The big news in immigration reform today was the dissolution of the House Gang of 7, which has been in negotiations for years on immigration legislation. While its contribution would’ve been welcome in the immigration reform debate, the group’s progress has been stalled for so long that it was about time they clarified where things stand. As Frank Sharry said in a statement yesterday, “When one door closes, other doors open. We are glad that a moribund process has been put to rest.” Now proponents of immigration in the House will be free and more flexible to push for reform via new legislation, tactics, and actions.
Coincidentally, we are already seeing this kind of new, fresh immigration legislation in the House. Yesterday, Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Filemon Vela (D-TX) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2013–the most significant progress toward a House bill that addresses the 11 million all year. We applaud the bill, with its reasonable path to citizenship, sensible cutoff date, and level-headed border improvements. A side-by-side comparison of how the new bill compares to the Senate bill, provided by the offices of Reps. Grijalva and Vela, follows below.
As Rep. Grijalva said about the bill:
The House discussion on immigration reform hasn’t been an honest debate about good policy, it’s been a one-sided refusal to take the issue seriously. There are millions of American families waiting every day for better laws that will keep them together, provide their children with a better future, and help our economy. The conversation they need Washington to have has been hijacked by a small group that has shown no interest in their welfare. We’re tired of hearing this is a question of triple-layer border fences and militarizing our neighborhoods for our own good. I ask my colleagues whether they’d want their own children to pass teams of armed soldiers on their way to school every day for the next decade. They should consider what they’re doing to our border communities and start negotiating fairly instead of treating this as a military exercise.
My Republican colleagues driving this piecemeal, enforcement-only approach in the House seem to presume they can fix our immigration system if only they’re given enough bullets. The country doesn’t feel that way, the Latino community doesn’t feel that way, and the Democratic Party doesn’t feel that way. Republicans have to stop holding their breath and making unrealistic demands. We’re no closer to a House bill than we were when the Senate approved its version months ago. It’s time for people to see there’s a more serious option on the table and for Congress to keep moving forward on immigration reform. This is not an issue that’s going away just because some people refuse to pay attention.
Side-by-Side Policy Comparison
S. 744: Requires DHS to add at least 19,200 Border Patrol agents and mandates a total of 700 miles of fencing.
CIR ASAP: Directs Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and submit to Congress a National Strategy for Border Security. Increase the number of Customs and Border Protection Officers by not fewer than 5,000 and does not require additional fencing.
Legalization path eligibility
S.744: Immigrants who entered the United States before December 31, 2011 and have been physically present in the U.S. since that time will be eligible to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status, leaving out millions of people.
CIR ASAP: Immigrants who can establish presence in the U.S. on the day of introduction will be eligible for conditional immigrant visa.
*Both paths require the applicant to pass a background check, pay any assessed tax liability, pay appropriate fees and a fine, and not to have been convicted of serious criminal activity.
Pathway to Citizenship
S. 744: RPI status would be valid for six years and after 10 years, and only if all family and employment backlogs are cleared and the border security triggers are met, these individuals will be able to apply for legal permanent residency (LPR). After 3 years of being a resident, they may apply for naturalization, making the total path to citizenship a 13-year wait.
CIR ASAP: Those who qualify would receive a conditional nonimmigrant visa which is valid for six years and will be able to naturalize under current law (up to 5 years), making the total path to citizenship about an 11-year wait.
S. 744: Allow Homeland Security Officials to Access all Federal Lands in order to capture drug traffickers, human smugglers, and other unlawful actors attempting to cross through federally protected lands. Waives important environmental laws and regulations within 100 miles of the U.S. border.
CIR ASAP: Maintains current laws and prioritizes mitigating adverse impacts to federal, tribal, state, local and private lands, waters, wildlife and habitats by promoting cross-agency development of comprehensive monitoring and mitigation of ecological and environmental impacts of border security infrastructure and activity.
Port of Entry Infrastructure
S. 744: Provides for the establishment of a grant program to construct transportation and infrastructure improvements at southern and northern border ports of entry to facilitate safe, secure, and efficient cross-border movement of people, vehicles, and cargo. Adds 3,500 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.
CIR ASAP: Appropriates $1,000,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2014 through 2018 to make improvements to existing ports of entry in the United States to improve border security and for other purposes. Increase Agriculture Specialists by 1, 200 and Border Security Support Personnel at the port of entry by 350.