It’s clear that immigration reform is on the agenda for the House in 2014, and a plan to address the status of 11 million aspiring Americans will likely be a central component of that debate.
This week Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announced plans to release GOP principles on immigration. And as new reports and comments from House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) show, whatever immigration policy goals emerge from House Leadership will most certainly include language that addresses the status of the 11 million aspiring Americans. While this is certainly a promising first step from the House GOP, many questions about policy specifics and timing remain, and we have yet to see an actual bill introduced.
Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, said:
It’s encouraging to see the House GOP starting the process of moving immigration reform forward, but it’s been a long time coming. The good news is there is widespread acknowledgment that it won’t be immigration reform without addressing with the 11 million aspiring Americans. But principles are not enough; we need legislation. They’ve been promising proposals for months and only giving us sound bites. GOP leaders need to put some skin in the game, kick off this process, and get it to a resolution this year.
One reason advocates are optimistic that reform can pass the House in 2014 is because there is a new understanding of the politics of immigration. This week–two years before the presidential caucuses in Iowa – Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made a big move to provide tuition equity for New Jersey college students who are undocumented. It’s clear he has his eye on the prize in 2016. Other controversies aside, Christie’s prospects with Latino voters may actually hinge on the actions of the House GOP, and whether they make a bold move on immigration reform or shoulder the blame for stopping it.
“A 10 year struggle by the New Jersey immigrant community has finally resulted in a solid win, however this is still only half-equality and we will continue pushing Governor Christie on State Financial Aid as a litmus test if he truly wants our vote when running for President. This victory was achieved with the leadership of dreamers and fellow youth advocates leading the charge, telling their stories, and standing up for themselves,” said Giancarlo Tello, Leader with the New Jersey DREAM Act Coalition, an affiliate of United We Dream. “GOP leadership should see the New Jersey Dream Act as a sign that reform on immigration can be done with bipartisan support.”
In addition to the political imperative behind reform, there is a human cost of Congress’ inaction. On Monday, in Speaker Boehner’s home state of Ohio, over one hundred activists will gather to support Ricardo Ramos, an immigrant father of three U.S. citizen children who’s been working in the nurseries of Lake County, OH for the past sixteen years. In an inspiring show of support from both the Cleveland Polish community and the broader immigrant and Latino community, supporters will embark on a 20+ mile pilgrimage to St. Casimir’s church in Cleveland to draw attention to this important case (see this NewsNet5 Cleveland report on the Ramos family here and see more about the pilgrimage here).
Veronica Dahlberg, Executive Director of HOLA and one of the lead organizers of the march, said:
There isn’t much growth in our town of Painesville, Ohio, but what growth there is has been due to the immigrant population. What I’ve seen in the last couple of years is a terrible crisis of deportations. We’re getting hit very, very hard, and it’s been devastating. At our weekly meetings, we see the children and hear their cries. We’ve pretty much reached the end of our rope. We’re currently trying to stop the deportation of local father and nursery worker Ricardo Ramos, and while the Polish community of Cleveland has really lent their support, we need a game-changer to keep Ricardo and others here. On Monday, we’re walking 20 miles from Painesville to the church of St. Casimir in Cleveland, to pray to Our Lady of Czestochowa for relief.
Leading the pilgrimage on Monday is immigrant mother of three and marathon runner, Marisela, whose husband and brother were deported after a routine traffic stop, despite having been here for 25 years. Facing no opportunities in Mexico and the desire to reunite with their loved ones in Ohio, Marisela’s husband and brother tried to return, walking for 40 miles in the desert before succumbing to the elements. Today was Marisela’s first time speaking publicly about her tragic loss. “My husband was the best person in my life. Nobody ever had any problems with us. He was a good man, and we had three kids. I feel so dead in my life. This is not my dream in the US. This is my nightmare.”
Marisela’s brother’s remains were not identified until May of this year. They allowed his remains to come into the country but not him, and they are now buried here in Ohio. Another father died in June of last year. If this is affecting our small town of Painesville, where I’ve never seen anything like this before, then this is a humanitarian crisis. Our elected officials are living in a bubble, and there’s going to be a surprise in the elections this year if they don’t do something quick.
As Simon Rosenberg, President of NDN/New Policy Institute, said:
We are closer to an immigration deal than we’ve been in many years. But House Republicans need to be smart and earnest now, and only pass legislation the Senate and President can work with. The time for ‘principles’ and message bills has long past. After 9 years of work, it is time to get this done.