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. For the latest on legislation, see “Immigration Reform: S.744 Offers Historic and Bipartisan Progress.”
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, the country got a chance to start focusing on the new immigration bill during a series of hearings in the Judiciary Committee that addressed the economic, social, and humanitarian benefits of immigration reform. There were criticisms, of course, but the Senators who seemed to want more and harsher immigration penalties and who wanted to stop legalization were in the minority and they knew it. Not surprisingly, then, they tried their best to cast doubt on DHS’s ability to secure the border, tried to scare up fear about the refugee process, and threaten that immigration reform means a loss of American jobs. These old and tired arguments—threats not substantive concerns—signal that the ground is crumbling beneath the opponents of reform. And, with the announcement that mark up starts May 9, they better hold on tight, because this bill is ready to move.
Bishop Julian Gordy, Immigration Ready Bench, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Unable to stay behind stage with the Senate bill a marquee event, Rep. Goodlatte and Rep. Gowdy formally announced this morning that the House of Representatives is preparing to introduce a series of smaller bills that focus on separate pieces of the immigration system. Soon, both chambers of Congress could be debating new immigration laws as they move through a complicated and emotionally-charged legislative process. The stage is set for progress on immigration reform, and following next week’s Congressional recess we’ll all be awaiting lights, camera, and action. With so much attention focused on reform, the prospects are still looking good.
Lisa Sharon Harper, Director of Mobilizing, Sojourners
Over the last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee launched a series of hearings on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. The general consensus from policy analysts and media correspondents has been that the bill is not perfect, but it provides a good starting point for discussion that moves the nation toward workable solutions for its broken immigration system. Some encouraging parts of the bill include an earned path to citizenship, the creation of a W visa to employ foreign workers, protection of workers’ rights, and the expansion of some uncapped visas for certain family members of legal permanent residents. Some employment-based visas also are expanded. While these are steps in a positive direction, some advocates are concerned about the increased border security trigger, deemed unattainable by some. Advocates of family unity are concerned that the current bill restructures the family-based visa system by cutting certain family categories all together. Also, advocates in the pan-African community are concerned that the dismantling of the Diversity visa program will disadvantage 50,000 people who would otherwise be able to qualify through the Diversity program, about 47 percent of whom are from the African continent. As we wade from big picture principles into the weeds of the details, it is even more important that we remember every single visa represents a life, a family, a future. We must not make the mistake of trading and cutting visas indiscriminately in order to strike quick deals, lest we sacrifice the dignity and the hope of the ones Jesus called least of these.
Brittney Nystrom, LIRS Director for Advocacy, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Since the Senate’s Gang of Eight introduced their immigration reform bill, S.744, on April 17, America has been paying a tremendous amount of attention to immigration. Now that proposed immigration reform legislation is a reality rather than an aspiration, D.C. has been abuzz with multiple, immigration-themed hearings, press conferences, media articles, and reactions to the Senate’s proposed immigration reform legislation. Although the bill is scarcely a week old, Senator Leahy will begin holding hearings to consider changes to the bill on May 9. These hearings are expected to be contentious and will run through much of May, guaranteeing that immigration reform will remain in the spotlight.
As always, LIRS is committed to bringing you the most up-to-date analysis on immigration reform. Click here to see how LIRS has broken down S.744 in line with our principle of family unity, and come back throughout this week as we release analysis on a new issue each day.