This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending June 26

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This week in immigration reform: California’s state budget leads the way on immigrant integration; helpful tips for DACA renewals; and this weekend marks the two year anniversary of the Senate passing bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

California state budget is an example for others states and the U.S. Congress to follow: California Governor Jerry Brown signed a state budget that will make significant investments in California’s families. Included in the budget are important measures that are examples of successful integration of immigrants and lift up working families. For example, the budget which begins next month creates a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for working families. During our recent California Latino Advocacy Day, representatives from NCLR Affiliates met with lawmakers to show their support for AB 43, the EITC bill. The state legislature also made history when it included $40 million to expand the state’s Medi-Cal program to undocumented children. It is estimated that 170,000 young people under 19 years old could qualify for the expansion. Speaking at a news conference, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon said, “We are the first legislative body—we are the first state in the union—to invest in children without legal status. With this budget, we’re saying that immigrants matter, irrespective of who you are or where you’re from.” Another laudable measure is the wise investment in community-based education, outreach, and application assistance for both deportation relief and naturalization that will advance immigrant inclusion and prosperity across the state. 

USCIS shares helpful tips for successful DACA renewals: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently shared helpful tips to ensure that the DACA renewal process goes smoothly for everyone. More than 600,000 individuals have received an initial two year grant of deferred status and a work permit that is renewable. USCIS is mailing renewal reminder notices to DACA recipients 180 days before the expiration date of their current period of deferred action to ensure sufficient time to prepare renewal requests. Individuals who have a pending renewal request and want to check on the status of the renewal after it has been pending for more than 105 days can visit egov.uscis.gov/e-request or call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 (TDD for the hearing impaired: 1-800-767-1833). Help spread the word about DACA renewals by sharing our blog post with more tips. 

 Two years ago this Saturday, the Senate passed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation: This Saturday, June 27 marks the two year anniversary of the Senate overwhelmingly voting in favor of passing immigration reform legislation. The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives never allowed for any votes on comprehensive immigration reform bills, so the prospects of a version of the senate bill getting to the president’s desk came to an end at the close of the 113th Congress.  Our colleagues at the Center for American Progress published a report highlighting all the ways that our country would benefit if the House of Representatives had acted to pass legislation. “So what would the country look like today had S. 744 become the law of the land? Put simply, millions of people would be on their way to permanent legal status and citizenship, thousands of families across the nation would be together, and the U.S. economy would see significant gains.”

This Week in Immigration Reform – Week Ending June 27

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Week Ending June 27, 2014

This week in immigration reform: Friday, June 27 marks one year since the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill, yet the promise of reform remains unrealized because House Republicans have done absolutely nothing constructive on immigration over the course of a year; Reps. Tony Cardenas and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduce a bipartisan immigrant-integration bill; NCLR calls for action on the humanitarian crisis of children fleeing violence; and ICE reports that over 72,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were deported in 2013.

Bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill turns one year old; in the meantime House GOP has done nothing.  One year ago today the U.S. Senate responded to the will of American voters by passing the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744).”  This bipartisan bill offered a comprehensive overhaul of our nation’s outdated immigration system and included a much-needed path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

Yet despite the promise of the bipartisan Senate bill and America’s ongoing need for immigration reform, Republican leadership in the House of Representatives has obstructed any and all movement forward on immigration reform by refusing to bring similar legislation up for a vote and failing to introduce a solution of their own.  Instead, the only actions that the House GOP has taken on immigration are shameful votes to undo the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as well as fruitless, politically-motivated attempts to limit the president’s legitimate discretion on immigration enforcement priorities.

Reps. Cardenas and Ros-Lehtinen introduce immigrant-integration bill.   On Tuesday, June 24 Representatives Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) introduced the “New American Success Act,” a bill that would establish a national immigrant integration strategy. The proposed act would create a National Office of New Americans which would coordinate strategies and programs between federal agencies so as to ensure that new arrivals can effectively become contributing members of American society. The bill would also establish grant programs to help immigrants with the legal aspects of the naturalization process and for programs that facilitate the linguistic, civic, and economic integration of immigrants.

NCLR applauded the bill’s introduction and urges members of Congress to support the proposed legislation. ImmReform_update_6_27_2014Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29) and staff of NCLR, NALEO, and other organizations after Tuesday’s introduction of the New Americans Success Act (photo: @RepCardenas).

NCLR calls for action on the humanitarian crisis of children fleeing violence.  As the humanitarian crisis of children fleeing violence and ending up in U.S. government custody continues to affect thousands of young refugees, NCLR endorsed Senator Robert Menendez’s (D-N.J.) plan to address the crisis and also called for greater financial support of the many humanitarian, legal, and children’s organizations that have been leading efforts to assist these children.

While Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and others traveled to the border to investigate the crisis and meet with detained children, House Republicans held three hearings this week – in the House Committee on Homeland Security, the House Judiciary Committee, and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere – in which they used the crisis as an opportunity for political grandstanding.  Much of the conversation on the subject, particularly among House Republicans, has regrettably focused on blaming the Administration for the situation by attacking DACA and immigration policies as the cause of the crisis.

ICE reports that over 72,000 parents of U.S. citizen children were deported in 2013.  Reports submitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee in April reveal that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported 72,410 parents of US born children in 2013, the Huffington Post reports this week.

These numbers reaffirm not only the urgent need for Congress to give America a vote on reform but also speak to the need for the Obama administration to revise its immigration enforcement priorities, given the House’s sustained failure so far to act on immigration reform.

Inaction on Immigration Reform Reflects Failure of House GOP Leadership

FinalImmigrationVoteToday marks the one year anniversary of passage of S. 744, the Senate’s historic bipartisan immigration reform bill, also known as the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013. It was designed to overhaul our outdated and broken immigration system as well as provide a much-needed path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. In an encouraging show of cooperation, both Republicans and Democrats came together to hash out a deal to address the ongoing immigration crisis brought on by our weary system.

Yet one year later, House Republican leaders have stonewalled every attempt at moving forward on immigration reform. They have refused to vote or introduce their own solution and have they shown no interest in even voting on similar legislation crafted in the House.

So, what have they been doing? Rather than actually taking votes on reform, the House has instead opted to take shameful votes to undo the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It’s no wonder, then, that most members of the Republican conference received failing grades on immigration scorecards we released last month.

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In a statement today marking the anniversary, NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía called out the House GOP for its failure to lead.

“The track record of House Republican leadership on immigration over the past year is appalling,” said Murguía. “For twelve months, they have been making excuses and pointing fingers at the administration while sitting on their hands and allowing thousands of mothers and fathers to be torn from their children every day. They have failed to act on an issue that not only is supported by voters across the political spectrum but would also be an economic boon to this country by creating jobs and reducing our deficit.”

In the face of this inaction, Murguía and other immigration rights groups have called on the president to act in order to provide much-needed relief:

“House Republican inaction on immigration reform reaffirms the need for the president to step in and address the ongoing crisis that our community faces,” added Murguía. “House leadership can either act now to relieve the pain that hundreds of thousands of families have felt due to our broken immigration system, or they can tarnish their brand with the Latino community for generations to come.”

321 Days

That’s how much time has passed since the U.S. Senate passed a historic bipartisan immigration reform bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took to the Senate floor today to mark the occasion and to call on House Republicans to allow a vote on legislation.

Video of the two minute speech is below followed by the full text of Sen. Reid’s remarks.

Full text:

This morning marks 321 days since the Senate passed a bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform bill. For 321 days, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has done absolutely nothing to address our nation’s broken immigration system. And to the extremists in the House, the time went by just like that. So to House Republicans, 321 days doesn’t seem like a big deal. Outside of the Capitol, though, those 321 days have felt like a lifetime. To families forced to live in the shadows, each of those days brings the dread of discovery and being torn away from their loved ones. Undocumented immigrants have lived in fear for the last 46 weeks, worrying that they will have to leave the country they call ‘home.’ For the last 10 ½ months, children have lost their parents to deportations, all while House Republicans have twiddled their thumbs. I say enough is enough. It’s time for House Republicans to act. They have wasted far too much time already failing to consider a bill that the Senate considered and passed in less than two months.

A year ago the Senate Judiciary Committee was in the middle of marking up the commonsense immigration reform bill. After 2 weeks of serious debate and deliberation under the leadership of Chairman Leahy, and many votes on both Democrat and Republican amendments, the bill was reported out of committee. Within a month, the Senate passed this immigration reform bill and sent it to the House of Representatives. The Senate was able to move on immigration reform quickly because both Senate Democrats and Republicans understand the urgent need to fix the broken system. What’s House Republicans’ excuse? What are they achieving by dragging their feet on immigration reform? They claim to be working on jobs bills, and legislation to reduce the deficit. The fact is that the Senate-passed immigration bill reduces the deficit and spurs the economy more than all the House bills awaiting Senate action combined. I repeat: the Senate-passed immigration bill reduces the deficit and spurs the economy more than all the House bills awaiting Senate action combined.

So it is no wonder that even pro-Republican organizations are calling on Speaker Boehner to stop wasting time. Earlier this week, we heard Tom Donohue, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say that it is in Republicans’ best interests to pass immigration reform. In fact, Donohue said of immigration reform: “If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016.” That may be true, but politics should not dictate passage of this bill.

Immigration reform is far more important than election-year politicking. Immigration reform is about families and communities. In September of 2010, I was in the midst of what some considered a tough re-election campaign when I helped champion Senator Durbin’s DREAM Act in the Senate. Though it was eventually blocked by a Republican filibuster, I did my best to pass the DREAM Act, even though some said it would cost me the election. Then, as now, I have many staffers in my state offices dedicated to helping Nevada families with immigration issues stay together. Protecting families in Nevada – all families – is my job. And I take that job very seriously. Yet House Republicans want to do just the opposite.

Recently, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman appeared on a Sunday news show and tried unsuccessfully to justify his party’s inaction. His reasoning as to why the House is dragging its heels? Republicans claim that President Obama can’t be trusted to enforce immigration law, so they will do nothing. So what Republicans are really saying is that they won’t act on immigration reform unless there are more deportations, more families torn apart. And that, in a nutshell, is the immigration platform extremists in the Republican party prefer: the more deportations, the better. I guess that’s what we’ve learned to expect from a House Republican conference whose immigration policy is dictated by the likes of Representative Steve King.

You remember him. He is the Congressman who, instead of permitting immigrants to enlist in the military and earn citizenship, would rather send them “on a bus back to Tijuana.” Congressman King also claimed that for every hard-working, undocumented student, there are 100 more working as drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” The fact of the matter is that undocumented immigrants are our neighbors, classmates and colleagues. Regardless of how they got here or why they lack the proper documents, these 11 million people play a crucial part in our economy and communities. And our country and our economy will benefit if we give them a chance to get right with the law.

The Senate has done its part. It’s time for House Republicans to do theirs. I urge the House of Representatives to stop wasting time and bring immigration reform to a vote. Give the American people the assurance that we are working to finally mend our broken immigration system. And give families the opportunity to stay together, and to come forward and work toward legal status. It’s the right thing to do for all of us.

A Look Back at Our Fight for Immigration Reform in 2013

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Together with our Affiliates, we have fought tirelessly to make immigration reform a reality, relentlessly working over the course of the year to urge Congress to pass immigration reform legislation. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but as we reflect on the past twelve months, it is clear that our combined efforts have gotten us to where we are today:

  • A bipartisan bill passed through the Senate,
  • A House proposal with 190 cosponsors,
  • Thirty House republicans publicly stating support for a path to citizenship, and a vast majority of Americans supporting reform.
  • An unprecedented civic engagement and education campaign centered around reform which included registering voters, calling and visiting our representatives in Congress, holding demonstrations and prayer vigils, and participating in acts of civil disobedience.

That work will continue until House leadership gives America a vote and an immigration reform bill gets to the President’s desk—because it is in the best interest of the country, our economy, and American families.

As the year winds down, let us take a look back at the year that was 2013 to reflect on our successes and consider where we go next.  Continue reading