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.
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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 seemingly annual drama surrounding the federal budget and the debt ceiling is in full swing in Washington. It’s always a tense time here as you wonder whether more friends and loved ones will be furloughed, whether city services in DC will be operating (because we are tied to the federal budget!) and just how long the nonsense will last this time. Among the many other costs of Congress’s inaction, however, is the delay in passing vital legislation like immigration reform. This week the American Immigration Council’s Immigration Policy Center released The Costs of Doing Nothing, a multi-faceted look at the impact of our broken immigration system. We recount the wasted billions spent on immigration enforcement, the costs in lives lost and children separated from their parents, and the staggering loss of revenue and economic development that is occurring every day we fail to pass immigration reform. We cannot repeat this message enough to our elected officials. Failing to fix our immigration system hurts everyone—that’s something that even our gridlocked Congress should be able to agree on, if they just look at the evidence before them.
Ivone Guillen, Immigration Campaigns and Communications Associate, Sojourners
Last week, as Congress continues to be consumed by multiple issues on Capitol Hill, the prospects for immigration legislation might appear to have dimmed with the breaking up of the Gang of seven in the House that was attempting to draft a bipartisan bill. While this might seem like a setback, little has actually changed in the push for reform. A piece-meal process that is tackling specific issues via smaller, distinct bills continues to move forward. Moreover, Rep. Goodlatte’s recent comments have signaled his desire to bring bills to the floor in October. And although immigration reform might be stalled for the moment because of the focus on budget fights and the need to raise the debt ceiling, there is still ample opportunity to tackle immigration. The faith community and others are actively working to ramp up their efforts in the hope of overhauling our immigration system before the end of the year. Grassroots activities include a surge of mobilizing events happening across the country in early October, a letter sent to congressional offices from prominent business leaders, and continued advocacy from a variety of stakeholders who want to see our broken system fixed. Legislators in Washington might be tempted to drop immigration reform further down on the agenda, but the American people are ready to make clear the urgent need for reform requires Congress to address this issue in the near future.
Bishop Julian Gordy, Immigration Ready Bench, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
LIRS, along with partners in the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, last Wednesday hosted a Lutheran day of action against the SAFE Act. Each day this month Members of Congress will be hearing about the faith community’s grave concerns about this harmful piece of legislation. Lutherans are also looking forward to a multitude of grassroots activity on October 5 for a National Day of Dignity and Respect and a rally and march on the National Mall on October 8. This faith community will continue to loudly support fair and humane immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship.
Brittney Nystrom, LIRS Director for Advocacy, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Last week began on the heels of disappointing news that the House bipartisan working group on immigration reform was parting ways. Congress is engulfed in a spending battle over a continuing resolution, or stopgap measure to fund the federal government in the absence of substantive spending decisions, as well as other budget and debt ceiling issues, which leaves little time available for immigration reform. However, several members of the House are introducing legislation signaling their desire to see fair and humane immigration reform happen. Rep. Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced the Protect Family Values at the Border Act, a bill LIRS supports. Representatives Grijalva (D-AZ) and Vela (D-TX) introduced the CIR ASAP Act, a version of a bill introduced in 2009. Finally, we are also hearing reports that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) may introduce a version of S. 744 in early October, signaling that many members of the House are ready to take on immigration reform. The way forward for immigration reform in the House is still murky, but a desire and need to act is still crystal clear.
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 two interviews 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!