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Landmark Immigration Bill Passes Senate 68-32

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Huge Victory Sets Up Battle in the House – and for the Future of the GOP

Below is a statement by Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Immigration reform with a path to citizenship is an idea whose time has come.  Today a strong majority in the Senate stepped up and approved a historic if imperfect bill.  At a time of partisan gridlock, the Senate acted in a bipartisan manner, and has set a powerful example for the House of Representatives to follow. Now it’s on to the House and a moment of truth for the Republican Party: Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and the House GOP will have to find a way forward to pass reform or find themselves blamed for blocking it.

At the heart of the bill is a path to citizenship for the vast majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living and working in America.  Most of these workers and families have been in the country for more than a decade, living, working and contributing.  Many are Dreamers who came as young people and are American in all but the paperwork.  Others are farm workers who are among the hardest workers in America.  This bill provides a path to immediate legal status and eventual citizenship, which represents a path to freedom and dignity.

Of course the bill is not perfect, but that’s the nature of compromise.  The Corker-Hoeven border security amendment is terrible public policy and a bitter pill to swallow.  However, we understand that the nature of bipartisan compromise is that you have to accept some things you don’t like in order to get the things you do like.  And on balance the Senate has produced a strong bill and its core elements remain intact.  In fact, linked here is a list of 34 provisions in the bill that will make life better for immigrants.

Where do we go from here?  It’s onto the House of Representatives and a moment of truth.  On policy, the House GOP has to choose between a dysfunctional status quo or a workable comprehensive approach.  With respect to public opinion, House Republican lawmakers have to choose between a policy that enjoys widespread support from the American people or anti-immigrant views held by a vocal minority on the far right.  Politically, the Republican leadership has to choose between passing reform and sharing credit for doing so or further tarnishing it’s already damaged brand with the fastest growing groups of voters in America.

Some believe that the Senate victory is our movement’s high water mark and progress in the House is unlikely.  But they underestimate our movement.  We were told that we could never come back from the defeat in 2007, and here we are.  We were told that Latino, Asian and immigrant voters would never be of major electoral consequence, and here we are.  We were told the anti-immigrant movement is unbeatable, and here we are.  We were told that Democrats are divided on immigration reform and Republicans are united in opposition, and here we are.  Now we are told that the House is too high a mountain to climb?  Here we come.

We want to thank those who played such a critical role in delivering this historic victory.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VA) shepherded the legislative process from beginning to end.  They have set a high bar for Speaker Boehner and House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and these House Republican leaders would be wise to follow their example.  We congratulate and celebrate the work of the bipartisan Senate Gang of Eight and their staff.  Their work has been tireless and extraordinary.  Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) have fought for reform that is both consistent with the movement’s principles and capable of attracting a supermajority, and today their efforts have produced an historic breakthrough.  Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have demonstrated extraordinary courage in fighting for immigration reform in the face of resistance from many in their own party, and today the nation is better off for their steadfastness.  We also want to thank the many who make up the immigration reform movement.  Your resilience, commitment and strength are the reason we are where we are today.  And finally, we would like to thank the immigrant community for reminding us that America isn’t just a country, it’s a dream we all share.  Thank you for never giving up on America.