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Posts tagged ‘Obama administration’

Obama to Delay Obamacare Again to Help Democrats in Midterms.


Image: Obama to Delay Obamacare Again to Help Democrats in Midterms

By Melanie Batley

The Obama administration is expected to announce another delay to the implementation of Affordable Care Act to allow insurers to continue offering health plans that do not meet Obamacare’s minimum coverage requirements.

The move would prolong the one-year “keep your plan fix” so as to avoid another wave of health policy cancellations which could hurt Democrats just weeks before the November midterm elections,The Hill reports.

“The cancellations would have created a firestorm for Democratic candidates in the last, crucial weeks before Election Day,” The Hill said. “The White House is intent on protecting its allies in the Senate, where Democrats face a battle to keep control of the chamber.”

The fix had been put in place late last year after an uproar erupted when millions of people discovered their existing plans were being cancelled under Obamacare despite the president’s repeated assurances otherwise.

The administration has yet to confirm the policy change, but insurance sources told The Hill that a public announcement would be “imminent.” The newspaper reports that it is unclear how long the extension would be, but one source believed it could last until the end of Obama’s second term and possibly beyond.

This latest move would follow numerous other delays unilaterally decided by the president.

In July, the president announced a one-year delay until 2015 of the employer mandate which would have required businesses to provide health insurance to employees by Jan. 2014 or face a tax penalty.

In February, Obama changed the deadline again, moving it to 2016. The move provoked widespread criticism among Republicans who renewed their criticism that the healthcare law is a “train wreck.” 

Veteran GOP strategist Karl Rove commented at the time that the decision was a politically calculated strategy to save Democrats in the run-up to the elections.

“The president didn’t want another avalanche of cancellations before this fall’s midterm election,” Rove said, adding that if millions lose their insurance plans shortly before the election, “the consequences would be disastrous for the president’s popularity, and that of the congressional Democrats who loyally voted for the Affordable Care Act, sight and text unread.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Big Medicaid Changes in 2014 Under Obamacare.


Millions of Americans who consider themselves able-bodied and middle class will in 2014 find themselves covered by a remodeled Medicaid program that previously had the image of serving the poor and disabled.

People who live in the District of Columbia and the 25 states which have expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act will see Medicaid taking on a wider role in providing healthcare, The Washington Post reported.

From Wednesday, anyone in those places with an individual income of less than $15,856 a year, including childless adults, as well as families with earnings below $32,499 will be eligible for Medicaid coverage. Among those likely to seek Medicaid will be the unemployed, lower-paid workers, those just entering the job market and retirees who do not yet qualify for Medicare.

In states where Medicaid has not been expanded it will cover its usual catchment of children and those with very-low incomes as well as the elderly poor and handicapped.

The Supreme Court ruled in the summer of 2013 that the Obama administration could not compel states to expand their Medicaid services. The original plan was to use Medicaid expansion as part of a comprehensive Obamacare effort to provide all Americans with health coverage.

Starting in 2014, in all states, Medicaid will no longer factor personal savings — except for those in long-term care— in determining eligibility.

Medicaid presently covers more Americans than Medicare. Both programs were created by the Lyndon Johnson administration‘s Great Society legislation in 1965.

Matt Salo, who heads the National Association of Medicaid Directors, noted that “Medicaid — for all the good we think it does, and it does do a lot of good — does have a connotation,” of being a program for the very poor, the Post reported.

Opponents of the expansion say it will encourage dependency on the government. “It is very bad social welfare policy,” said Edmund Haislmaier, of the Heritage Foundation.

“You are taking people who are by and large young, healthy and perfectly capable productive members of society and encouraging them to become dependent on public assistance. This is the very last population you want to do that for.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Elliot Jager

Obamacare Adviser: 7 Million Was Never ‘Magic’ Enrollee Number.


White House healthcare policy adviser Phil Schiliro denies that attracting 7 million enrollees to Obamacare by March was ever the administration’s goal.

That figure was put out by the Congressional Budget Office in March, and was “never our target number,” Schiliro told NBC News Monday.

Story continues below video.

Schiliro, who returned to the Obama administration in December to oversee healthcare policy after he’d been on hiatus for nearly three years, said there is no “magic” significance to signing up 7 million new customers, although that number has widely been seen as the administration’s goal for months.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said in June that the Obama administration was “hopeful that 7 million is a realistic target,” The Washington Times reported.

Further, she said on Sept. 30, the day before the Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov, launched on Oct. 1, that “success looks like at least 7 million people having signed up by the end of March 2014.”

Schiliro, though, said Sebelius was merely citing a figure that came from the CBO, “and it had become an accepted number.”

“There’s no magic to the 7 million.” Schiliro said. “What there is magic to is that in the month of December, a million Americans signed up for insurance not because they had to — they didn’t face a penalty if they didn’t. They signed up because they wanted insurance on Jan. 1.”

The numbers ahead of March 31, which is the last day for open enrollment, aren’t a problem yet, said Marilyn Tavenneradministrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“We are in the middle of a sustained, six-month open enrollment period that we expect to see enrollment ramp up over time, much like other historic implementation efforts we’ve seen in Massachusetts and Medicare Part D,” she said.

About 2 million people have enrolled for insurance so far, which is still lower than the 3.3 million the government had projected by this time.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Trump on NY Times Benghazi Report: ‘A Total Cover Up’.


Image: Trump on NY Times Benghazi Report:  'A Total Cover Up'

By Wanda Carruthers

Donald Trump all but accused The New York Times Monday of participating in a cover up of the 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya by publishing an article claiming al-Qaida was not involved and that an anti-Islam video may have contributed to the deadly assault, as the Obama administration initially claimed.

“It seems to be a total cover up,” the entertainment and real estate billionaire said on “Fox & Friends” about the Times piece published over the weekend. “I read [the article] very closely. It just seems to be at odds with everything else that you’ve read over the last year.”

The Times reported Saturday that the attack on Sept 11, 2012 that left four Americans dead was caused, in part, by an American-made anti-Muslim video that set off an angry crowd initially. The newspaper also reported that no al-Qaida-affiliated or other terrorist groups participated in the attack, which the article claimed was carried out by members of various militia groups that had actually benefited from U.S. and NATO support during their overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Republicans and some people on the ground in Benghazi the night of the attack were critical of the article on Sunday talk shows.

Trump said during his appearance on Fox Monday that “nobody really understands the reason” for the Times story. But he ventured that it could be a “Hillary thing,” suggesting the newspaper was attempting to help pave the way for a possible 2016 run for president by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who Republicans partly blame for security lapses at the Benghazi compound.

Last January, before leaving office, Clinton responded to questioning during a Republican-led hearing on Capitol Hill about how the attack started and who was responsible.

“What difference, at this point, does it make?” she said during one particular testy exchange with the panel.

On the Fox program, Trump wondered why those thought responsible for the attack have not been brought to justice, particularly if U.S. officials have identified some of them.

“We have their identity. We know who they are. We know where they are, and we don’t go in and get them. So what is going on there?” he asked.

“It’s such an amazing story, and such a sad story when you think of what happened. The fact that we were so unguarded and so vulnerable, and to have people killed like this, our ambassador and others killed like this, was terrible,” Trump said, referring to U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans killed in the attack.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

White House Urged to Name ‘CEO’ to Run Obamacare.


The White House is coming under pressure from some of its closest allies on healthcare reform to name a chief executive to run its federal health insurance marketplace and allay the concerns of insurers after the rocky rollout of Obamacare.

Advocates have been quietly pushing the idea of a CEO who would set marketplace rules, coordinate with insurers and state regulators on the health plans offered for sale, supervise enrollment campaigns and oversee technology, according to several sources familiar with discussions between advocates and the Obama administration.

Supporters of the idea say it could help regain the trust of insurers and others whose confidence in the healthcare overhaul has been shaken by the technological woes that crippled the federal HealthCare.gov insurance shopping website and the flurry of sometimes-confusing administration rule changes that followed.

The advocates include former White House adviser Ezekiel Emanuel, the brother of President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and the Center for American Progress, the Washington think tank founded by John Podesta, the president’s newly appointed senior counselor.

The White House is not embracing the idea of creating a CEO, administration officials said.

“This isn’t happening. It’s not being considered,” a senior administration official told Reuters.

Some healthcare reform allies say the complexity of the federal marketplace requires a CEO-type figure with clear authority and knowledge of how insurance markets work.

Obama’s healthcare overhaul aims to provide health coverage to millions of uninsured or under-insured Americans by offering private insurance at federally subsidized rates through new online health insurance marketplaces in all 50 states and in Washington, D.C.

Only 14 states opted to create and operate their own exchanges, leaving the Obama administration to operate a federal marketplace for the remaining 36 states that can be accessed through HealthCare.gov.

The marketplace is now officially the responsibility of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and its administrator, Marilyn Tavenner. Healthcare experts say there is no specific official dedicated to running the operation.

A CMS spokesman said exchange functions overlap across different groups within the agency’s Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.

The lack of a clear decision-making hierarchy was identified as a liability months before the disastrous Oct. 1 launch of HealthCare.gov by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

Obama adviser Jeffrey Zients, who rescued the website from crippling technical glitches last month, also identified the lack of effective management as a problem.

POTENTIAL CEO CANDIDATES

Former Microsoft executive Kurt DelBene has replaced Zients as website manager, at least through the first half of 2014.

“We’re fortunate that Kurt DelBene is now part of the administration – there’s no one better able to help us keep moving forward to make affordable, quality health insurance available to as many Americans as possible,” Obama healthcare adviser Phil Schiliro said in a statement to Reuters.

The White House appears, for now, to be concentrating on ironing out the remaining glitches in HealthCare.gov to ensure millions more people are able to sign up for coverage in 2014. Good enrollment numbers are seen by both critics and supporters of Obamacare as a key measure of the program’s success.

“So my sense is that they’re not thinking about appointing a CEO in the short term,” said Topher Spiro, a healthcare analyst with the Center for American Progress.

The CEO proposal calls for removing day-to-day control of the marketplace from the CMS bureaucracy and placing it under a leadership structure like those used in some of the more successful state-run marketplaces, including California.

The new team would be managed by a CEO, or an executive director, who would run the marketplace like a business and answer directly to the White House, sources familiar with the discussions say.

They point to insurance industry and healthcare veterans as potential candidates, including former Aetna CEO Ronald Williams, former Kaiser Permanente CEO George Halvorson and Jon Kingsdale, who ran the Massachusetts health exchange established under former Governor Mitt Romney‘s 2006 healthcare reforms. None of the three was available for comment.

Healthcare experts say the idea should have been taken up by the administration years ago.

“It’s the right thing to do. It’s just two years late,” said Mike Leavitt, the Republican former Utah governor who oversaw the rollout of the prescription drug program known as Medicare Part D as U.S. health and human services secretary under President George W. Bush.

“The administration is confronted by a series of problems they cannot solve on their own. They do not possess internally the competencies or the exposure or the information,” he told Reuters.

Emanuel, one of the administration’s longest-standing allies on healthcare reform, recommended a marketplace CEO in an Oct. 22 Op-Ed article in the New York Times, calling it one of five things the White House could do to fix Obamacare.

“The candidate should have management experience, knowledge of how both the government and health insurance industry work, and at least some familiarity with IT (information technology) systems. Obviously this is a tall order, but there are such people. And the administration needs to hire one immediately,” he wrote.

The administration has adopted Emanuel’s four other recommendations: better window-shopping features for HealthCare.gov; a concerted effort to win back public trust; a focus on the customer shopping experience; and a public outreach campaign to engage young adults.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Former Ambassadors: Vatican Embassy Closure ‘Shameful’.


Two former ambassadors to the Holy See believe it will be a “colossal mistake” for the Obama administration to follow through with its plan to close the United States Vatican embassy in 2015.

The United States and the Holy See have built a strong relationship through the embassy, which was opened under President Ronald Reagan in 1984, write Ray Flynn, who served under President Bill Clinton, and Jim Nicholson, ambassador, under President George W. Bush in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

Francis: Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.

Reagan opened the embassy with bipartisan support, joining more than 150 other countries in maintaining the diplomatic mission inside the Vatican, a decision that proved crucial, say Flynn and Nicholson.

“President Reagan and Pope John Paul II worked along parallel tracks to accelerate the revolutions of 1989 and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union,” the former ambassadors write. “The U.S. and the Holy See have since built a strong relationship that has had a demonstrable impact on the defense and advance of human rights throughout the world.”

President Barack Obama has called to close the embassy and move its functions into a separate building within the grounds of U.S. Embassy to Italy in Rome, three miles from the Vatican, in late 2014 or early 2015. The move is being made as part of new measures to increase security for U.S. diplomatic facilities worldwide following the terrorist attack on the diplomatic compound in Libya last year.

“This would be a colossal mistake,” say Nicholson and Flynn, noting that the move has been seen as a “deliberate slap at the Catholic Church and the pope; some may even detect veiled anti-Catholicism.”

The ambassadors said that no matter what the administration’s motivation may be, moving the embassy away from the Vatican is not in the best interest of the United States.

Further, said Flynn and Nicholson, the State Department has been planning for the past 10 years to close the Vatican posting for budgetary reasons, ever since the State Department bought an office building next to the embassy in Rome.

But now, the Obama administration has added the post-Benghazi security concerns to the “penny-wise/pound-foolish approach” for closing the Mission to the Holy See, the ambassadors write.

“As former U.S. ambassadors to the Holy See, we respectfully suggest that any such security concerns be met by stronger executive leadership in the White House and State Department,” say Flynn and Nicholson. “The attempt to use such concerns as an excuse for downgrading the Embassy to the Holy See is shameful.”

They note that the Holy See is the embodiment in international law of the Pope’s mission, and was founded before modern Italy was born.

“The Holy See plays a unique and often crucial role in world affairs, from John Paul II’s pivotal role in the collapse of European communism, to the important achievements of the Holy See in standing up for human dignity and human rights,” the ambassadors write. It also plays a part in the “Vatican’s ‘honest broker’ role in international conflicts and in disasters requiring significant and rapid humanitarian aid.”

The ambassadors point out that the Holy See plays a role as a diplomatic hub where 175 countries are represented, and moving the embassy will “signal a lack of U.S. governmental respect for such papal influence, and it will not go unnoticed by other countries.”

Francis: Pope’s Hidden Life Revealed.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Obamacare Tweaked Yet Again: Sign-up Extended to Christmas Eve.


Americans are being given an extra day to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, with the Obama administration quietly extending the deadline to 11:59 p.m. on Christmas EveThe Washington Post reports.

Government officials and outside IT contractors working on the online marketplace’s computer system made a software change” that automatically gives people the extra day, sources told the newspaper.

The rule change is the latest of the many tweaks that have been made to the healthcare law, which has been plagued by numerous issues, from a botched website launch to the reality that many will have to drop their doctors, despite the president’s promise.

The latest tweak comes weeks after administration officials announced that the website’s glitches had mostly been fixed.

The Post said the unannounced extension is “intended as a buffer in case the website has trouble if a last-minute surge of insurance-seekers proved more than the computer system could handle.”

Sources told the newspaper that the one-day extension is automatic and cannot be overridden by insurers who might object.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency overseeing the health exchange, had no immediate comment.

One insurance industry official told The Post: “Making yet another last-minute change to the rules by shortening an already-tight time period in which to process enrollments makes it even harder to ensure people who have selected a plan are able to have their coverage begin in January.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

Obamacare’s Spanish Site Still Has Vital Information in English.


The Spanish-language Obamacare website rollout has been plagued by worse problems than the glitch-filled HealthCare.gov, and significant information is still presented in English, including the section outlining what healthcare plans are available.

The Obama administration‘s rollout of the Spanish language CuidadoDeSalud.gov website took longer than its English counterpart, yet Latinos still face the same deadlines as English-speaking Americans to navigate the site and get insurance coverage by Jan. 1.

Obama administration officials have not released the number of Hispanics who have signed up for healthcare insurance through the national system, but an initial figure from California is not promising.

Only 13 percent of enrollees in California’s online healthcare exchange are Hispanic, despite accounting for 38 percent of the population, the state said last week.

“It’s already a net loss in California and that’s supposed to be the model program,” said Daniel Garza, executive director of The LIBRE Initiative’s Accountability Project, which advances free-enterprise efforts among Hispanics and is working to expose broken promises in Obamacare.

“It’s disastrous all the way around,” he said.

On the home page of the Spanish-language site are three main sections: to compare policies, purchase health insurance, and apply for subsidies. The compare policies section is still in English.

Garza said Spanish speakers also are being directed to information outside the federal exchange that is in English.

“A lot of it is just sending people to third-party sites, state exchange programs, and they are not in Spanish,” Garza noted.

The Spanish version was overwhelmed with glitches throughout October and November and did not go fully operational until last week, 10 days after the Obama administration said the English website was finally running smoothly.

However, Garza said the site is mostly cosmetic, and like the English version of the website, doesn’t effectively work on the back end to hook participants up with insurance companies.

“People who think they signed up for a policy are going to be in for a rude awakening a month or two down the line,” Garza said.

The federal government is counting on nearly 24 million Americans signing up for Obamacare, and it is expected that one in four will not speak English, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

With higher unemployment in the Hispanic community and lower median household incomes, Obamacare will further burden families with the new insurance mandates and higher premiums, Garza said.

But the participation of Hispanics is critical to the success of Obamacare. With a Latino population of 60 million at an average age of 27, those healthy adults are needed to help pay the healthcare costs of older Americans.

Garza also said the lack of participation by Hispanics is due in part to the community losing faith in President Barack Obama.

Garza cited a list of broken promises to the community, including on immigration reform, that he said has led to a decline in the president’s poll numbers.

A recent Gallup poll found that Hispanics’ approval of Obama has fallen from 75 percent in December 2012 to 52 percent in the last few weeks.

“I don’t think the community has been a priority for this administration,” Garza said. “They gave a lot of lip service. I think they just take the community for granted, that the support will be there, and I think they are just now starting to understand that that’s not going to be case.

“So they better get on the ball here or they’re going to lose support on a grand scale, as well they should if they continue these shenanigans.”

The Accountability Project is also targeting the re-election efforts of Hispanic members of Congress who voted for Obamacare and who continue to support the new healthcare law, beginning with Democratic Reps. Joe Garcia of Florida and Pete Gallego of Texas.

The project is running television and radio ads and sponsoring rallies to tell voters “it’s a bad law that is wreaking havoc on the Hispanic community,” Garza said.

“Here we have folks who are supporting a bad policy that is having disastrous effects, and they are continuing to support it, seeing with their own eyes the consequences of a bad law,” Garza said. “So we mean to make sure they pay a heavy political price for that.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Audrey Hudson

Latest Obamacare Debacle Stuns Insurers, Market Shares.


Image: Latest Obamacare Debacle Stuns Insurers, Market Shares

By Sandy Fitzgerald and Cathy Burke

The Obama administration‘s decision to allow people whose insurance has been canceled to buy “catastrophic plans” or avoid buying insurance altogether is causing howls of protest from the health insurance industry and a dip in market shares on Wall Street.

Thursday’s surprise announcement came just four days before the Dec. 23 deadline for Americans to choose coverage that will begin on Jan. 1, reports The Washington Post.

ObamaCareYou Can Win With The Facts

“This type of last-minute change will cause tremendous instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,” Robert Zirkelbach, spokeman for American’s Health Insurance Plans, told the Post.

Within hours of the announcement, several insurers’ shares, which had been up in early trading started to drop on Friday, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Aetna Inc.  Cigna Corp.,  and Humana,  all of which have significant roles in the Obamacare marketplaces, all marked slight downgrades of less than 1 percent.

Meanwhile, two other major Obamacare insurers, WellPoint and UnitedHealth Group Inc. went up by about 1 percentage point.

Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans warned Thursday that “this type of last-minute change will cause tremendous instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers.”

Lawmakers are also speaking out about the change.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., once again demanded a delay for Obamacare for everyone, saying the latest exemption shows the healthcare law is not working, and changes in the system should not be based on Obama’s “random impulses,” reportsBloomberg.

And Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that the “sad reality” is that fewer people will have coverage under Obamacare than were covered a year ago.

“Rather than more White House delays, waivers and exemptions, the administration should provide all Americans relief from its failed law,” Upton said in an email to Bloomberg.
However, the Obama administration insists that allowing people to buy catastrophic coverage or opt out altogether is the right, fair thing to do.

“This is a common sense clarification of the law,” said Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. “For the limited number of consumers whose plans have been canceled and are seeking coverage, this is one more option.”

The policy change went out in a letter to Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, Jeanne Shaheen, of New Hampshire, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who had asked the administration Wednesday if people whose plans were cancelled could qualify to be exempted from having to buy insurance, reports The Hill.

Two of the senators, Landrieu and Shaheen, are expected to face tough races in their 2014 re-election bids. Landrieu has been distancing herself from Obamacare for some time, andcriticizes Obama in her first campaign commercial over his handling of the new healthcare law rollout as she begins her re-election fight in Louisiana for a fourth term.

And in October, Shaheen called on the White House to extend Obamacare’s open enrollment period amid efforts to fix glitches plaguing the government’s health insurance exchange website HealthCare.gov.

All five Democrats issued a statement Thursday to say they’re pleased with the changes.
“This clarifies an option that will help those consumers who have had their plans cancelled this year transition more smoothly into the marketplace,” the senators said.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the new rule means that consumers whose insurance has been cancelling for not meeting federal standards enforced under Obamacare can buy cheaper “catastrophic” coverage if their new out-of-pocket costs are too high.

Previously, the coverage was only available for buyers under the age of 30. Now, everybody can apply for the same hardship exemption younger policy buyers enjoy.

The Obama administration says the change is expected to affect fewer than a half-million people, Bloomberg reports. Insurers fear the exemptions will keep younger, healthier people from buying insurance plans, which could cause problems down the line when it comes to keeping plan prices from climbing.

But California alone has already reported that more than 1 million insured people received letters telling them they are losing their policies.

ObamaCare: You Can Win With The Facts 

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Deportations Plunge as Obama Immigration Law Push Stalls.


Image: Deportations Plunge as Obama Immigration Law Push Stalls

Protesters rally at an immigrant detention center in Elizabeth, New Jersey on Dec. 10.

The Obama administration has cut back on deporting undocumented immigrants, with forced departures on track to drop more than 10 percent from last year, the first annual decline in more than a decade.

In his first term, President Barack Obama highlighted record deportations to show he was getting tough on immigration enforcement, which Republicans and even some Democrats have demanded as a condition for overhauling existing laws.

The last fiscal year was different. The U.S. deported 343,020 people in the U.S. illegally from Oct. 1, 2012, to Sept. 7, 2013, the most recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement data show. If that pace continued through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, removals would reach a six-year low.

The drop, which comes as Obama faces growing criticism from Hispanics over deportations, is a result of a new policy of focusing limited enforcement resources “on public safety, national security and border security,” ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said. “ICE has been vocal about the shift in our immigration-enforcement strategy,” she said. “Our removal numbers illustrate this.”

Legislation to revamp the U.S. immigration system is stalled because of resistance from Republicans in the House of Representatives. Republican lawmakers opposed to changes backed by both Obama and former President George W. Bush, including offering a path to citizenship to the country’s estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants, have demanded tougher enforcement before considering new legislation.

Pushing Back

Yet as deportations climbed to a record 409,900 last year, Obama has faced pushback from the Democratic Party’s Hispanic backers, who helped provide his victory margin in two elections. There have also been protests from immigration activists, most recently at a speech he gave last month in San Francisco.

“He’s going to continue to be confronted,” Representative Luis Gutierrez said of Obama, a fellow Illinois Democrat. “You can’t say you’re going to protect the undocumented and give them a pathway to citizenship, and then deport them in unprecedented numbers.”

Even with the decline this year, about 1.93 million people have been deported during Obama’s five years in office. That approaches Bush’s eight-year total and is almost as many as in the 108 years between the administrations of Presidents Benjamin Harrison, when Department of Homeland Security records begin, and Bill Clinton.

Contractors Benefit

What’s more, a decline in deportations doesn’t necessarily mean fewer people will be locked up.

In 2009, a Democratic-controlled Congress set a minimum on how many undocumented immigrants should be detained each day pending hearings. It’s now 34,000, up from about 20,000 in 2005.

Even a broad immigration bill approved by the Senate this year — which creates a road to citizenship for undocumented workers — would “increase the prison population by about 14,000 inmates annually by 2018” due to more spending on enforcement, a congressional cost-estimate projected.

That may have a positive effect on companies that the government increasingly relies on to detain those being held for deportation hearings, if it becomes law, said Kevin Campbell, who tracks private prison companies for Avondale Partners, a Nashville-based financial-services company.

“You think about immigration reform and you intuitively think that means less people prosecuted for immigration offenses, but it seems like it will be just the opposite,” Campbell said.

The surge in deportations has benefited companies such as Boca Raton, Florida-based GEO Group Inc., which runs prisons in five countries. ICE accounted for 17 percent of the company’s $1.48 billion in revenue last year, up from 11 percent of $1.04 billion in revenue in 2008, according to company filings.

Policy Changes

Campbell and ICE officials said the drop in deportations stems from changes the administration started making in 2011.

In a departure from Bush’s policies, which emphasized raids on businesses suspected of hiring undocumented immigrants, then- ICE Director John Morton said deportations should focus on “national security, public safety and border security.”

Morton discouraged agents from detaining young immigrants, crime victims and “individuals pursuing legitimate civil rights complaints.”

This “prosecutorial discretion” accounted for 16,300 immigration court cases being closed in 2013, according to data compiled for Bloomberg by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. That’s up from 9,700 last year.

About 58 percent of deportations in 2013 were of “criminals,” ICE data show. In 2008, it was 31 percent.

More Exemptions

The list of exemptions has continued to grow.

In June 2012, five months before his re-election, Obama exempted from deportation certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security halted deportations for families of U.S. military members because of the “stress and anxiety” that possible forced removals puts on those in the Armed Services.

The change has provoked administration critics.

“These are policies that severely restrict ICE agents from arresting and charging illegal aliens,” said Jessica Vaughn, policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, which opposes increased immigration.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, said during a Dec. 3 hearing that the changes “push executive power beyond all limits.”

“President Obama is the first president since Richard Nixon to ignore a duly enacted law simply because he disagrees with it,” he said.

‘Prosecutorial Discretion’

The president isn’t ignoring the law, White House press secretary Jay Carney said yesterday.

“We have to enforce the law,” he said. “There is prosecutorial discretion, and that is applied. The focus is on those who’ve committed felonies.”

That approach, he said, is “not a replacement for comprehensive immigration reform.”

Advocates for the Senate bill want Obama to do more. This month, 29 House Democrats, including Gutierrez, signed a letter calling on Obama to suspend deportations.

That has backing from the AFL-CIO. The federation of labor unions with 13 million members spent at least $6.4 million supporting Obama in his 2012 re-election campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“The president has the authority and the ability to ease this crisis,” said Ana Avendano, director of immigration and community action at the AFL-CIO.

Facing Protests

Obama was interrupted at an immigration rally on Nov. 25 in San Francisco when Ju Hong, a college student standing on the riser behind him, yelled that the president has “power to stop deportations for all.”

“Actually, I don’t,” Obama replied. “If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws.”

The bill that the Senate passed in June with bipartisan support has stalled in the House, where Republican Speaker John Boehner said on Nov. 13 that he has “no intention” of considering it.

That doesn’t mean attempts to change the law are dead. Boehner said he prefers passing parts of the legislation separately, and Obama has said he’s willing to support that approach.

New Hire

Boehner this month hired Rebecca Tallent, who as the Bipartisan Policy Center’s director of immigration policy helped on immigration bills as a staff member for Senator John McCain and former Representative Jim Kolbe. The two Republicans supported easing immigration laws.

With an average of about 1,000 deportations a day this year, that means more than 165,000 immigrants have been removed from the country since the Senate bill passed.

“We just want the chance to be able to work,” said Rebeca Nolasco, a 21-year-old who received deferred action and whose mother, Diana Ramos, is in an Arizona detention center facing deportation. “It doesn’t harm anyone.”
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Source: Newsmax.com

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