to get their priorities met, and if you’re ‘out,’ you turn to the legal process” to challenge the executive action after it is taken, he said.

When the president vowed in the Rose Garden in June to “fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own,” immigration activists were ready with their list of potential executive actions. They range from giving certain categories of undocumented immigrants temporary “parole in place” status to stay in the United States, to essentially legalizing millions more by expanding a 2012 directive issued by Mr. Obama that grants work permits and deportation deferments to young immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children.

The requests did not stop there. Cecilia Muñoz, Mr. Obama’s top immigration adviser and the domestic policy chief, has led meetings attended by White House political aides and lawyers to hear from interest groups, individual companies and business groups about what executive actions they believe the president should take on immigration.

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Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican and one of the staunchest opponents of the stalled immigration bill Mr. Obama advocated, criticized the process. “It is chilling to consider now that these groups, frustrated in their aims by our constitutional system of government, are plotting with the Obama administration to collect their spoils through executive fiat,” he said.

As recommendations pour in, the most frequent question Mr. Obama’s aides are asking, the people involved said, is whether the moves could withstand a legal challenge, which comes as House Republicans voted to sue Mr. Obama for unilateral action in changing elements of his signature health care law.

One group, Change to Win, a labor union-backed consumer advocacy organization that has pressed for congressional action to block corporate inversions, sought out a legal expert with Obama administration ties, Stephen E. Shay, to press its case.

Professor Shay, a top Treasury official during Obama’s first term who now teaches at Harvard Law School, was asked by the group to craft a legal justification for the administration to act without congressional approval. Professor Shay wrote an article in the trade journal Tax Notes in July, asserting that the president’s team had broad authority to do so.

“We asked his advice as to how to bring this forward to the administration,” said Nell Geiser, the associate director of retail initiatives at Change to Win, who said Professor Shay’s connections at the Treasury were vital. “He knew all the personalities and their dynamics.”

Within days, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew had announced that he had a “very long list” of ways to remove the economic incentive for inversions that would not require congressional action.

On other issues, the president has been under pressure to act on his own for years. When Mr. Obama announced in June that he would soon sign executive orders to fulfill his 2008 campaign promise to bar discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, gay rights activists pressed for the broadest possible protection. In private White House meetings, they lobbied successfully against including a new exemption being sought by religious groups; the order was signed July 21.

While Mr. Obama has issued fewer executive orders than presidents before him — 183, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, compared with 291 by George W. Bush and 364 by Bill Clinton — experts say he has been at least as aggressive as his two immediate predecessors in taking unilateral action, often through memorandums or other administrative moves.

“He’s using just a vast array of different means to pursue his various goals,” John T. Woolley, a politics professor at the university who maintains the executive order database and studies presidential use of unilateral action.

Mr. Obama “has been quite aggressive and he’s been creative in looking for every possible avenue to take matters into his own hands,” Mr. Woolley said.

Ebola: UK border staff ‘unprepared’

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Immigration, border and customs officials feel unequipped to cope with people arriving in the UK with potential cases of Ebola, Britain’s Immigration Service Union (ISU) says.

The UK’s Border Force claims staff members have been issued guidance on how to pinpoint and deal with possible cases. But Lucy Moreton, general secretary of the ISU, warns her members require more information on how to adequately cope with the threat.

Moreton has reportedly stated ISU members are deeply concerned by the risks Ebola carriers entering the UK pose to immigration and customs officials’ health.

Ebola: The facts
Symptoms include acute fever, bleeding and damage to the central nervous system
Fatality rate can be as high as 90%
Incubation period spans two to 21 days
There is currently no known cure or vaccine
Specialised care such as rehydrating patients who have vomiting and diarrhoea can help recovery
The virus is thought to originate from fruit bats
“They serve on the front line; they are the first point of contact usually for people coming off an aircraft and the concern is what do they do if they’re confronted with someone that doesn’t appear well who appears at the border,” she said.

“There is no health facility at the border, there is no containment facility, and until extremely recently there has been no guidance issued to staff at all as to what they should do,” Moreton told BBC Radio 4.

The ISU general secretary claims she has been inundated with concerned union members inquiring how they should protect themselves against potential carriers of the deadly virus.

“They are phoning us up and asking, ‘What are we supposed to do, how do we spot this, how do we protect ourselves?’ and we can’t answer that for them just now,” she said.

The Border Force insists the security of Britain’s border remains a top priority, and the protection of the UK populace’s health is central to its concerns.

“We have well-established procedures for dealing with infectious diseases,” a Border Force official said.

“We are currently working closely with partners such as Public Health England to minimize any potential risk and Border Force officers have already been given guidance on how to identify and safely deal with suspected cases of Ebola,” he added.

An outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, first detected in February, has resulted in almost 700 deaths. A mere 10 percent of those who contract Ebola survive the virus, but infected patients who are treated early have the best chance of making a recovery.

In light of the potential spread of this deadly virus to Britain, Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond says the UK government is taking the threat “very seriously.”

UK Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond, says the government is taking the threat of an outbreak of Ebola in Britain “very seriously.” (Reuters / Toby Melville)UK Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond, says the government is taking the threat of an outbreak of Ebola in Britain “very seriously.” (Reuters / Toby Melville)

In the wake of growing public concern over a potential Ebola outbreak in Britain, Hammond said Britain’s health services have sufficient experience to deal with the risks posed by the virus. While there has been a case of Ebola in the UK, the individual in question had contracted the disease abroad, the minister said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nick Beeching, a senior lecturer at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, insists the virus is transmitted by “close contact with body fluids of people that are infected.”

“It’s not spread through the air, like let’s say flu or SARS, so it’s a very different kind of transmission from those infections,” he told the BBC.

A group of West African airlines have halted flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia as concerns relating to the possible threat of the spread of Ebola from Guinea heightens.

This decision was made after an American citizen of Liberian extraction had flown from Liberia to Nigeria. He was afflicted by serious symptoms while on the flight.

All schools across Liberia have been closed to contain the outbreak, which has been described as the world’s deadliest to date. An array of Liberian communities has also been subject to quarantines, while the president of Sierra Leone has publicly declared a national health emergency.

Public Health England recently issued a nation-wide alert to UK doctors to be aware of symptoms associated with Ebola.

Obama Readying ‘Very Significant’ Executive Action On Immigration…

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By Francine Kiefer, Staff writer JULY 25, 2014

WASHINGTON — President Obama will go ahead with a “very significant” executive action on immigration after the summer – a move that may well trigger impeachment proceedings against him, senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer told reporters at a Monitor breakfast Friday.

“The president acting on immigration reform will certainly up the likelihood that [Republicans] would contemplate impeachment at some point,” said Mr. Pfeiffer, who has been at the Obama White House since its inception.

A lot of people in Washington laughed off Sarah Palin’s call to impeach the president for executive overreach, Pfeiffer said, but “I would not discount that possibility.” Polling shows strong support for the idea among the GOP base, he said, adding that House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio has opened the door to the possibility with his lawsuit against Obama.

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Speaker Boehner has flatly denied an interest in impeachment, saying, “I disagree” with those who support it. Next week, the GOP-controlled House is expected to pass a resolution to sue the president for executive overreach on the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”

“This is a fundraising exercise for Democrats,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel in an e-mail response to Pfeiffer’s impeachment comments. “It is telling, and sad, that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border.”

In 2012, Obama signed a memo authorizing deferred action on the deportation of certain children of illegal immigrants – the so-called “DREAMers.” Republicans cite it as an example of executive overreach and say it has encouraged the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America. Tea party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas has urged his colleagues to reject emergency funding for the current border crisis unless the Obama administration rolls back the deferred action.

But while some may have thought the child-migrant crisis might discourage the president from further executive action on immigration, it is having the opposite effect. It has raised awareness of immigration as an issue and increased “the urgency” that the public feels in fixing it, Pfeiffer said. That gives the administration “broad permission” to take action, he said.

Given the “broken Congress,” Pfeiffer said, Obama plans to move ahead with another action after he hears advice from the attorney general and the Homeland Security secretary. His criteria will be that any executive action be on “solid legal footing” and have maximum impact.

Immigrant groups want the president to use his “prosecutorial discretion” to extend temporary protection from deportation to the millions of illegal migrants who would have qualified for a “path to citizenship” under the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform, which has gone nowhere in the House. Politico reports he’s considering subsets of that group, based on criteria such as family ties, how long they have been in the country, and work history.

The White House, Pfeiffer said, is also considering what impact an action could have on the politics of reform going forward.

After the announcement of an action, he said, Republicans will have a choice: “Are they going to go back and try to pass comprehensive immigration reform – [after] which the president will rip up whatever executive action he does the day they pass that? Or are they basically going to set themselves up for the next two and a half years here to be arguing to elect a Republican in order to deport all these people?”

On the child-migrant crisis, Pfeiffer said Obama still supports changing a 2008 child-trafficking law that has become a sticking point in his request to Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funding. That law has had the unintended effect of creating a huge backlog of immigration cases for unaccompanied minors in the courts. Republicans and some Democrats in Congress support changing the law to expedite the cases and deportations, but many Democrats say changing the law would deprive endangered children of their due process.

The administration is talking with members of Congress about a change. But that issue, Pfeiffer said, should not hold up funding.

On a related issue, he neither denied nor confirmed a New York Times account that the White House is considering a plan to accept refugees from Honduras whose applications are processed in that country.

U.S. Weighs Giving Refugee Status to Youths in Honduras

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By FRANCES ROBLES and MICHAEL D. SHEARJULY 24, 2014

Hoping to stem the recent surge of migrants at the Southwest border, the Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico, according to a draft of the proposal.

If approved, the plan would direct the government to screen thousands of children and youths in Honduras to see if they can enter the United States as refugees or on emergency humanitarian grounds. It would be the first American refugee effort in a nation reachable by land to the United States, the White House said, putting the violence in Honduras on the level of humanitarian emergencies in Haiti and Vietnam, where such programs have been conducted in the past amid war and major crises.

Critics of the plan were quick to pounce, saying it appeared to redefine the legal definition of a refugee and would only increase the flow of migration to the United States.

By moving decisions on refugee claims to Honduras, the plan is aimed at slowing the rush of minors crossing into the United States illegally from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, which has overwhelmed the Southwest border this year. More than 45,000 unaccompanied minors from those three nations have arrived since Oct. 1, straining federal resources to the point that some agencies will exhaust their budgets by next month, the secretary of Homeland Security has said.

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Many of the children, particularly in Honduras, are believed to be fleeing dangerous street gangs, which forcibly recruit members and extort home and business owners. The United Nations estimates that 70,000 gang members operate in the three nations.

Administration officials confirmed that they are considering the idea, although they stressed that no decision has been made to move forward. They said the idea is one of many being discussed by officials at the White House and the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services.

Among the factors surrounding the decision are how many people in Honduras would be eligible to apply for the program, and how many would likely be approved.

The proposal, prepared by several federal agencies, says the pilot program under consideration would cost up to $47 million over two years, assuming 5,000 applied and about 1,750 people were accepted. If successful, it would be adopted in Guatemala and El Salvador as well.

It is unclear how the administration determined those estimates, given that since Oct. 1 more than 16,500 unaccompanied children traveled to the United States from Honduras alone.

Children would be interviewed by American immigration employees trained to deal with minors, and a resettlement center would be set up in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, with assistance from international organizations like the International Organization for Migration.

The plan would be similar to a recent bill introduced by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who proposed increasing the number of refugee visas to the three Central American countries by 5,000 each.

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According to the draft, the administration is considering opening the program to people under 21. It also suggested offering entry on emergency humanitarian grounds — know as humanitarian parole — to some of the applicants who did not qualify for refugee status.

That would likely cause an outcry among critics who believe that President Obama has been too soft on immigration. But officials called it “highly unlikely” for people who were denied refugee status to be considered for parole, which is generally offered in isolated instances for emergencies.

Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports tighter controls on immigration, argued that the proposal would increase, not stem, the flood of migrants from Central America trying to get into the United States.

“It’s clearly a bad idea,” Mr. Krikorian said. “Orders of magnitude more people will apply for refugee status if they can just do it from their home countries.”

He added that the proposal would allow people to claim to be refugees from their countries with “nothing more than a bus ride to the consulate. We’re talking about, down the road, an enormous additional flow of people from those countries.”

The preliminary plan could create a thorny challenge for the administration because the definition of a refugee is legally specific, and children fleeing street gangs could have a hard time qualifying.

Under American law, refugees are people fleeing their country of origin based on fears of persecution by reason of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

The draft of the plan noted that 64.7 percent of the unaccompanied minors who applied for asylum this year got it, which suggests that immigration officials have found their claims of imminent danger credible.

With that in mind, the draft proposal suggested that 35 to 50 percent of the applicants in Honduras could be considered for relief, a figure the White House said was inflated. The early draft, the White House said, was the most generous and least likely of the options the administration is considering. How many people are accepted is critical, because refugees qualify for public assistance upon arrival in the United States.

Under Senator McCain’s proposal, refugee applicants would be processed at home, and child migrants arriving in the United States illegally could be deported quickly.

Kevin Appleby, director of Migration and Refugee Services at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the plan would be welcome, as long as it does not substitute for protections Central American children currently receive under American law.

“This program would certainly be a formal acknowledgment by the administration that these children are refugees,” Mr. Appleby said. “That’s huge, because they have yet to utter that word.”

When a similar plan was adopted in Haiti, as a way to keep people from taking to the high seas, he said, it was ultimately criticized because Haitians already in the United States did not receive help.

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“It ended up being counterproductive to the goal,” Mr. Appleby said.

Stacie Blake, the director of government relations for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, an advocacy group, said the processing of potential refugees in Central America could be handled by the United States government or by the United Nations, which makes refugee determinations in many other countries. She said some of the people designated as refugees in Honduras could end up in countries other than the United States.

“It’s a way to help folks avoid life-threatening escapes and journeys,” Ms. Blake said. “It’s a good idea. It’s a tested idea.”

On Friday, Mr. Obama is scheduled to meet with the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador at the White House in an effort to urge the Central American leaders to do more to help stem the flow of children fleeing their countries for the United States.

HOUSE GOP: SEND NATIONAL GUARD, SPEED REMOVALS

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WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans want to slash President Barack Obama’s emergency spending request for the border, speed young migrants back home to Central America, and send in the National Guard.

The proposals Wednesday morning amounted to a rebuke of Obama’s proposed solution to the crisis on the Southern Border. They put the House on a collision course with the Democratic-run Senate, and increased the likelihood that congressional efforts to address the crisis on the Southern Border, where unaccompanied kids and teens have been showing up by the tens of thousands, will end in stalemate.

“Without trying to fix the problem I don’t know how we actually are in a position to give the president any more money,” said Speaker John Boehner, shortly after the rank and file reviewed steps to respond to the influx of tens of thousands of kids and teens across the Rio Grande. “What the president’s asking for is a blank check.”

Moreover it was not clear if the House would be able to approve the proposal rolled out Wednesday by a working group Boehner established.

Conservative lawmakers voiced objections, and Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana said Boehner told Republicans he was undecided about bringing the plan to the floor because he doesn’t know if there are enough votes to pass it.

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala, said he couldn’t support it, complaining that Obama has turned the U.S. into the “world’s sugar daddy.”

Several GOP lawmakers said the House plan would cost about $1.5 billion, compared to Obama’s original $3.7 billion request for more immigration judges, detention facilities and other resources to deal with unaccompanied kids.

A plan by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski would cost $2.7 billion.

But the biggest conflict between the House and Senate is not over costs, but policy instead.

Mikulski, D-Md., said she was omitting from her legislation any changes to a 2008 trafficking victims law that Republicans say has contributed to the crisis by allowing Central American youths to stay in this country indefinitely while awaiting far-off court dates.

Republicans are demanding changes in that law as the price for approving any money for the crisis.

“Modifications to the law can be done to expedite the process while ensuring proper protections are in place for the children who need them,” said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, who led Boehner’s working group.

The result looks like a stalemate, with little time left to resolve it because Congress’ annual August recess is just around the corner.

“Unfortunately, it looks like we’re on a track to do absolutely nothing,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said.

It comes even as Homeland Security officials are pleading again for action, saying overstressed border and immigration agencies will run out of money in the next two months. “Doing nothing in Congress is not an option,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Tuesday.

More than 57,000 minors have arrived since October, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

The 2008 law guarantees them judicial hearings, which in practice allows them to stay in this country for years – before any deportation can be carried out – because of major backlogs in the immigration court system.

Republicans want the law changed so that unaccompanied Central American children can be treated like those from Mexico, who can be sent back by Border Patrol agents unless they can demonstrate a fear of return that necessitates further screening. Republicans say that’s the only way to send a message to parents in the Central American nations that there’s no point in sending their children on the arduous journey north.

White House officials have indicated support for such changes but have sent mixed signals, under pressure from immigration advocates who say they would amount to sending kids fleeing vicious gang violence back home to their deaths. Some Democrats initially were open to such changes but most are now strongly opposed.

“I’m very reluctant to change the law because I think these children face death, murder, vicious abuse, persecution, if they are returned,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said.

Polls suggest the public is paying attention and demanding a solution, but lawmakers could not say where a compromise might lie.

Slower than paperwork: DHS watchdog says billion-dollar electronic immigration system screwed

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Although it’s electronic and cost almost $2 billion dollars to develop, a new automated system for processing immigration forms takes twice as long as filing applications by hand, according to a Department of Homeland Security internal watchdog.

Perhaps the story of the government’s failed $1.7 billion Electronic Immigration System — or ELIS – best sums up the adage, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’

Hundreds of US cities set to protest ‘invasion’ of illegal migrants

Started six years ago under a $536,000 contract, the project called Transformation fizzled over a host of perplexities, not least of all mind-boggling electronic bureaucracy just to enter the system.

“Immigration services officers take longer to adjudicate in ELIS in part because of the estimated 100 to 150 clicks required to move among sublevels and open documents to complete the process,” Richard Harsche, acting assistant inspector general for the DHS Office of IT Audits, said in a newly released report.

ELIS — the abbreviation is a nod to the historic immigration center at Ellis Island — also contains no tabs or highlighting features, and searches fail to give usable results, he said.

In one test of the system, employees were able to complete 2.16 cases per hour manually as compared with just 0.86 cases using the problem-plagued ELIS, which is being financed through immigration application fees.

AFP Photo / Paul J. RichardsAFP Photo / Paul J. Richards

“Instead of improved efficiency, time studies conducted by service centers show that adjudicating on paper is at least two times faster than adjudicating in ELIS,” Harsche said.

Officials at DHS US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which operates the system, say they made changes in subsequent releases of ELIS, including reducing the number of clicks required to navigate the labyrinthine system.

However, officials fear they are bound by the high number of contributing software to the project.

“USCIS has been limited in its ability to make changes to ELIS because of challenges with the existing architecture,” Harsche said. “The architecture consists of 29 commercial software products, which are difficult to integrate.”

Most changes,like adjusting the interface to make it more intuitive, will be implemented as part of the program’s transition to a more flexible architecture. The start of development in the new architecture began in October 2013,” the report added.

By the end of 2014, a switchover to ELIS2 version is scheduled.

USCIS recently awarded a 2-year contract which potentially costs $58 million according to nextgov.com website to four vendors in hopes of finishing the automated system. The agency intends to introduce the project in six-month software release cycles to identify problems in the early stages.

America: No longer 1 nation, 1 people

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Pat Buchanan cites ways ‘diversity’ has harmed United States

PATRICK J. BUCHANAN

Speaking to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Albuquerque in 2001, George W. Bush declared that, as Mexico was a friend and neighbor, “It’s so important for us to tear down our barriers and walls that might separate Mexico from the United States.”

Bush succeeded. And during his tenure, millions from Mexico exploited his magnanimity to violate our laws, trample upon our sovereignty, walk into our country and remain here.

In 2007, supported by John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Teddy Kennedy and Barack Obama, Bush backed amnesty for the 12 million people who had entered America illegally.

The nation thundered no. And Congress sustained the nation.

The latest mass border crossing by scores of thousands of tots, teenagers and toughs from Central America has killed amnesty in 2014, and probably for the duration of the Obama presidency.

Indeed, with the massive media coverage of the crisis on the border, immigration, legal and illegal, and what it portends for our future, could become the decisive issue of 2014 and 2016.

But it needs to be put in a larger context. For this issue is about more than whether the Chamber of Commerce gets amnesty for its members who have been exploiting cheap illegal labor.

The real issue: Will America remain one nation, or are we are on the road to Balkanization and the breakup of America into ethnic enclaves? For, as Ronald Reagan said, a nation that cannot control its borders isn’t really a nation anymore.

In Federalist No. 2, John Jay wrote, “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people – a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs. … ”

He called Americans a “band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties.” The republic of the founders for whom Jay spoke did not give a fig for diversity. They cherished our unity, commonality and sameness of ancestry, culture, faith and traditions.

We were not a nation of immigrants in 1789.

They came later. From 1845-1849, the Irish fleeing the famine. From 1890-1920, the Germans. Then the Italians, Poles, Jews and other Eastern Europeans. Then, immigration was suspended in 1924.

From 1925 to 1965, the children and grandchildren of those immigrants were assimilated, Americanized. In strong public schools, they were taught our language, literature and history, and celebrated our holidays and heroes. We endured together through the Depression and sacrificed together in World War II and the Cold War.

By 1960, we had become truly one nation and one people.

America was not perfect. No country is. But no country ever rivaled what America had become. She was proud, united, free, the first nation on earth. And though the civil rights movement had just begun, nowhere did black peoples enjoy the freedom and prosperity of African-Americans.

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Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday that America is today in “a fundamentally better place than we were 50 years ago.”

In some ways that is so. Equality of rights has been realized. Miraculous cures in medicine have kept alive many of us who would not have survived the same maladies half a century ago.

But we are no longer that “band of brethren.” We are no longer one unique people “descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion.”

We are from every continent and country. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans trace their ancestry to Asia, Africa and Latin America. We are a multiracial, multilingual, multicultural society in a world where countless countries are being torn apart over race, religion and roots.

We no longer speak the same language, worship the same God, honor the same heroes or share the same holidays. Christmas and Easter have been privatized. Columbus is reviled. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are out of the pantheon. Cesar Chavez is in.

Our politics have become poisonous. Our political parties are at each other’s throats.

Christianity is in decline. Traditional churches are sundering over moral issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Islam is surging.

Our society seems to be disintegrating. Over 40 percent of all births now are illegitimate. Among Hispanics, the figure is 52 percent. Among African-Americans, 73 percent.

And among children born to single moms, the drug use rate and the dropout rate, the crime rate and the incarceration rate, are many times higher than among children born to married parents.

If a country is a land of defined and defended borders, within which resides a people of a common ancestry, history, language, faith, culture and traditions, in what sense are we Americans one nation and one people today?

Neocons say we are a new kind of nation, an ideological nation erected upon a written Constitution and Bill of Rights.

But equality, democracy and diversity are not mentioned in the Constitution. As for what our founding documents mean, even the Supreme Court does not agree.

More and more, 21st-century America seems to meet rather well Metternich’s depiction of Italy – “a geographic expression.”

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/07/america-no-longer-1-nation-1-people/#XwHsSWERhjqUDqGi.99

Iowa Governor: I Do Not Want To House Immigrant Children In My State

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DES MOINES, Iowa (CBSDC/AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday that he does not want Iowa to host any of the thousands of children from Central America who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border alone.
During a news conference, Branstad said he was not aware of any of the children currently living in Iowa and that state has not been contacted by the federal government about housing any immigrant children. He said the government’s focus should be on securing the borders.
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“The first thing we need to do is secure the border. I do have empathy for these kids,” Branstad said. “But I also don’t want to send the signal that (you) send your kids to America illegally. That’s not the right message.”
Branstad was among a group of governors that met Sunday with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell as the Obama administration sought support from states that could host the children.
Under current law, immigrant children from countries that do not border the United States and who cross into the U.S. by themselves are turned over to federal authorities. Then, they often are reunited with parents or placed with other relatives already living here while they wait for an immigration court to decide their future. The court process can take years.
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Branstad was critical Sunday of the fact that there is no review of the immigration status of relatives who take custody of the children.
Since Oct. 1, more than 57,000 children have crossed the border. Most are from Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala.
President Barack Obama has vowed to use executive actions in an effort to help fix the immigration system.