Immigration Update: Reform Debate Continues in the House
On Tuesday the U.S. House of Representatives held its first hearing over a comprehensive immigration reform. Debate ranged from the true definition of comprehensive immigration reform to border security and employment verification, emphasizing not to rush into judgment.
President Obama and a bipartisan senate committee released their blueprint for immigration reform which both focus on an earned pathway to citizenship for those undocumented people already here. The pathway to citizenship was a key part of the hearing yesterday, especially for San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro who agreed with providing a clear and fair pathway but opposes granting those already here legal status and barring them from ever becoming a U.S. citizen.
“I just cannot imagine an America where we assign these folks to an underclass status. In other words, we would be telling them, you will never become a citizen of the United States,” he said.
Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and other Republicans on the committee made it clear in yesterday’s hearing that a comprehensive immigration reform is by far too complex and are skeptical of it. Some representatives would rather work with a piecemeal legislation so they can work on the details like accommodating high-skilled foreign workers with visas.
“It’s going to be a much easier lift to solve the problem of high-skilled workers,” said Representative Max Baucus (R-Mo.). “We could pass a bill that would take that off the table. When you take compressive, full citizenship, that’s a more toxic contentious issue. ... Let’s not let the more contentious issue prevent us from this year, this month, passing something to address what is a horrible situation—training people to go back to their countries and compete against us.”
Immigrant rights advocates, however, disagree with this approach since it overlooks the overhaul strategy which includes what to do with the undocumented people already in the United States. At one point the hearing was interrupted by protesters, most likely DREAMers, who shouted "undocumented and unafraid!" before being escorted out.
Yesterday, Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, met with President Obama to discuss immigration. Jimenez said she and other immigrant rights advocates stressed to Obama that any moves forward on creating a clear path to citizenship must remain inclusive by all people impacted by the issue—not just young undocumented DREAMers. “A direct, clear path to citizenship must be at the center of any legislation and that proposals reflect our values of family, community, equality, and opportunity, ensuring LGBT couples are treated fairly. We also conveyed the concerns our communities share—out-of-control enforcement practices and senseless deportations that tear families apart. Now it’s time for action and we won’t stop until we win this victory for our communities.”
Julie Myers Wood, a former head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, mentioned any new legislation must consist of stronger employment-verification systems and improve the resources of agencies that are charged with enforcing immigration laws. "We've got to get enforcement right…from the get-go, or otherwise will be in this situation again," she said.
The Senate is expected to introduce legislation on the issue next month.
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