Today, America’s Voice Education Fund and fellow immigration experts held the thirteenth in a series of weekly press briefings, or Immigration Reform “Office Hours.” Each week, a different and diverse group of speakers shares the latest information on the players, politics, legislation and other developments in the debate in Washington and around the nation.
Moderated by Frank Sharry, Executive Director, America’s Voice Education Fund, today’s call featured Angie Kelley, Vice President for Immigration Policy and Advocacy, Center for American Progress; Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN and The New Policy Institute; and David Damore, Senior Analyst, Latino Decisions.
Today’s call included a discussion of the Gang of 8’s bipartisan immigration bill that was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this past week. The bill -which passed with a bipartisan vote (13-5) – cleared the first official legislative hurdle for final passage in 2013. After a robust debate featuring over 200 amendments—141 of which were adopted—the bill now heads to the Senate floor with the core provisions intact. At the same time, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House continues to hash out the details of their own chamber’s bill.
At a time of deep partisan divides in Washington, immigration reform may be the one issue that can actually bring both parties together to enact a policy solution that benefits all.
- The Senate bill has genuine and deep bipartisan support. All of the Senate Democrats on the committee as well as Gang of Eight Republican Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) worked to protect the path to citizenship and other core elements of immigration reform. They even added support from a new ally, Senator Hatch (R-UT), in the Committee. Between the vast majority of Senate Democrats who support reform and Republicans who have voted for or are co-sponsors of this bill, 60 votes are well within reach. With Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) promising to bring up the bill in June and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promising not to block it, it appears the Senate is poised to make history.
- During committee consideration the heart of the bill – the path to citizenship – survived multiple attacks. The biggest attack came from the amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that would have denied citizenship to anyone who had previously been undocumented. It failed 13-5. This and other attempts to sink the bill were followed closely by Spanish language media. That attention will only increase as the bill hits the Senate floor. Given that Republican leaders woke up on November 7th, 2012 to find their Latino problem had become a crisis, the stakes are very high. The GOP can’t afford to squander the good will they are trying to reclaim by letting Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions define the party for Latino voters.
- While anti-immigrant leaders seem to be losing steam, the pro-immigrant coalition is gathering strength. The anti-immigrant movement has had a couple of bad weeks. First, the Heritage Foundation’s report, co-authored by a writer who believes Latinos have lower IQs than whites, blew up in their face. Their call for rallies this past week resulted in turnouts in the single digits. And their leading light in the Senate is an Alabama Republican who was denied a federal judgeship for racial insensitivity. Meanwhile, the pro-reform movement gets stronger everyday. It includes faith leaders from across the spectrum; ethnic organizations; labor unions; business owners; law enforcement; teachers; veterans; and civil rights leaders. But more fundamentally, the movement is led by immigrants and their family members who care profoundly about immigration reform and are working tirelessly to win it this year.
- This week Speaker of the House John Boehner explained that the House will produce it’s own bill, instead of following the lead of the Senate and adopting that legislation. Members continue working in a bipartisan manner to draft the legislation that Speaker Boehner hopes to have through the House by August.
The bottom line is this: with respect to immigration reform, the majority of Americans support it; Democrats want it; Republicans need it; and the immigration reform movement is prepared to deliver it. This is history in the making.