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
The news on immigration reform remained positive last week—although Congess was on recess, Senate staffers working on an immigration bill were still at it, negotiating what we hope are the final details. The House reports that it is very close to finalizing a bill. Community groups held plenty of local events to encourage their elected officials to support reform. New polling data continues to show strong support for immigration reform, with some opponents conceding that it may be inevitable. This is all good news, but in at least one of the new polls, support for immigration reform was stronger than support for immigrants themselves. In other words, even some people who now support reform continue to believe myths about immigrants, which means that we are far from done when it comes to necessary outreach and education on the value of immigrants and immigration to this nation. We are at a good moment, but in the excitement over our progress, let’s pause to remember that we also have a long way to go.
Bishop Julian Gordy, Immigration Ready Bench, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Even before an immigration reform bill has been written, Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Jeff Sessions—who are outside of the “gang” of bill drafters—last week engaged one another in an energetic debate about how it will be debated. Back at the White House, President Barack Obama created his own immigration buzz by expressing confidence and optimism in the Senate’s impending bipartisan bill. The president also hosted a naturalization ceremony at the White House, welcoming 28 new citizens and noting that “the time has come for comprehensive, sensible immigration reform.” Something historic and exciting is afoot when legislation that is still on the drawing board can generate this much attention during congressional recess. I’m optimistic that it means we’re one step closer to reform.
Lisa Sharon Harper, Director of Mobilizing, Sojourners
It is shocking how often history repeats itself. In 2007, Congress appeared poised to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Positive signals were being given by President George W. Bush and many Republicans in Congress. Many assumed it was only a matter of when, not if, legislation would be enacted. Yet for a variety of political and policy reasons, that effort fell apart. On Monday, President Barack Obama made clear he wouldn’t accept a similar failure this time around by declaring: “We are making progress, but we’ve got to finish the job.” One major difference between 2013 and 2007 is the support of the evangelical community. Inspired by their faith and guided by Scripture, evangelicals are being called “a game changer” by Republican senator’s like Lindsey Graham. In the upcoming days and weeks, the broader faith community will show their support at local events including prayer vigils, town hall gatherings, and in-district meetings across the country and in Washington, D.C. Two evangelical events in that time period are the Evangelical Day of Prayer and Action and the G92 Speak Up! initiative. The G92 Speak Up! initiative will engage Christian college campuses across the country in a competition to see which campus can get the most students to make calls to their congressional representatives advocating in favor of just immigration reform that calls for an earned path to citizenship. While there are parallels to 2007, we pray this chapter in the book of U.S. immigration history has a different ending.
Brittney Nystrom, LIRS Director for Advocacy, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Even with empty halls and offices in Congress given the Easter and Passover recess, and public attention focused on landmark cases at the Supreme Court, immigration reform continues to smolder as one of the hottest topics inside the Beltway. Despite being on recess, four of the eight senators writing a bipartisan immigration reform bill visited the southwest border this week. The visit was a highly public affair complete with a press conference from the border. The message these four senators delivered smacks of progress. Sen. Schumer opined that they are 90% there on writing immigration reform legislation. Sen. McCain predicted that the legislation will be a compromise and that nobody will be totally happy with it.
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!