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Immigration Reform “Office Hours” Week Nine

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Today, America’s Voice Education Fund and fellow immigration experts held the ninth in a series of weekly press briefings, or Immigration Reform “Office Hours.”  Each week, a different and diverse group of speakers shares the latest information on the players, politics, legislation and other developments in the debate in Washington and around the nation.

Moderated by Frank Sharry, Executive Director at America’s Voice Education Fund, today’s call featured Lorella Praeli, Director of Advocacy and Policy, United We Dream; and Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN and The New Policy Institute.

Speakers discussed key issues in the Senate bipartisan immigration bill, including the relationship between border enforcement and the citizenship program as well as the specific details of the bill’s path to citizenship.  While there is broad support for the overall package, it is a true compromise and advocates are committed to fighting to improve the bill throughout the process.

Lorella Praeli, Director of Advocacy and Policy at United We Dream, discussed her organization’s take on the citizenship program, and called for an expansion of provisions to allow more families who’ve been through deportation to reunite:

It’s absolutely essential for the immigrant youth movement that parents and family members who were taken away by our broken immigration system are able to return and reunite with their families and be included on the path to citizenship,” said Praeli. “DREAMers are united in opposition to the separation of families, out-of-control border militarization, and senseless detentions and deportations.

Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN and The New Policy Institute said:

The Senate Gang of Eight border and immigration bill is a serious, thoughtful first crack at making our border safer, our immigration system better while also expanding legal trade and travel through our nation’s ports of entry.  In a time when rancorous politics have dampened legislative ambition in Washington, this bill reminds us that our leaders can come together, across party lines, to offer big, comprehensive solutions to tough modern-day challenges.

Many advocates believe that the bill’s border enforcement provisions are excessive and fail to recognize that the border today is more secure than ever.  Speakers mentioned the fact that opponents of immigration reform will likely seize on the enforcement measures that need to be put in place before the path to citizenship can begin, and offer amendments to try to change these provisions and block the path to citizenship from ever taking place.

Frank Sharry, Executive Director at America’s Voice Education Fund spoke about balance required to achieve strong, workable, and effective immigration reform:

We need a ‘both/and’ approach to immigration reform, not an ‘either/or’ approach.  This bill will lead to the strongest border security in American history and a navigable and achievable path to citizenship.  But let’s remember the context.  For over 20 years we’ve done nothing but enforcement-first and border security first.  We’ve spent billions of dollars, unauthorized immigration is currently at net zero, and we’ve done nothing to put undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship or modernize our legal immigration system.  As reform moves to final votes, Republicans face an existential choice: side with the dead enders, like Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who want to thwart immigration reform and threaten the Party’s national prospects in the process, or side with the modernizers, like the Senate Gang of Eight Republicans, who want the Party to be relevant in the 21stcentury.


For recordings and resources from prior Office Hours calls, click here.