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
Another positive sign that we keep moving forward: reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act passed the House last week. Correct, the word immigration doesn’t appear in that first sentence, but passing a law requires not only good policy—it also requires procedural finesse. Speaker of the House John Boehnner allowed a vote to go forward on a Republican version of the VAWA bill that didn’t have the votes to pass; when this “substitute” failed, the Senate version of the bill was voted on and passed with bipartisan support. In the 112th Congress, Boehnner strictly adhered to the so-called Hastert rule, which meant he wouldn’t put a bill on the floor if he didn’t have the votes to pass it. House-watchers suggest that Boehnner’s greater flexibility in the 113th Congress is a good omen for immigration reform because it offers more possibilities to bring an immigration bill to the floor. And on the immigration front, reauthorization of VAWA ensures that immigrant victims of violence, exploitational crimes, and trafficking will continue to have assistance and protections to help them on their road to recovery. A victory for one is a victory for all.
Bishop Julian Gordy, Immigration Ready Bench, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Looming budget cuts from the sequester collided with the issue of immigration when hundreds of immigrants facing immigration charges were released from detention by the Department of Homeland Security early in the week. The release pleased immigration reform advocates who have stated for years that far more people are held in immigration detention than is necessary at great expense to the American taxpayers. Perhaps in a preview of what future immigration reforms may trigger, the releases unleashed misinformed and even inflammatory reactions by politicians and the media. The overheated reaction candidly worried me that even rational steps towards smart reforms may be imperiled by an electric political environment.
Timothy King, Chief Communications Officer, Sojourners
The media has been focusing this week on the release by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of hundreds of non-criminal undocumented immigrants from detention centers across the country because of the cuts that will take effect as a result of sequester. However, the media is missing the forest for the trees. These releases are clear evidence of the need to fix our broken immigration system. For years, advocacy groups have pointed out that current enforcement and detention measures are costly and excessive, while often lacking accountability and transparency. Any reform package must address this issue and ensure our detention policies respect the God-given dignity of immigrants caught up in the system. While instances like these make headlines, they cannot become distractions from the effort to pass immigration reform which continues to move along at a steady pace. The faith community should challenge elected leaders who dwell on the politics of a single moment instead of the urgent need to address the issue in a comprehensive way.
Brittney Nystrom, LIRS Director for Advocacy, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
This week was a whopper for anyone following immigration reform issues. The House held multiple hearings on immigration reform, including examinations of agricultural visas, border security, and E-verify. The President met with GOP Senators McCain and Graham on immigration reform, who emerged praising Obama’s commitment to finding a solution. On Thursday, my hopes for bipartisanship and political sanity regarding immigration reform soared after the House of Representatives voted to pass the Violence Against Women Act, including important protections for trafficking victims, unaccompanied migrant children, and immigrant victims of crime. The passage of the bill by a 2-1 margin sends the bill to the President, but also signifies that Republican leadership can push through important issues if there is enough political heat. That is a good omen for immigration reform, another hot political issue.
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!