Immigration reform: Will we see it in 2013? That’s the burning question on everyone’s mind this year.
A complicated debate and legislative process lie ahead. Here to decipher the headlines for you every Monday is THE UPDATE, a weekly blog series whose panel of experts will analyze how recent events affect the prospects for real reform. The panelists will offer an insider’s view of what’s happening right now on Capitol Hill, bolstered by their decades of experience with immigration reform and the legislative process.
This week’s edition appears in both English and Spanish.
Given the most recent developments, are we getting any closer to immigration reform? Here’s what the panelists have to say:
Mary Giovagnoli, Director, Immigration Policy Center
Last week the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) announced that S.744 would lead to tremendous reductions in the budget deficit and provide an economic boost to the country to the tune of almost a trillion dollars. This effectively knocked out the arguments of many anti-immigrant voices who have consistently argued that immigrants cost too much, steal jobs from Americans or take without giving back. The research—and the public—have known the value of immigrants and immigration for years, but it is still a shot in the arm to have the argument validated by the CBO. Unfortunately, the positive score had a surprising result—once senators saw how big the cost savings would be and how much money legalized immigrants would add to the federal coffers in terms of taxes and industry, they immediately proposed a more than $30 billion border security amendment. It remains to be seen what will come of this amendment. On the one hand, it virtually ensures that ten to fifteen more Republicans will vote for final passage of the bill. On the other hand, it pours money that could be better spent elsewhere into border security, reinforcing a mistaken notion of what makes our country safe. There will be a lot of soul-searching before this is all over, but these two events, one good, one disturbing, may ensure passage of the bill this week.
Bishop Julian Gordy, Immigration Ready Bench, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
We are likely standing in a historic space in America for migrants and refugees and their families, communities, and congregations. Energy is high in Washington, D.C. as a final vote in the Senate on comprehensive immigration reform is expected next week. The House is also considering a number of immigration laws. Unfortunately many of these bills would erect new barriers to welcome for migrants and refugees. We will see who prevails, though at the moment, judging from apparent breakthroughs in bipartisanship here and there, the momentum seems to be on the side of fair and comprehensive reform.
Lisa Sharon Harper, Director of Mobilizing, Sojourners
Last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score of the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill. While some conservatives were worried it would add to the long-term deficit, the CBO’s non-partisan report shows that implementing reform will actually cut the deficit by nearly $1 trillion over the next 20 years. That’s a lot more money in taxpayers’ pockets. The CBO report puts to rest any doubts raised by the Heritage Foundation’s bogus report, which claimed the current Senate bill would create a $6.3 trillion drag on the economy. Rather, the CBO report proves that immigration reform would be a boon to our economy. On the same day that the CBO released its report Speaker John Boehner announced that he doesn’t plan to pass any bill in the House without majority Republican support. Two days later, Boehner confided with a gaggle of reporters: “If in fact [the CBO report] numbers are anywhere close to being accurate, it would be a real boon for the country.” Since 2011, the GOP has focused on the deficit. Here the CBO has offered the nation another path to fiscal health. Not only is immigration reform what the majority of Americans want and the right thing for our nation, but now the economic boost it would provide has been clearly demonstrated. As the Senate works through the last of its amendments and the House begins its own process, my prayer is that members do the right thing: fix our broken immigration system and ignore ideologically extreme voices within both parties. We have worked too hard and this is too important for the will of the people and the good of our nation to be stymied by the opposition. Tell your senator to stand strong in support of the bipartisan Senate bill. Now is our time. This is possible. If we each let our voices be heard, we can seize the moment and make commonsense immigration reform a reality.
Brittney Nystrom, LIRS Director for Advocacy, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
As LIRS was accompanying former refugees to meet with their members of Congress on World Refugee Day last week on June 20, the signs of progress on immigration reform were everywhere. The newspapers in the Congressional office waiting areas all featured front page stories on immigration reform. The televisions in the lobbies showed senators speaking on the floor about immigration reform. And the members of Congress and staff we met with were excited to tell us a breakthrough on reforming our immigration and refugee laws was at hand. All of these point to better prospects for reform, but trouble is on the horizon in the form of a Senate vote on border enforcement measures.
THE UPDATE will appear every Monday until the dust settles on the legislative battle over comprehensive immigration reform. If you wish to raise your voice for fair reform, please visit our Action Center. You can also learn more about the issues by reading two interviews with someone personally impacted by America’s broken immigration system, Jessica Colotl. Also, don’t forget that you can subscribe to this blog by adding your email address to the box at the top left of this page!