National Immigration Forum

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Immigration Reform: Ready, Set, ….

March 23, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

If there is such a thing in the immigration policy world, we are in something of a lull.  That is about to end.

The President and Congress have not yet begun a debate on a specific proposal, but there has been a lot of organizing, both around the country and among members of Congress, to remind the administration that comprehensive immigration reform is critical.  In recent days, the President has reiterated his view that immigration reform is on his agenda.

President Speaks on Immigration Reform in California: On March 19, President Obama was in Southern California conducting a “town hall” meeting.  There, he was asked about immigration reform.  The President said that he believes we have to get control of our borders “at the same time as we deal in a humane fashion with folks who are putting down roots here, have become our neighbors, have become our friends, they may have children who are U.S. citizens.  That's the kind of comprehensive approach that we have to take.”  You can see a video clip of the President addressing this issue and a transcript of what he said on the Web site of America’s Voice

Obama meets with CHC on Immigration: The town hall meeting in California followed on the heels of a meeting between President Obama and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. There was just one thing on the agenda for that meeting: immigration reform.  The meeting went very well, we are told, and the President made it clear he understands the need to act this year.  A CHC Press Release discussing the meeting can be found here.  The White House perspective on the meeting can be found here. You can read the Forum’s Press Release on the meeting here

Congressional Supporters of Reform Organize; Leaders Express Support:  Over the course of this month and into April, Congressman Luis Gutierrez and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have been conducting a “Family Unity Tour”, meeting with local communities around the country to document the harm caused to American families by the broken immigration system.  The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus sent a letter to President Obama on March 17, pressing for comprehensive immigration reform this year. 

Democratic leaders of both the House and the Senate have reiterated their commitment to immigration reform.  Senate majority leader Harry Reid has repeatedly expressed his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform.  In a recent speech before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, for example, he said, “I am committed to offering this year comprehensive immigration reform that is strong, practical and fair.”  Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now fending off attacks from cultural conservatives for her expression of support for comprehensive reform and for ending ICE raids.  (You can learn more about attacks on the Speaker, and what you can do about it, from America’s Voice.)

Positive Measures: At the same time as the President and various constellations of Members of Congress have been expressing support for immigration reform, small positive reforms are being introduced. Recently, for example, Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Kennedy (D-MA) introduced a bill to crack down on immigration fraud perpetrated by notarios. Text of the bill can be found here.

Another example is H.R. 1024, introduced by Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and others and S. 424, introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and others.  This bill would treat the permanent partners of citizens and permanent residents the same as spouses of citizens and permanent residents for immigration purposes.

We expect more positive measures will be introduced soon, and we expect that the President will make his views known more specifically in the near future.

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