Hispanic Caucus Readies Plan

Posted April 22, 2008 at 6:48pm

Frustrated over the continued impasse on comprehensive immigration reform, leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus intend to air their grievances publicly today and unveil the latest in a series of wide-ranging proposals they hope could prompt movement on the issue.

“As House committees are pushing to hold hearings on enforcement-only and other piecemeal legislation, the Members want to break their silence,” said a CHC aide, who spoke on the condition he not be identified.

According to aides to CHC lawmakers, members are seeking to get ahead of a series of hearings in the House on a border and immigration enforcement bill sponsored by freshman Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), and backed by Republicans and moderate Democrats.

House GOP leaders have endorsed Rep. Thelma Drake’s (R-Va.) efforts to force the Shuler bill onto the House floor via a discharge petition, which currently counts 186 signatures, including 10 Democrats. The petition needs 218 signatures to succeed.

Hispanic lawmakers have criticized the legislation for its enforcement-only focus, arguing that any immigration reform must also address the approximately 12 million to 14 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

A second House aide, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said CHC lawmakers would seek to rebut any implications they are attempting to stall enforcement legislation.

“Rather than approach these security and labor concerns in a … comprehensive fashion, many have pointed the finger and blamed the CHC for blocking reform. … CHC members are going to be gathering to respond to these misconceptions,” the aide said.

Neither the CHC’s chairman, Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.), nor Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), chairman of the CHC’s Immigration Task Force, could be reached for comment before press time Tuesday. CHC aides also declined to provide specific details of the proposal expected to be unveiled today, other than to assert it will contain “security and enforcement that people want and providing business with the most flexible worker program they can get.”

“What we want to do is put it out there and really get something going so that everybody who needs something gets something,” the CHC aide said.

Baca has previously told Roll Call that he envisions an immigration reform that does not “lead toward amnesty” but that does provide “a temporary visa” to undocumented immigrants already working in the United States.