By Laura Vazquez, Senior Immigration Legislative Analyst, NCLR
A colleague recently came back to NCLR from maternity leave and asked me what is happening with immigration reform. “When I left there was momentum, and now the news reports say it’s dead,” she told me. I smiled warily. I’m used to explaining to people that the effort to pass immigration reform legislation is not dead. I have had to do it often, as reporters seem to love writing the obituary on immigration reform.
The accurate story is that advocates and leaders of immigration reform are building on the momentum created over the August recess and continuing to pressure leadership in the House of Representatives to have a vote on immigration reform this fall. This week there was a clear message sent by Latinos in Congress from both sides of the aisle that the time is now for a vote on immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
On the first day that House members were back in session following the August recess, Representative Cardenas (D–Calf.) circulated a letter to his colleagues explaining why immigration reform is important to our economic recovery. He stated in the letter, “As we begin to debate budgetary matters, it is important to remember the positive economic impacts our nation can expect with the modernization of our immigration system.” That letter was followed by another circulated by Representative Joe Garcia (D–Fla.) explaining why immigration reform is good for the country’s tourism industry.
While the press seems intent on reporting that the debate has been pushed aside, Representative Xavier Becerra (D–Calif.) told a reporter for Roll Call that the House could address deficit reduction by passing immigration reform legislation. As he explained, according to the Congressional Budget Office the Senate immigration bill would reduce the deficit by $158 billion over ten years. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D–Calif.) also circulated a letter to her colleagues explaining why immigration reform is important to women and families, including that becoming citizens boosts women’s wages by an average of 17%. Representatives Hinojosa and Gutierrez circulated a letter urging the House to pass a real solution to fix our broken immigration system and opposing the “SAFE Act.”
The week also included a press conference organized by the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute on a statement urging Congress to pass immigration reform. At a time when it is rare to see members from both parties working together, it was remarkable that the participants included Representatives Ros-Lehtinen (R–Fla.) Cuellar (D–Texas), Sires (D–N.J.), and Valadao (R–Calif.). The bipartisan group of representatives stated that immigration reform is necessary, and despite the other issues that Congress must address, it cannot be pushed aside. The Latino lawmakers issued a statement urging Congress to act without further delay on immigration reform.
Latino elected officials are leading the charge in calling for the House of Representatives to come together to pass commonsense immigration reform that will boost our economy, establish a 21st-century immigration system, and allow undocumented immigrants to earn their citizenship by continuing the contributions they make to our country. This is a much more interesting story, and one that reflects what the country wants—Congress working together to solve complex problems.