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 of the American Immigration Council
Last week was definitely a week of contrasts in which anxiety over the substance and timing of the Senate immigration reform bill began to surface, even as Tea Party Republicans endorsed the idea of a path to citizenship. Let’s start with the growing consensus that a path to citizenship—meaning a clear and distinct path for acquiring a green card, with the ability to move forward and apply for citizenship without any additional requirements or obstacles—has been embraced by Sen. Rand Paul. This led many House Tea Party members, when asked whether they disagreed with Paul, to also concur in the idea of a path to citizenship. We shouldn’t count our chickens (or votes)just yet, but opposition to a full legalization program for the undocumented seems to have virtually disappeared in Congress. And yet, I feel the need to temper excitement just a bit, as this week also began with media reports that the Senate bill may eliminate some family based visa categories, including adult married children and brothers and sisters of US citizens. While the Senators drafting the bill have neither confirmed nor denied these reports, and while we have heard rumors floated that restructuring the family based immigration system might not mean that key family members won’t have a chance to immigrate, it is still a grim reminder that there is much work to be done to ensure that the reform package that actually passes the Senate and the House includes reform measures that protect the vital American ideal of family unification. As Congress heads into a two-week recess, this is the time to visit Members, thank them for their support of legalization and remind them that family immigration issues affect everyone, from those seeking more employment based visas to DREAMers to the undocumented. I remain optimistic about the chances of turning that message into reality, but will be even more excited when I hear that people are taking this message to their Members of Congress during the recess.
Bishop Julian Gordy, Immigration Ready Bench, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Recent days have seen a rush of support for immigration reform. Some of those caught up by the current moving towards reform had only recently been swimming in the other direction. The Republican National Committee released a report portraying support for comprehensive immigration reform as bait to lure voters. Republican Sen. Rand Paul attracted the most attention by endorsing the same immigration fixes supported by a bipartisan group of senators writing a reform bill. It is not surprising that, given the rush of support for immigration reform this week, some foot-dragging has become apparent: Some senators reminisced about the three-year process to change immigration laws in 1986, rumors persist that the proposed number of visas for family members will likely be cut, and compromise remained elusive on the guest worker question. While it’s unlikely that such talk diminishes the odds we’ll see humane immigration reform this year, even rumors are cause for concern.
Lisa Sharon Harper, Director of Mobilizing, Sojourners
Last week one word took center stage in the fight for just immigration reform: “citizenship.” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and five other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to slow down the process because of concerns related to creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already leaving in the Unites States. There’s no “moral or legal responsibility,” Sessions argued, “to reward somebody who entered the country [without documentation],” according to a report in the Los Angeles Times last week. Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul never mentioned the word “citizenship” in a speech he gave on the subject in Washington State. But on the same day, the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT) announced its support, rooted in the values of faith, for an earned path to citizenship. “As evangelicals, we don’t believe there are second class images of God,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, CEO and President of Sojourners, on the EIT press call, “and therefore we don’t believe in a second class status for people who are willing to follow and earned path for citizenship.” A clear consensus is emerging that real immigration reform must include a roadmap to citizenship. We need to tell Sen. Sessions that we DO have a moral responsibility to all our brothers and sisters.
Brittney Nystrom, LIRS Director for Advocacy, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Seated in the March 19 hearing on immigration detention before the House Judiciary Committee, I was heartened to hear a Republican congressman suggest that the Department of Homeland Security is overusing the detention of migrants and refugees. My spirits soared further when reading a letter by seven senators asking that immigration reforms ease the efforts of families to be united. Meanwhile, each week in D.C. there are more stories in the papers and talk on the streets about the politics and policies of immigration reform. In interpreting these positive signs, I agree with Rep. Xavier Becerra, who recently said, “The more you hear voices from all points say we have a possibility, that’s a great sign.”
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 an interview 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!