WASHINGTON – House Democrats are looking to further pressure majority Republicans on the sensitive issue of immigration reform this week with the launching of a discharge petition to force a vote.
“That’s because we simply have stalled,” caucus chairman Xaiver Becerra (D-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday after a closed-door meeting. “House Republicans have stalled over and over and over again on bringing a bill to the floor. Is there a certain degree of frustration? You’d better believe it. But we’re not nearly as frustrated here on the Democratic side of the House as the American people have been.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) said “now’s the time to put a discharge petition on the floor, to force this issue, because there are so many people whose lives are at stake.”
“And I urge every Republican to sign this discharge petition so that we can address this issue and make sure that we move ahead as a country,” Chu added.
Democrats launched a public petition today at Dems.gov/TimeIsNow and the Twitter hashtag #DemandAVote in an attempt to amp up the pressure.
“Today, I am demanding a vote on comprehensive immigration reform legislation,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said this morning after signing the discharge petition on the House floor. “It is time for Speaker Boehner to stop blocking this sensible bipartisan reform, and allow a vote to create jobs, empower our small businesses, fuel innovation, reduce the deficit and energize the economy. It is time for us to fix our broken immigration system, and build a system that respects our history and our values as a nation.”
The effort will almost assuredly fail – Democrats control only 199 seats in the 435-member lower chamber and few if any Republicans are expected to ink the demand, which requires 218 signatures. But the new initiative could draw renewed attention to an issue that has languished over the past few months with GOP lawmakers seemingly unable to reach a consensus.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has expressed a desire to address immigration this session but fellow Republican lawmakers do not appear eager to move ahead, with many expressing a desire to wait until after the November elections, hoping to strike a better deal if Republicans assume control of the Senate.
That wait-and-see attitude is not popular with Latino leaders who have been pushing for consideration.
“House Republican leadership has hidden behind excuse after excuse for why they cannot move forward with immigration reform,” said Clarissa Martínez-De-Castro, director of Immigration and Civic Engagement at the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Latino group. “Political choices have consequences, and how they handle immigration reform in the next ten months will impact the political landscape over the next decade.”
Martinez-De-Castro asserted that Latinos “won’t sit idly by while thousands more family members and friends get deported every day.”
“Our community will continue to pressure House Republicans to act and the White House to intervene in unnecessary deportations,” she said. “We will raise our voice at the voting booth, where we will remember who championed immigration reform and who stood in the way of progress.”
More than 11 million Latinos cast ballots in the 2012 election – mostly for Democrats. The Hispanic vote grew by 15 percent between 2008 and 2012 — compared to 10 percent for African-Americans and minus-two percent for white citizens. Latino voting strength is expected to grow with an average of 880,000 young Latino citizens turning 18 each year and becoming eligible to register.
Democrats are hoping to force a vote on House Resolution 15, legislation similar to the bipartisan reform bill that passed the Senate last year. That measure offers illegal immigrants who have resided in the U.S. since Dec. 13, 2011, an opportunity to seek provisional legal status that allows them to work but renders them ineligible for federal benefits. They must pay a penalty, taxes and a processing fee and can only apply for permanent status after 10 years. A new visa program for low-skilled workers would also be developed.