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Immigration Reform “Office Hours” Week Three: Citizenship, Jeb Bush, and More

 

jeb bushMomentum is building each day for immigration reform, with a full-throated legislative debate set to start in the coming weeks.

Today, America’s Voice Education Fund and fellow immigration experts held the third in a series of weekly press briefings, or Immigration Reform “Office Hours.”  Each week, a different and diverse group of speakers will share the latest information on the players, politics, legislation and other developments coming down the pipeline as the debate in Congress moves forward.

Jeb Bush’s “book tour” flub on a path to citizenship this week exposed how quickly the immigration debate has moved from whether to allow immigrants who are rooted in the country to become full Americans, to how to accomplish this.

Moderated by Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director at America’s Voice Education Fund, today’s call featured Chris Newman, Legal Programs Director, National Day Laborers Organizing Network; Ai-jen Poo, Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance one of the world’s 100 most influential people by TIME magazine in 2012; and Mary Giovagnoli, Director, Immigration Policy Center, American Immigration Council.  They discussed the details needed in legislation to make a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants viable, achievable, and as inclusive as possible. They talked about the lessons learned from other programs—including Reagan’s 1986 immigration law and the current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—and how to ensure that immigration reform is successful in resolving the status of immigrants without papers once and for all.

America’s Voice Education Fund released an explanatory piece, The Who and How of an Inclusive Pathway to Citizenship that gives more details behind the details of reform.

Speakers also discussed these events from the past week:

Governor Jeb Bush’s “Book Tour” Comments About a Path to Citizenship

Governor Bush, who long had been a pro-reform, pro-citizenship outlier among fellow Republican presidential contenders, appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” on Monday and walked back his past support for immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.  Bush endorsed the “permanent underclass” concept – legalization but stopping short of offering undocumented immigrants an opportunity to earn American citizenship.  His statements were a significant devolution from his past support for citizenship; for example, during a June 2012 interview with Charlie Rose on CBS News he said he did in fact support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The pushback was swift and by Monday night, Gov. Bush began doing damage control.  He appeared on “NBC’s Nightly News” and then on “MSNBC’s Morning Joe” saying he would support an earned citizenship provision, provided that other conditions were met as part of an immigration overhaul. Governor Bush clearly misread the political landscape surrounding immigration reform and took a position to the right of many of his Republican colleagues. A path to citizenship is now the mainstream position for both Democrats and Republicans. Jeb Bush – who was once the only Republican that got it – showed that he’d become a bit rusty in terms of the political landscape on immigration, but the kerfuffle once again clarified the fact that citizenship is actually the mainstream position in the current debate.

Latino Decisions New Poll

On Tuesday March 5th, Latino Decisions – along with immigration and labor leaders – revealed the results of their latest poll of Latino voters. The results demonstrated that Latinos are watching – 75% of Latino voters are following the debate – and immigration is now the # 1 issue for Latinos, above the economy — 58% immigration / 35% jobs & the economy.

According to the poll, the favorability ratings of President Obama, Democrats in Congress, and Republicans in Congress are closely aligned with Latino voters’ views of their handling of immigration.  Sixty-four percent of Latino voters blame Republicans for the failure of immigration reform in recent years and 60% of Latino voters will blame Republicans if immigration reform does not pass this year.

However, there is hope for Republicans, since 52% of Latino voters have voted for the Republican Party in the past and 44% of Latino voters said they would consider voting for a Republican candidate if they take a leadership role in passing immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  Similarly, 61% of Latino voters say they are more likely to vote for a Democrat if Democrats are associated with passing immigration reform with a path to citizenship, including 32% of Latino Republicans.

Politicians from both parties have a lot to win if they support immigration reform with a path to citizenship, and they have a lot to lose if they don’t.

The Who and How of an Inclusive Pathway to Citizenship

After the call, America’s Voice Education Fund released a document that provides additional background on the key details that will determine how inclusive—and, ultimately, successful—the program providing immigrants with a path to citizenship will be. The document identifies several important factors in ensuring that all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who qualify apply for legal status and eventual citizenship, and several “catch-22s” that must be avoided so that undocumented Americans are not barred from legal status for having been undocumented in America. Only if immigration reform succeeds in creating an inclusive path to citizenship that follows these guidelines will the program be effective in reducing the undocumented population and upholding American values.

Immigration Subcommittee Hearing on America’s need for high-skilled immigration

This week, again we saw witnesses for a hearing designed to address a single aspect of the immigration system who ended up agreeing that Congress must take on the challenge of providing a solution for all Americans, including the undocumented, if they want a solution that lasts. All four of the witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing — including three representatives of high-tech or entrepreneurial interest groups who had been invited by the Republican majority– agreed that broad immigration reform, including legalization of the undocumented, would be the best solution for Congress to take up.

It is clear that Americans want an immigration reform with a path to citizenship. In 3 recent polls between 70-72% of voters supported a path to citizenship (Fox News 72%/Pew Research Center 72%/Washington Post 70%) – Including 60-63% of Republicans.  Citizenship has become the mainstream position in the current debate – it’s no longer a question of if, but when. However, we must move now to a conversation about what a path to citizenship will look like. In order for immigration reform to succeed and address the current situation, the path to citizenship must be inclusive, accessible, affordable and straightforward.

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