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: What the Senate Bill May Get Us, What’s Left to Fight For.”
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
News that the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce had reached an agreement over a new kind of worker visa started last week on a positive note, as this had been one of the major potential stumbling blocks on the way to a new bill. And reflecting how much the new mood on immigration is changing the tone of the debate, the AP announced that its influential style guide would no longer sanction the term “illegal immigrant.” The juxtaposition of the two announcements (one style, one substance) makes me think we are moving closer to a more rational and ultimately successful immigration debate in the coming months.
Bishop Julian Gordy, Immigration Ready Bench, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
While rumors about the soon-to-be-introduced immigration reform bill continue to fly (what might a compromise on so-called low-skilled workers look like? and is an agreement for agricultural laborers is included?) words played an unexpected starring role in immigration reform debate. First, Rep. Don Young (R- Alaska) caused an outcry last week when he used a derogatory word to refer to Latino immigrants. Republican leaders and elected officials quickly distanced themselves from Mr. Young, who in turn quickly issued two apologies and took the opportunity to call for immigration reform. Then the Associated Press also dropped the words “illegal immigrant” from its stylebook. The AP’s official explanation is to avoid labeling people and to focus instead on describing situations people face. As America continues down the path to immigration reform, I welcome this conversation about how we refer to ourselves, our communities, and our neighbors. The more we understand that migrants are human beings, the better the chances that our laws treat them with fairness and compassion all people deserve.
Timothy King, Chief Communications Officer, Sojourners
Washington is often the last place change happens. Movements for social change start outside of D.C., and eventually the pressure builds on our elected leaders to act. Congress has been in recess the last two weeks, and many members have taken time to discuss immigration reform at home with their constituents. To ensure these members understand the support they have from evangelicals in creating an immigration system that reflects our shared values, the Evangelical Immigration Table recently launched a series of radio ads making clear the support of the faith community. There are rumors that legislation will emerge shortly after Congress resumes session and that leaders in the Senate are promising quick action. While there are still obstacles to be overcome in terms of both substance and process, the winds of change are starting to blow strongly in Washington.
Brittney Nystrom, LIRS Director for Advocacy, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Politics took a slight lead over policy in D.C. last week in the conversation swirling around comprehensive immigration reform. Since the November 2012 elections, immigration reform has felt inevitable as both parties seek to win the Latino and Asian vote. The American people are also growing more comfortable with overhauling our immigration laws; in a new poll 57% of registered voters surveyed support a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Yet just when the moment of reform seems inevitable, some Senators’ resolve seem to be wavering. Sen. Rubio, himself a member of the Gang of 8 bipartisan members crafting immigration reform legislation, joined other conservative Senators in demanding that the negotiation process not be rushed. This demand drew a pointed response from Sen. Leahy, who holds the gavel in the Senate Judiciary Committee and has been publicly itching to start hearings on the forthcoming bill. I share Sen. Leahy’s hope that the American people will soon be able to review the Gang of 8’s bill and his pledge that the Judiciary Committee “is capable of swift and thorough action.”
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!