Momentum 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 second 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.
Moderated by Lia Parada, Legislative Director at America’s Voice Education Fund, today’s call featured discussion and analysis from Cristina Parker, Communications Director for Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR); Donna De La Cruz, Press Secretary at Center for Community Change; Josh Stehlik, Employment Attorney at National Immigration Law Center; and David Leopold, Executive Committee Member, American Immigration Lawyers Association. During the call they discussed the immigration happenings on Capitol Hill and the White House this week as well as other immigration-related events.
Speakers touched on the following events from the past week:
- House Border Subcommittee Hearing on What Makes a Secure Border? – Both Republicans and Democrats agreed that money and/or the amount of personnel working at the border are not accurate ways to assess border security. We need smarter border enforcement that is based on measurable outcomes and metrics. These same metrics show right now that the border is more secure than ever. Witnesses and members of Congress stressed that citizenship for the undocumented, as part of broad immigration reform, is an important way to improve border security—not something that should be held hostage to irrational fears or impossible standards that demand the government all but seal the border before any positive reforms are made.
- House Immigration Subcommittee Hearing on Agriculture and the H2A Visa Program –– The hearing focused on the importance of immigration reform to American agriculture. While there were important differences between agri-business owners and farm worker advocate Giev Kashkooli (UFW) on what a program for future farm labor should include, witnesses agreed on the contributions that farm workers (up to 90% of whom are undocumented) make to their industry and to the American economy; as well as the importance of allowing these hardworking immigrants to step out of the shadows and achieve the American dream.
- House Immigration Subcommittee Hearing on “How E-Verify Works and How It Benefits American Employers and Workers”— The hearing made it apparent that expanding E-Verify is yet another proposal that would not work unless coupled with full immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. Witnesses pointed out errors with the current system that leave American workers vulnerable to being blocked from getting a job without warning or explanation. It was clear that expanding E-Verify would only be worth the risks and vulnerability if coupled with reforms to the program, as well as the passage of comprehensive immigration reform that would allow 8 million undocumented workers to contribute to the economy.
- POTUS meeting with Senators McCain and Graham – On Tuesday February 26th, Senators McCain and Graham met with President Obama to discuss immigration reform. All three elected officials came out of the meeting praising each other’s commitment to pass reform. The meeting is just one more example of bipartisanship and growing momentum for immigration reform.
- Border Advocacy Day in Washington, DC – This week elected officials, faith and business leaders, as well as experts from both the northern and southern border joined the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) in DC for an advocacy day. Their goal was to talk to Members of Congress and set the story straight about what is really going on in the border and the type of enforcement that is needed. As border residents know from personal experience, we don’t need more enforcement, we need smarter enforcement, meaningful oversight, real accountability, and a path to citizenship for immigrants without papers. At a press conference on Wednesday, leaders joined 200 people that live and work in border areas to explain the reality of life at the border and asked Congress to pass integrated immigration reform that addresses the issues in border communities with fairness and compassion.
- Keeping Family Together Bus Tour – The tour began with its national launch this past week. It consists of seven regional tours that will travel across the country telling their stories and elevating the importance of human dignity and family in the immigrant rights struggle. Advocates, families and allies will participate throughout the tour and ask congress to pass an immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship and keeps the importance of family unity at its core. For those that can’t join the tour physically, FIRM has created an interactive online tour that allows for participants to join the bus tour through actions. For more information on the Keeping Family together Bus Tour, click here.
- ICE Release of Immigration Detainees – Earlier this week ICE released hundreds of people from immigration detention centers across the country. According to ICE officials the people released were low priority, non-criminal cases. Officials from the White House explained later that they were not aware of ICE’s decision. This is just one more example of ICE’s rogue behavior and refusal to follow their own department’s directives. According to a DHS’ prosecutorial discretion memo many of these immigrants with low priority cases shouldn’t have been detained in the first place. This week’s events highlight the lack of a functional immigration system and the need to pass immigration reform, not play politics with the issue.
Momentum for immigration reform keeps growing. There is clear bipartisan consensus to pass accountable immigration reform that legalizes 11 million undocumented immigrants. Advocacy organizations are planning campaigns around the particular details that will be included in any immigration reform bill and they continue to put pressure on elected officials to pass reform that will address the issues, that is based on facts and that will keep families together. We’ll keep you informed through weekly briefings. For a recording of today’s call, click here.