Immigration

Starting A Farm, With An Immigrant Twist

Jun 24, 2013
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Air Philavanh is a new farmer in central Iowa who came to this country from Laos as a refugee more than 30 years ago. Today, he’s living on an 11-acre farm in Milo, Iowa, about an hour from Des Moines.

The national debate over immigration may be churning on in Washington, D.C., but there's one policy a growing number of states can agree on: driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Vermont, Connecticut and Colorado passed new laws this month allowing drivers without Social Security numbers to receive licenses or authorization cards. They join Nevada, Maryland and Oregon, whose governors signed similar laws in May. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn started the trend this year when he signed Senate Bill 957 in January.

Sen. Marco Rubio has a problem. He has transformed from conservative hero to suspect in the eyes of many on the political right because he now supports "a path to citizenship" for people unlawfully in the U.S. after forcefully opposing it in 2010 when he was running for U.S. Senate.

Maybe Game 6 of the NBA Finals has something to teach us about how to watch the immigration debate now taking place in Congress.

Game 6, of course, was the instant sports classic in which the defending champion Miami Heat made an improbable comeback to tie their series with the San Antonio Spurs, three games apiece.

As the Senate debates a massive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, one of its newest members has emerged as a leading opponent of the bill's most controversial feature: a path to citizenship for millions living in the country unlawfully.

The views of that freshman senator — Texas Republican Ted Cruz — have been significantly colored by the saga of his own father, an immigrant from Cuba.

"In my opinion, if we allow those who are here illegally to be put on a path to citizenship, that is incredibly unfair to those who follow the rules," Cruz has said.

Faced with the threat of mutiny for what seems like the umpteenth time during his speakership, John Boehner moved to mollify fellow Republicans on Tuesday, saying immigration legislation would need the support of a majority of the House GOP before it could be brought to a floor vote.

After emerging from a meeting with House Republicans, following days of warnings by conservatives that the Ohio Republican had better not try to pass an immigration bill with mostly Democratic votes, Boehner sought to calm the roiling Republican waters.

The Senate has defeated a Republican measure that would have blocked implementation of a "path to citizenship" for undocumented workers until after the U.S.-Mexico border has been deemed secure for a period of six months.

The amendment to the larger overhaul of U.S. immigration law was sponsored by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. It was defeated Thursday in a 57-43 vote.

During Tuesday's debate on the Senate's immigration bill, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) took to the floor and launched into an almost 13-minute speech in support of the bill crafted by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight."

That's not the news. The fact that Kaine delivered it in Spanish is, because it's the first time a senator has delivered a full speech on the floor of the Senate in a language other than English.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

If you want to observe one of Washington's most delicate balancing acts, look no further than President Obama's effort to assert leadership on immigration legislation without its coming to be identified as a new Obamalaw.

Because they're keenly aware of how nearly any legislative effort that becomes known as the president's baby almost immediately makes his political foes hellbent on stopping it and denying him a victory, Obama and other White House officials have been committed to letting Congress take the lead on major legislation like immigration reform.

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