Immigration Policy Briefing:
Room for Debate on a Complex Legislative Issue
Nearly six years after the House abandoned a Senate-passed immigration bill in 2007, immigration policy is front and center on the 2013 domestic policy agenda. This time, both parties are motivated, Hispanics are the fastest-growing voting bloc, and Democrats and the GOP want to court these voters. CQ Roll Call sought some of the most prominent voices on immigration policy for their take on what could happen this year.
The Southwest border remains insecure. We have more than 11 million illegal immigrants in our nation and more coming every day. Neither of these facts is news. What is news is the growing bipartisan majority in Congress willing to do something about it.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus issued nine principles that will guide our thinking on an immigration rewrite. Now that the immigration debate is starting to take shape, it is worth reviewing them. So far, with few exceptions, the principles identified by the CHC are being adhered to. I have highlighted a few below.
We have been presented with a false choice in the Washington-based debate over illegal immigration. On one hand, we are offered the Obama plan, conveniently leaked to the media, which offers permanent residency after a shockingly long eight years on probation. On the other, we have the gang of eight, who say citizenship lies at the end of an amorphous path following a declaration of secure borders by a yet-to-be-named commission.
As Democrats and Republicans continue to debate the most viable path to achieve a comprehensive immigration overhaul, both sides are staking their claim as to who has the better plan. As a member who has sat on the Homeland Security Committee since its inception, I have watched and participated in this debate and have witnessed both failures and successes. Many Republicans claim that nothing or little has been done to enforce the laws currently on the books or to secure our border.
America is a nation of immigrants. In truth, our history cannot be told without the contributions of immigrants from everywhere in the world sometimes with their families, sometimes all alone to escape poverty and persecution, pursue their dreams, and live and work in a free country. Moving forward, we should remain true to our American heritage of being a welcoming place.
While there has recently been unmistakable momentum toward equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans in parts of the country with marriage equality for same-sex couples in nine states and D.C., federal cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act and the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the debate on an immigration overhaul we cannot afford to pat ourselves on the back.