Blog & Updates
Senate Border Security Hearing and White House Meeting Announcement
May 20, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
More Motion and Movement towards Immigration Reform
El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles during a November 08 Press Conference in Washington
Today’s Senate Immigration Subcommittee hearing, titled “Securing the Borders and America's Points of Entry, What Remains to Be Done” showed that Senator Schumer is serious and deeply committed to working on an effective solution to our immigration system. The Associated Press reports:
Contending that U.S. borders are more secure than ever, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said Wednesday it's time for the White House and Congress to overhaul immigration laws to stem the number of people coming into and living illegally in the U.S.
"We can pass strong, fair, practical and effective immigration reform this year," said Schumer, D-N.Y.
President Obama plans next month to meet with a small bipartisan group of Senate and House leaders to discuss immigration with the intention of beginning debate on the issue later this year, according to an administration official who requested anonymity because the White House was not ready to announce the meeting. Schumer was expected to be among those attending.
At a hearing on border security Wednesday, Schumer cited reports from the Customs and Border Protection officials saying that the number of people arrested as they tried to cross U.S. borders illegally has dropped.
Schumer said that the number of people captured along the border with Mexico between Oct. 1 and May 15 was down 27% from the same period the previous year. Along the U.S-Canada border, the number was down 13%.
—Sen. Schumer: Revamp Immigration Laws, May 20, 2009
You may or may not agree with Senator Schumer that border security is at an all time high, but clearly he is trying to make two points about immigration reform:
1) We cannot delay immigration reform, as some have suggested, until some magical border security metric is achieved – the so-called “enforcement first” approach adopted by many opponents and some proponents of reform;
2) We can’t let the fact that unauthorized migration is low right now delay immigration reform because, soon enough, we will be creating jobs in this country and if we still have an inadequate legal immigration system to meet that demand for visas, we will see unauthorized immigration rise again.
Also don’t miss the important news that the President is convening a bipartisan meeting of Members of Congress from both chambers at the White House early next month. This important announcement reaffirming that Washington is moving forward on the immigration reform debate was also covered by Politico:
President Barack Obama is inviting members of Congress to the White House for a June 8 meeting to highlight immigration reform, an administration official confirmed to POLITICO Wednesday.
"The meeting will be an opportunity to launch a policy conversation that we hope will be able to start a debate that will take place in Congress later in the year," the official, who asked not to be named, said.
—Obama Sets WH Immigration Reform Meeting for June 8, May 20, 2009
Back to Senator Schumer’s hearing, it was attended by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the full Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee, and Senators Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The hearing featured an array of local law enforcement and border security experts who discussed security at the border and ports of entry. Here’s a highlight from El Paso Sheriff Richard Wiles:
I will point out, that as a member of the U.S.-Mexico Border and Immigration Task Force, I know there has been much work completed on a comprehensive strategy to deal with the issues involved in immigration reform. It is difficult to engage in law enforcement and criminal justice contemporary practices when members of the community are afraid to step forward for fear of deportation. It is clear that comprehensive reform is needed and necessary and will ultimately address issues important to law enforcement. …
There is a significant difference between immigration enforcement, particularly as it relates to undocumented immigrants, and criminal law enforcement, which is independent from immigration issues.
—Testimony of Sheriff Richard Wiles, May 20, 2009
As today’s events and the White House announcement show, there is motion, movement, and progress towards reform and Congress and the Administration are taking important steps towards fulfilling the President’s promise to fix our immigration system.