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Huge Implications for Immigrants and Immigration Reform in Dem on Dem Battle
What’s the most critical race for immigrants that’s flying under the radar screen? It’s the Democrat-on-Democrat battle pitting 8-term Congressman Brad Sherman against immigration reform champion, and 14-term Congressman, Howard Berman in California’s 30th district.
Thanks to redistricting and a 2010 ballot initiative, Sherman and Berman find themselves in a face-off for a single seat in November. Rep. Berman has the support of Dolores Huerta and UFW, SEIU, AFSCME, the Los Angeles Times, Senators Feinstein and Boxer, Governor Brown, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the vast majority of California’s congressional Democrats, Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, and even some Republicans like Senator John McCain. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has helped on the Berman campaign. But Sherman is enjoying the home field advantage in the redesigned 30th district.
In the June primary, Latino and Asian voters backed Sherman while Jewish voters backed Berman. Turnout then was low, but Latinos comprise 14% of registered voters, and Asians comprise another 6%. If they vote in strong numbers this November, these groups can be decisive. While Rep. Sherman has a pro-immigration voting record, Rep. Berman is one of the most essential and effective immigrant advocates in Congress, alongside leaders like Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA). In a District that is 27% Latino and 12% Asian, many constituents can trace their families’ immigration stories back to legislation that Rep. Berman drafted, shaped, and fought for.
From 1982 through 2010, Rep. Berman was a member and leader of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration. He remains a member of the full Judiciary Committee, and is Ranking Member of the House Foreign Relations Committee. Through these perches, Berman has fought for sensible immigration policies over thirty years. Hisaccomplishments include:
Legalization and Family Unity. Millions of American families and voters have directly benefited from Rep. Berman efforts to make family unity a cornerstone of our nation’s immigration policies. He championed the 1986 legalization program that resulted in 2.5 million immigrants getting permanent legal status and being able to help their close relatives immigrate legally. Berman also succeeded in getting 10,000 visas added to family immigration categories in 1990, fought to stop family visa categories from being eliminated in the 1996 immigration law, and helped tens of thousands of visa applicants avoid separation from their families by extending Section 245(i). Rep. Berman also helped tens of thousands of Central American and Haitian families stabilize their status through the NACARA and HRIFA laws, along with TPS (temporary protected status). And, he protected immigrant survivors of domestic abuse with a provision in VAWA that helped 75,000 people obtain permanent immigration status without relying on their abusers to sponsor them.
DREAM Act. Rep. Berman wrote the original DREAM Act in 2001, after meeting an undocumented honors student who could not go to college because she didn’t qualify for financial aid. Berman was so moved by her situation that he wrote a bill to fix it along with Senator Durbin. They’ve pushed for passage ever since. In addition to the 2001 House version of the bill, Rep. Berman introduced the legislation in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2011. In December 2010, the DREAM Act passed the House of Representatives by a 216-198 margin. Unfortunately, despite receiving 55 votes in the U.S. Senate, the bill fellfive votes short of overcoming a Republican filibuster and becoming law. Since then, Berman has continued to make the case for enacting this legislation andassisted DREAMers in applying for deferred action under the new Obama Administration program.
AgJOBS. Working closely with late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), United Farm Workers, and agricultural producers, Rep. Berman played a leadership role in crafting the historic farm business/labor compromise bill known as AgJOBS. The bill would legalize undocumented farm workers in exchange for certain visa reforms sought by growers. In an industry known for abuse and exploitation, the fact that Berman and Kennedy brought these interests together around a common platform is remarkable. Berman introduced multiple AgJOBS bills (including in 2003, 2005, and 2007) and successfully courted numerous Republican cosponsors in a tireless effort to pass it. Unfortunately, the bill has not yet gotten enough backing from Republicans, but Berman’s work on this bill has been nothing short of heroic.
Standing Up to Enforcement-Only Legislation. In 2005, when Republicans in the House aligned to enact the extremist immigration agenda in the form of HR 4437 (a.k.a. “the Sensenbrenner bill), Berman came up with a strategy to push back. In a bold move during the Judiciary Committee mark-up, Berman offered Rep. Flake’s (R-AZ) comprehensive immigration reform proposal as an amendment to the Sensenbrenner enforcement-only bill. The amendment failed (with Flake voting “present”), but the argument about what sort of immigration reform would actually solve the problem was front and center in the debate. He repeated this strategy when HR 4437 came to the floor, working with Rep. Gutierrez and Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) to offer this bill again as an amendment. While these efforts were thwarted, the debate again pointed out the fallacy behind the Sensenbrenner bill and the compelling need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Fighting for Labor and Immigrant Rights. Rep. Berman’s immigration leadership even precedes his days in Washington. As an Assemblyman in California, Berman was the chief sponsor and legislative negotiator of the state’s historic Agricultural Labor Relations Act. This was the first legislation in the nation to provide United Farm Workers (UFW) the right to organize on behalf of migrant farm workers.
Read more about Rep. Berman’s record on behalf of immigrants here.
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