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Today, the House Judiciary Committee held this year’s first hearing on immigration – a chance to put forward immigration solutions that would strengthen our country. What’s at stake in this debate has been clearly laid out by President Obama and the bipartisan group of Senators – citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans. While some in the House GOP expressed a more welcoming tone towards legalization during the hearing, the focus on continuing to ramp up enforcement and green cards targeting only hi-tech employers, shows the House has yet to digest the lesson from last November that there is both broad support and urgency to move from pandering to solutions to align our immigration policy with our country’s values.
On a press call today, Latino leaders and immigrant advocates from across the country provided their reactions and thoughts about how the hearing dealt with border and interior enforcement, family immigration and E-verify.
Clarissa Martinez de Castro, Director, Immigration and National Campaigns, National Council of La Raza, opened the call by saying:
Latino voters generated a game-changing moment in the immigration debate last November, opening the opportunity for Congress to finally reach the solution our country longs for, and writing the obituary for the fantasy of self-deportation. The President and a bipartisan Senate blueprint have confirmed that legalization and a roadmap to citizenship are an essential part of solving this issue, and we hope the House will soon join the quest for real solutions. As for today’s hearing, sadly some members are still focused on seeding division and mischaracterizing the issues. But we know there are enough members of Congress who understand the moral, economic, and political imperative of getting this done, and will lead their colleagues to a solution.
Mee Moua, President and Executive Director, Asian American Justice Center, added:
The family immigration system is a critical part of our immigration system and a very important issue to the Asian American community. Currently, our broken system disproportionately harms Asian American families, resulting in massive backlogs and heartache. Our American values demand a commonsense immigration system that keeps all families together, which will strengthen our economy and bolster our democracy. Now is the time for Congress to come together and pass commonsense immigration reform.
According to Fernando Garcia, Executive Director, Border Network for Human Rights:
It’s very interesting to us on the border that the only people talking about border security at today’s hearing were politicians. While the panel experts wanted to talk about solutions, some politicians would rather talk about the ‘boogie man’ of border security. This shows how out of touch the committee is with the reality of the border. We are living under years of massive buildup of enforcement on the border. And while these politicians want to talk border security, they seem unwilling and unable to talk about the consequences of it. These consequences include civil and human rights violations in our communities, migrant deaths and families torn apart. Rep. Conyers said he would like the committee to visit the border and we think they should come on down and learn the truth before proposing politically-motivated ideas that have real life and death consequences for our community.
Natally Cruz, an Arizonan whose family has been separated by increased enforcement efforts in recent years, shared her very personal story on today’s call:
I am an undocumented mother; I have a seven-year-old and I have several family members who’ve been deported. I have nephews who cry for their parents who’ve been deported. It’s something that happens every day, not only to my family, but others in the US…we call America home and we are raising our families here, but today’s hearing focuses too much on enforcement and not enough on citizenship.
Emily Tulli, Policy Attorney, National Immigration Law Center, added:
Congress has an opportunity to take away employers’ perverse incentives to subvert labor law by simply protecting an immigrant workers’ right to organize. They should make these protections, both to workers while they’re on the job and to workers who undergo electronic verification upon hiring, a central component of any immigration reform bill.
Sarahi Uribe, National Campaign Coordinator, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said:
We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve the American dream no matter how humble their beginnings are, and today’s debate that pits high skilled vs. low skilled labor against one another runs contrary to the values we represent as a nation. We must recognize all laborers in this debate and as contributors to our economy.
Today’s hearing marked the first immigration discussion of the 113th Congress. The hearing comes on the heels of two immigration reform policy proposals, one from the Senate, and another from President Obama. Today, advocates reiterated their call for Congress to create a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million American-in-waiting.