New developments in the immigration debate offer fresh evidence that immigration reform that creates a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million immigrants is going to be a top priority in 2013.
Among the key developments:
- White House Gears Up: A front-page piece from Julia Preston in the Sunday New York Times states that, “President Obama plans to push Congress to move quickly in the coming months on an ambitious overhaul of the immigration system that would include a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.” Notably, the article highlights that the White House and key legislative champions in Congress view full citizenship as a non-negotiable component of the eventual reform and will reject attempts for a piecemeal, provision-by-provision fix. The article also threw cold water on the recent Beltway speculation that immigration reform would be pushed off of center stage by other notable issue priorities. Preston quotes Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) saying, “This is so important now to both parties that neither the fiscal cliff nor guns will get in the way.”
- Senator Rubio’s Speaks Up: In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published over the weekend, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) made an important contribution to the upcoming legislative debate by unveiling a welcome set of principles. While the principles are general and how these principles get detailed matters a great deal, the basic elements he includes – a path to citizenship for those here without papers, reforms of our legal immigration system and a workable employment verification system – are consistent with the kind of reform favored by Democrats. If he convinces other congressional and Senate Republicans to back his principles, the chances for reform this year will go up even more.
- The Movement Stands Up: This past Thursday, ICE Agents raided the home of prominent Arizona-based DREAM Act activist Erika Andiola and arrested her mother and older brother. This generated a huge mobilization and outcry from online and offline activists and led to her family being released on Friday. As the New York Times described, “The reaction offered the Obama administration a taste of what it might expect when it gets into the thick of the debate over an immigration overhaul, which Congress is expected to tackle this year.”
- Labor Stands Together; Evangelicals Show Up: A Talking Points Memo article by Benjy Sarlin highlights how the U.S. labor movement is now fully engaged and united behind commons sense immigration reform and is preparing to deploy its organizing muscle to get it across the finish line. In addition, a CNN.com story shows that evangelicals across the political spectrum are prepared for a major grassroots push to help enact good legislation, viewing immigration reform as “a moral imperative.”
- Reform Opponents Resort to Same Old, Same Old: Meanwhile, anti-reform policymakers seem to be stuck using old and irrelevant talking points. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) stated last week that he remains opposed to a larger reform effort, saying “people need to know we’ve done everything we can do to secure the border.” According to Jordan Fabian of ABC/Univision, Senator Cornyn went so far as to raise the specter of 9/11, noting that “the ‘porous’ border could leave the U.S. ‘vulnerable to the sorts of attacks that we sustained on 9/11.’” Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) pledged opposition to “amnesty of any kind” and called instead for the status quo of “working to secure our borders and enforce existing immigration law.” The “border security first” talking point has long been a favorite excuse of Republican policymakers for obstructing real reform. Yet a recent study from the Migration Policy Institute demonstrates that we spend more on immigration enforcement than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, and most experts agree that illegal immigration into the United States is currently net zero.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, “This weekend’s developments show why we are optimistic about reform in 2013. Democrats have promised it, Republicans need it and our movement is prepared to deliver it.”