With Government Shut Down, Dems Resurrect Immigration Reform
It may have been odd timing for the House Democratic caucus to resurrect this issue, but today Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and others held a press conference on the Hill to push for comprehensive immigration reform.
And the more they talked about their short-term goals for this long-term overhaul, the more it became evident that this won't be simply a long-dormant bill in negotiations to come.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) acknowledged the continuing budget resolution is first on the agenda, adding "our job, when we get elected to Congress, is to make things work, and to help Americans thrive and prosper, and so we understand that."
"So we're all here together to say this, the time is now to pass comprehensive immigration reform. And we know that today, the votes exist in the House of Representatives, to compliment, to match our Senate colleagues, and pass a bill that does exactly that, fixes our broken immigration system, including providing a path to legal residency, and ultimately to citizenship, to millions of people who work very hard every day in this country," Becerra said.
"So we want to tell our colleagues in the House, Republicans and Democrats, that we're ready to move. We stand here telling you we're ready to move, and we believe we're going to have many, many supporters of this legislation. We hope it's a bipartisan level of support, but we're ready to move, and we want to prove to our Republican colleagues that we're ready to move with them, by presenting a bill that will be not just a Democratic dream come true, but a bill that has proven to get bipartisan votes in the Senate and the House."
Pelosi said coming forward with immigration reform now is "about restoring confidence in who we are as a people, by and large, a nation of immigrants, with all respect and love for our native American brothers and sisters."
"We believe that every newcomer to our country who brings his or her hopes, aspirations, dreams, determination, for a better future for his or her family, makes America more American by subscribing to that spirit of optimism that is our country," she said.
The conference was called to coincide with Rep. Joe Garcia's (D-Fla.) introduction of, by his own admission, an imperfect immigration bill.
The legislation, H.R. 15, is based on S.744, the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill, but eliminates the border security language of the Senate-passed bill. In its place is new border security language drafted by Reps. Mike McCaul (R-Texas) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), which requires the Department of Homeland Security to craft a strategy for "operational control" of the border. It allows two years for DHS to attain "situational awareness" after passage of the bill and another two years for implementation of a strategy.
"Here's what we know, we know Republicans like Ronald Reagan and George Bush, to John McCain, champion immigration reform. There is no reason why our Republican colleagues cannot follow their lead, in their footsteps, to pass a comprehensive immigration bill," Garcia said, finishing off his remarks in Spanish.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a co-sponsor, said immigration is "truly is the economic engine that's grown our economy for generations, and what better time than amid the partisan dysfunction in D.C., to show that we can come together around bipartisan solutions, around an issue that is so important for our country and for our future."
"For years, we have heard from people across the political spectrum, about the need to pass immigration reform," he added. "From the business community, from the faith-based -- from the faith community, from organized labor, to farm workers, to high tech companies, to families in my district that have been torn apart over a tail light being out, or over a speeding ticket."
Democrats indicated they don't want to "push this forward until next year," suggesting that bringing a bill to the floor might be included in any grand bargain struck with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) over the debt ceiling.
Unwilling to compromise on the continuing resolution, Pelosi said she wants Republicans to compromise on a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants.
"Whatever passes in the House and goes to the table, is -- the conference table, we would hope would have comprehensive immigration reform in it," she said. "Doesn't mean we wouldn't vote for a bill that doesn't, but it does mean that when we leave the table, it will have comprehensive immigration reform that leads to a path to citizenship."