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All Eyes on the House: Creating a Path to Citizenship for 11 Million Aspiring Americans This Year

 

Updated September 18, 2013

We are at a critical juncture in the fight to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.  Below is our take on the choices House leaders are facing today and the factors that will force them to do the right thing.  Answers to frequently asked questions appear at the end of the document.

It takes 218 votes to pass a bill in the House of Representatives and right now – today – we have more than 218 votes for immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  It’s up to House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy to bring reform to the floor and let the bipartisan majority work its will.  We will not accept process or timing excuses.  We have the votes and we have the time to pass a strong immigration reform bill this year.

The movement for reform is strong and getting stronger every day.  For us, this fight is personal.  It’s about our families, our communities and our nation’s future.  We reject policies that would hurt us like the “Safe to Profile” Act and a new bracero program.  We will not stop until 11 million aspiring Americans have a chance to earn citizenship in the country they call home.

We are already halfway there.  The Senate has passed a good bill with strong bipartisan support.  The House can and must do the same.

Every day the House Republicans delay a vote on reform with a path to citizenship, 1,100 people are deported.  At the same time we call on Republicans to stop delaying and give us a vote on citizenship, we call on the Obama Administration to stop deporting people who could qualify for legal status when reform passes.

It takes 218 votes to pass a bill in the House of Representatives and right now – today – we have more than 218 votes for immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  It’s up to House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy to bring reform to the floor and let the bipartisan majority work its will. 

  • A key part of a democracy is letting the majority express itself.  More than 80% of Americans support immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants here today.  A strong bipartisan majority of Senators voted for such a bill, and a bipartisan majority of House members— around 200 Democrats and at least 26 Republicans– would vote for this reform today if Republican leadership brought it forward.
  • Right now, House Republicans are steering down a partisan path.  But no one party can pass this alone, in neither chamber.  The Senate worked on a bipartisan basis and passed a strong bill with support from 68 Senators.  House Republicans should do the same, and work with Democrats to deliver the immigration solution America wants and needs.
  • We also need the Democrats to show leadership and do their part to make reform a reality this year.  House Democratic leadership and the rank and file must do everything in their power to pass immigration reform in the lower chamber and negotiate a final package with the Senate.  The pro-reform movement is not interested in political games— we expect a result this year.

We will not accept process or timing excuses.  We have the votes and we have the time to pass a strong immigration reform bill this year. 

  • Instead of giving us a vote, Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy are giving us excuses.  The House has plenty of time left on the calendar to pass immigration reform on a bipartisan basis this year.  If there is a will to get it done, there is a way.
  • The so-called “Hastert Rule”—where Republicans refuse to bring a bill to the floor unless it is first signed off on by a majority of their party—should really be called the “Hastert Excuse.”  The Speaker has already disregarded it several times before to pass bills with bipartisan support.  When he wants to play politics, he invokes it and when he wants to get things done, he ignores it.  We want leaders to lead and get things done, not play games and block us from making progress.

The movement for reform is strong and getting stronger every day.  For us, this fight is personal.  It’s about our families, our communities and our nation’s future.  We reject policies that would hurt us like the “Safe to Profile” Act and a new bracero program.  We will not stop until 11 million aspiring Americans have a chance to earn citizenship in the country they call home.

  • Inaction by the Republican House leadership is a vote for the status quo, where thousands of American families face deportation and separation every day.  The longer the House Republican leadership delays in giving us a vote on immigration reform with a path citizenship, the higher the human and political cost.
  • Two-thirds of Latino voters know someone who is undocumented; at least 50% have family members who would benefit from immigration reform.  That’s why reform is such a personal priority for millions of Latinos.  Speaker Boehner and Republican leaders can either be the heroes who help make reform a reality, or the zeroes who are blamed for blocking it.
  • If the House GOP refuses to vote on reform, the political consequences will be severe: the GOP will lose the White House in 2016 and perhaps for a generation; and they will lose seats in the House in 2014, and eventually their majority.  It will not only hurt them with Latinos, but with a wide swath of the “coalition of the ascendant”—Asians, other immigrants, young people, women, college-educated professionals and independent voters.  The only way Republicans can change this path is to work with Democrats and pass reasonable immigration reform.
  • Our movement is getting stronger every day.  This is personal for us.  We are fighting for our loved ones.  And we won’t stop until we achieve a permanent solution that grants dignity and respect to all immigrant workers and families.
  • At the same time we are fighting for a path to citizenship for aspiring Americans, we oppose proposals on the table that would hurt our communities.  For example Chairman Goodlatte’s “SAFE Act” should be renamed the “Safe to Profile Act.”  It applies the worst excesses of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration policy nationwide, and turns anyone who looks or sounds like an immigrant into a target for the police.  And Goodlatte’s Agriculture Guestworker Act is simply a modern-day bracero program that treats immigrant farmworkers like pairs of hands instead of human beings.  These are not policies that we can accept.
  • We have support from across the country and from across the political spectrum.  Our movement includes the labor movement and businesses, faith groups and ethnic groups, immigrants and evangelicals, high tech and farm workers, law enforcement and civil rights groups.  As we proved during the August congressional recess, we are strong and our opponents are weak.  There is nothing for House Republican leaders to be afraid of.

We are already halfway there.  The Senate has passed a good bill with strong bipartisan support.  The House can and must do the same. 

  • We need reform that puts 11 million undocumented immigrants on an immediate and inclusive path to legal status and an achievable path to full citizenship. Hard working immigrant families deserve a chance to earn the full rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
  • We oppose the idea of consigning millions of immigrants to a permanent underclass where they can work forever but achieve citizenship never.
  • We need reform that keeps families together, protects workers from exploitation, grows our economy, and fixes our broken immigration system once and for all.
  • While enforcement of the new immigration system will be part of any final bill, the policies must be targeted and accountable–not excessive and extreme.
  • The House Republicans’ so-called SAFE Act – which many call “Arpaio’s Law” – would turn the worst abuses of Sheriff Joe Arpaio into national policy.  It would enlist states in the racial profiling of Latinos and others based on how they look or sound, and turn hard working immigrants who yearn to be U.S. citizens into so-called criminals.  It would create a civil rights crisis for people who appear to be immigrants, and a public safety crisis for communities as relationships between police and immigrant communities are destroyed.
  • The “border surge” amendment adopted in the Senate would unnecessarily militarize our border with a friendly neighbor, threaten the civil rights of millions of border residents and waste billions of dollars at a time when unauthorized immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border is already at net zero.
  • We know the conventional wisdom is pessimistic about reform’s chances.  But we don’t pay much attention to the conventional wisdom.  We are used to being discounted by doubters.  Over the years we’ve been told that Latino and immigrant voters would never make a difference in electoral outcomes; that immigration is a third rail issue that works against Democrats in favor of Republicans; that the anti-immigrant movement and the Tea Party are much stronger than pro-reform forces; that immigration reform with a path to citizenship is far out of the mainstream and unpopular; that President Obama would never take bold executive action to protect DREAMers; and that we would never be able to outflank our opponents in public demonstrations of support.  The conventional wisdom turned out to be wrong in every case, and we are optimistic our power will overcome the predictions of pundits.

Every day the House Republicans delay a vote on reform with a path to citizenship, 1,100 people are deported.  At the same time we call on Republicans to stop delaying and give us a vote on citizenship, we call on the Obama Administration to stop deporting people who could qualify for legal status when reform passes. 

  • We need immigration reform that unites families, not immigration enforcement that divides them.
  • Our movement will not rest until 11 million immigrants and their families can earn citizenship and live freely in the country they call home.

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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS 

With so many things on the to-do list for Congress, what makes you think they can fit in immigration reform this year?

There is plenty of time on the calendar to get this done; House Republican leadership is simply hiding behind the calendar as an excuse not to act. This is what frustrates people most about Congress—they spend so much time playing political games and so little time doing their jobs.  The House will be in session until mid-December.  They have other important things they have to work on, but there is still plenty of time to pass immigration reform this year.

Plus, we’re already halfway there.  The Senate passed a good bill in June.  A bipartisan majority in the House would support something like what the Senate passed.  We can see the finish line.  All we need is for House Republican leaders to schedule the vote.  If there’s a will to get it done, there’s definitely a way.

What about the Hastert Rule?  Isn’t that standing in your way?

It’s not the Hastert Rule, it’s the Hastert Excuse.  Republican leaders use the Hastert Excuse when they want to slow things down.  When they want to pass things, they throw it out the window.

It’s the same with immigration as it is on every issue—Republicans are divided between the ideologues and the pragmatists.  If Republicans want to get something done, they have to work with Democrats.  If they just want to look like they’re doing something—but end in a stalemate—they will continue down the same partisan path.

How will you change House Republicans’ minds?

We’re bringing relentless, direct pressure to the home districts of vulnerable Republicans because frankly, pressure and political pain are the only things they respond to.  We’re going to make them feel the same urgency we do.  Every day, 1100 American families are torn apart by deportations.  Every year, hundreds of thousands of children lose a parent to deportation.  And every two years, over 3 million more Latino, Asian, and naturalized citizens become eligible to vote.  House Republicans are destined to lose seats in 2014 and cede the White House to the Democrats in 2016 if they don’t get this issue off the table.  Those are just a few of the reasons why Republicans should act now to pass commonsense immigration reform.

There are others: business growth and competitiveness, stability for U.S. agriculture, empowering workers to protect their rights.  Law enforcement is making the case for immigration reform, as are religious groups from across the spectrum.  The coalition in favor of a path to citizenship for undocumented Americans is simply unprecedented.

Our power comes from our coalition’s diversity but it mainly comes from our people.  We are part of a real movement, led by immigrants and their loved ones, who will not give up until the House gives us a vote on a path to citizenship for all 11 million aspiring Americans.  And that is why we are going to win.

If the House doesn’t act this year, isn’t immigration reform dead until 2015?

Absolutely not. First of all, we do think the House will act this year because of the pressure we are applying.  But if for some reason the legislative debate extends into 2014, we have no plans of letting up.  We actually see the increased pressure of an election year working to our advantage.  Democrats want immigration reform to pass, but Republicans need it to pass.  Imagine all the campaign commercials in Latino-heavy DCCC target districts if the House fails to take up broad immigration reform.  It will be easy to draw the line between the good guys and the bad guys in that case.

If House Republicans want to protect these seats, they need to act on immigration reform.  Talk is cheap, and actions are what count.