Steve Bannon: The Robin to President Trump's Batman. Bannon used to run Breitbart News, a far-right media outlet. Now, he's the president's top advisor. Trump also gave him a VIP seat at the National Security Council. So he's kind of a big deal. Critics point out that it's pretty unusual to have a political advisor take part in national security discussions. Bannon was also one of the main forces behind Trump's temporary travel ban against people from some mostly-Muslim countries.
Fmr. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH): He was in charge of the House for some intense immigration fights during Obama's presidency. After Obama was re-elected in 2012 (thanks in part to a huge boost from Latino voters), Boehner said 'looks like it's time for immigration reform.' In 2013, the Senate easily passed a bipartisan immigration bill. But, after pressure from far-right members in the House, Boehner opted not to take up the bill for a vote. In 2014, Boehner tells Obama that comprehensive immigration reform is a no-go.
Fmr. Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ): Brewer grabbed national attention in 2010 when she signed SB 1070 into law. It's one of the strictest immigration laws in the country that - amongst other things - required law enforcement to demand legal paperwork from someone if there was "reasonable suspicion" that they're in the US illegally. To which many critics said 'sounds like racial profiling.' Immigrants' rights groups sued. After a lot of legal back and forth, and a short trip to the Supremes, the state ended up gutting most of it.
Fmr. President George W Bush: Immigration reform was a top priority for Dubya, especially in his second term. For months, he pushed Congress to OK a plan that would bulk up border patrol, while also creating a temporary worker program. That program would have made it legal for 'foreign workers' to fill jobs that Americans didn't want. They'd work legally for a fixed time, and then be required to go home. Bush also called on Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that had been in the US for a long time. Congress thought about it, and eventually said 'nah' to all of the above.
Fmr. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA): He was once considered the heir to the House speaker seat and was the all around GOP darling. Until he wasn't. Back in 2013, Cantor dipped his toe in the immigration debate by saying that Dreamers should be able to get citizenship. That in part led Virginia voters to give him the boot in 2014 in a huge upset primary vote. Cantor's loss wasn't just the end of his political career – it was a big warning sign to Republicans on what can happen if they flirt with compromising on immigration.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX): Back in 2013, Cruz pushed to let more legal immigrants into the US - and give out more visas for highly-skilled workers. But when he ran for prez in 2016, he changed up his position to appeal to the GOP's far-right base. Cruz called for a temporary halt to visas for highly-skilled workers. And he said he wouldn't give legal status to any undocumented immigrants. If Eric Cantor is exhibit A for why immigration reform is so hard to do, Cruz is exhibit B.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: One of a few prominent sanctuary city mayors. Sanctuary cities: places like NYC, Chicago, and LA, where local officials protect undocumented immigrants from deportation unless they've committed major crimes. President Trump has promised to strip federal funding from sanctuary cities. DeBlasio has promised to sue if that happens, saying that federal money would come out of the NYPD's pocket, which is used to fight terrorism.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL): Dreamer-in-chief. He was one of a handful of lawmakers to introduce the first DREAM Act in 2001. It didn't get very far. But Durbin's been a part of its revival ever since. In 2009, he proposed a version that would've allowed "Dreamers" (see below) who've graduated from high school to eventually get legal status in the US. After a lot of back and forth, the Senate said 'nope' and shelved the plan.
"Dreamers": Refers to undocumented immigrants who came to the US as kids and grew up in the US. But since they don't have legal paperwork, they can't apply for jobs. Or even travel outside the US, because they won't be let back in. So where did the term come from? The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act – ie: the DREAM Act that would essentially pull this group out of legal limbo. It's been bouncing around Congress since 2001 but has never made it to the finish line.
"Gang of Eight": Nothing to do with the Godfather. It's a group of eight senators from both sides of the aisle. Back in 2013, they put their heads together to work on a major immigration shake-up that would've allowed millions of undocumented immigrants to apply for US citizenship while bulking up the US-Mexico border. That bill jumped the Senate hurdle. But then former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) refused to give the bill any time in the House spotlight. So that was that.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): One of the "Gang of Eight" senators to put together an immigration reform bill in 2013. Also one of the few Republicans to consistently say that he wants to find a way for undocumented immigrants get legal status – despite pushback from the GOP base.
Immigrants: The people who come to the US to stay on permanent visas. This is different from nonimmigrant visas that don't have anything to do with becoming a US citizen. These let people come to the US for things like work, school, or family on different kinds of visas. All candidates have to go through complex application procedures before they can buy that one-way ticket to 'Murica.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): The gov agency that's in charge of investigating and deporting undocumented immigrants. Earlier this year, President Trump signed an executive order that would let the agency hire more ICE officers to carry out more deportations.
Ret. Marine Gen. John Kelly: The new HBIC at Homeland Security. Kelly spent more than four decades in the Marines, including multiple tours in Iraq. He was also in charge of military ops south of the US border. Now, he'll oversee building the wall at the southern border. Full circle. He's also in charge of implementing Trump's temporary travel ban for people from seven mostly-Muslim countries, which he admits was juuusssttt a little rushed. And you thought your first month at work was hard.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA): King is a long-time opponent to any immigration reform that would offer undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. He's said many young undocumented immigrants have "calves the size of cantaloupes" because they're smuggling drugs across the desert. And that the number of Americans killed by undocumented immigrants is "multiples of the victims of Sept. 11." To which even the GOP's said 'that's just wrong.'
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): In 2007, McCain helped write an immigration reform bill that would do more to secure US borders, and create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. A few months later, he decided 'actually, nope,' and announced he'd no longer vote for his own bill. Instead, he voted for a fence along the Mexican border. This might have something to do with trying to appeal to the Republican base during the primaries of the '08 presidential campaign. Fast forward to 2013: he's the GOP leader of the "Gang of Eight" that was trying to come up with a bipartisan plan to reform immigration.
Stephen Miller: Steve Bannon 2.0 aka President Trump's other advisor. He used to work for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Then jumped on the Team Trump bandwagon last year. On top of being Trump's second right-hand man, Miller's the president's speechwriter too – he wrote the Republican National Convention speech and the inaugural address. He's also the one who worked on the temporary travel ban with Bannon. And the one defending it in the face of criticism and legal challenges.
Janet Napolitano: She held the top job at Homeland Security under former President Obama until 2013. Meaning, she was the one in charge of deporting a record number of undocumented immigrants with criminal records. She was also the one implementing Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act. Psst ... that's the executive order that protects hundreds of thousands of "Dreamers" from being deported for at least two years and allows them to apply for work permits.
Fmr. President Barack Obama: His legacy on immigration reform is...complicated. On one hand, he deported more people than any other president. On the other, he created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (just call it DACA), which allows undocumented immigrants that were brought here as kids to live and work in the US on a temporary basis. Then in 2014 – after Congress said 'hard pass' to immigration reform – Obama took some executive actions (DC speak for going it alone). He delayed the deportation of undocumented parents of US citizens, and expanded protections for people who were brought to the US illegally as kids. After a lot of legal back and forth, the plan was eventually nixed.
Refugees: People who are forced to flee home to escape things like war and genocide. Since 1975, more than 3 million refugees have resettled in the US, coming in from places like Cuba, Kosovo, and Iraq. The most recent wave is coming from Syria, where people are fleeing a brutal six-year-long civil war. So far, the US has accepted more than 10,000 Syrians. But earlier this year, President Trump signed an executive order that would indefinitely ban Syrian refugees from coming into the US. Even though that order has been suspended, it's unclear what Trump's official refugee policy will look like going forward.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): He's hot on immigration then he's cold. He's yes then he's no. Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants who became one of the few major Republicans to support some form of immigration reform. He was also in the "Gang of Eight." But then he ran for president in 2016 and the GOP used his role in the Gang against him. So, he decided to wash his hands of the whole thing, saying he knew all along that bill was never going to become law anyway. Signals, mixed.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): The independent senator's had a love/hate relationship with immigration reform over the years. In 2007, he voted against a major push to change-up immigration laws in a way that would've allowed undocumented immigrants to work in the US. He was worried it would drive down wages and working conditions for American workers. But since then, he's jumped on the immigration reform bandwagon. Especially when he was running for president last year. Flip, meet flop.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY): One of the "Gang of Eight" senators who put forward a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013. It easily passed the Senate but hit a big wall in the House, and never made it to President Obama's desk. Schumer thought there was a decent chance he'd become the Senate Majority Leader in 2016, and said he'd take up immigration reform again when that happened. Never mind.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions: The former Alabama senator is now the guy who runs the Department of Justice. Back in the 80s, he was denied a federal judgeship in part because he said the Ku Klux Klan was "ok." And during his time as senator, he's been a major voice against immigration reform. As in he's voted against almost every bill that would've led to undocumented immigrants getting citizenship. Now, he'll be the legal cheerleader for President Trump's temporary travel ban.
President Donald Trump: Trump got elected in part because of his tough take on immigration, which he says would make America safe again. He promised to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records, and use "extreme vetting" for people coming in from countries connected to terrorism. Days after moving into the White House, he hit 'go' on all of those things. He's signed executive orders to start work on that wall and bulk up the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. He also signed an order to ban Syrian refugees and temporarily block people from seven mostly-Muslim countries from entering the US. That order got sidelined after the court system said 'mmmm not sure this is constitutional.' He signed another similar but revised order weeks later. So far it seems like he takes pinky promises pretty seriously.
Undocumented immigrants: The people who come to the US without any legal docs to stay in the US. Think: visas or citizenship. There are around 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country, which is a little over 3% of the total population of the US. Many of those undocumented immigrants have come in from Mexico. But, in recent years, some of them have been coming in from Asia and Central America too.
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