This weekend, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of the key players in the effort to pass immigration reform, appeared on CNN’s State of the Union. He expressed hope that a reform bill can be passed, noting “The time is now.” Chairman Leahy is a longtime immigration reform champion who recently turned down the opportunity to chair the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee–in order to help shepherd immigration reform through the Senate this Congress.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you, I want to move you, because there are so many issues that are coming to your committee, and I wanted to ask you about immigration. You made an opening statement during one of your hearings that just said, you know, that you basically oppose the idea of tying border security to allowing undocumented workers to begin a pathway towards legalization. And yet what we’re led to believe is that bipartisan committee wants to do exactly that.
LEAHY: No. What I’m saying is don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. If you say there must be total security before we can go forward, that’s never going to happen. We spend billions and billions of dollars –
CROWLEY: But you wouldn’t mind measurements along the way.
LEAHY: But I don’t mind measurements. I think this administration, the Obama administration, has spent more money on border security than any administration in history. There are still going to be some people getting through. I just don’t want it to be a case where you say, well, until we know that not one person can get through, will we have immigration reform. That’s never going to happen.
We’re (inaudible) — improve border security, of course. But at the same time, find some way to have immigration reform. The time is now. It’s unrealistic to expect that suddenly you’re going to have 11 million people, well, we’ll just throw you out of the country, you couldn’t do it. And we’re not going to do it. Let’s find out how they come in, in the same way my maternal grandparents came in, or my wife’s parents came in. Let’s have some way to make sure they can become citizens.
CROWLEY: I want to ask you about your recent trip to Cuba, but just a wrap-up question on both these issues, guns and immigration. At the end of the year, will you be able to say that this first year of this Congress passed both immigration reform and gun control reform in some manner?
LEAHY: I think we will. If people want to come together. I don’t want it to be a partisan bill. I’m working with both Republicans and Democrats. Unless we work with both Republicans and Democrats, we’ll pass nothing.
Leahy’s sentiments about the prospect of immigration reform were echoed by a number of Congressmembers this weekend, as well. “I am more sure than ever that we’re going to have a bipartisan bill,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), another longtime advocate of immigration reform, said in an interview to The Hill. “We’re making incredible progress.”
Expressing a similar sentiment was Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), who said in the San Antonio Express-News, “You’ve clearly got different parts of the Republican caucus that are getting on board with a path to citizenship.”
Agreed Nancy Pelosi in the same interview, “I think right now is the moment — the leverage point is here. Right now, let’s just grow up and do the job.”
On immigration, there are Republicans and Democrats in the Senate working on a bill, and we should see their legislation next month. Then, Senator Leahy and his committee will have a bill that can be marked up and sent to the Senate floor. Leahy is right–the time is now.