***UPDATED WITH BILL SUMMARIES***
Sets the Stage for Action on a Federal Solution as Soon as Possible
Washington, DC — Last night, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy filed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010. America’s Voice is issuing a three page and one page summary of the legislation.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice: “With the introduction of comprehensive immigration reform legislation, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are signaling that comprehensive immigration reform remains a top priority, helping to put the movement fighting for immigration reforms back on offense, and challenging Republicans to lead, follow or get out of the way.”
The introduction of this bill is one leg of a three-part strategy announced by Senator Menendez, Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) earlier this month. The strategy is designed to bring the immigration reform movement together around three complementary goals: 1) pass the DREAM Act as a first step towards broader reform; 2) press the Obama Administration to make good on its promise to focus enforcement on bad actors; and 3) introduce a Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill to get ready for legislative action in the near future.
After a summer marked by national controversy around the Arizona “papers, please” anti-immigration law, Republican demagoguery on the issue during the primaries, and Republican Senators’ abandonment of comprehensive immigration reform, the immigration reform movement has been struggling with how to move forward. Fortunately, just weeks ago Senator Menendez, Congressman Gutierrez, and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez called on immigrant advocates with differing priorities to combine forces and move forward together on three fronts—the DREAM Act, enforcement reforms, and comprehensive immigration reform.
This call has produced a surge of unity, activism, and renewed hope. Just last week, the reform movement generated an unprecedented amount of support and activism around the DREAM Act. Although Republicans blocked it in a procedural move, the outpouring of support – from military leaders, university presidents, immigrant advocates and, of course, the DREAMers themselves – strongly suggests that the DREAM Act has a good chance of getting across the finish line in short order.
With respect to enforcement reform, pressure to ensure DHS aligns its stated priority of going after the “worst of the worst”—smugglers, serious criminals and unscrupulous employers—with its policies is beginning to bring about much-needed changes. But stepped-up pressure will be needed to ensure further policy and operational changes are made.
To complete the strategy, though, Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform.
According to Sharry, “By offering a comprehensive reform bill, Senator Menendez is making it clear to the reform movement, to Congress and to the country that, ultimately, comprehensive immigration reform is the only way to fix our nation’s dysfunctional immigration system. The cynics and purveyors of conventional wisdom will claim that this is an election-year ploy. In fact, it’s a way to jumpstart a long-overdue Congressional debate and galvanize a growing reform movement so that much-needed reforms are enacted as soon as possible.
Sharry added, “The test will come soon. Will Republicans – who have blocked progress on comprehensive reform, tried to intimidate the Obama Administration on enforcement issues and prevented a vote on the DREAM Act – respond with commitments to work on a bipartisan solution, or with accusations that reflect their own cynical election-year political calculations? Let’s hope at least some of them will see this for what it is – a sign of hope and progress and a challenge to solve this problem once and for all.”
America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform