National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

Blog & Updates

The Week Ahead: March 4-9

March 04, 2013 - Posted by Mario Moreno

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Rep. Bob Goodlatte

“I don’t think that (they could never become citizens)…once you have that status you can qualify like everybody else, it seems to me. Having a system where if you have an unlawful status and then you have another opportunity, whether it’s employment-based or whether it’s going to be family-based, to be able to legalize your status in the future, those are good opportunities you can address.”
— House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, clarifying that he is not opposed to citizenship in immigration reform. TPM, February 27, 2013


Immigration and the sequester
Last week, ICE transferred hundreds of low-risk immigrants out of detention facilities in an effort to save costs as automatic budget cuts were expected on Friday. The government has not dropped the deportation cases against the immigrants and the detainees are still on supervised release while their cases continue in immigration court.

While some Republican lawmakers rang the alarm bells about criminal immigrants running freely on the streets, the fact is that these immigrants do not pose a threat to public safety and should have been placed long-ago in alternatives to detention programs that have a solid track record of being both effective and far cheaper than immigrant detention. Last August, the National Immigration Forum released a report on "The Math of Immigration Detention,” showing the potential savings of focusing enforcement resources on real threats by relying more on alternatives to detention programs. Instead of spending $164 per detention bed each day, the government could save up to $1.6 billion a year by using alternatives to detention like telephonic and in-person reporting, home visits and other forms of monitoring that have a daily cost per detainee of 30 cents to $14.

At a time when our government must do as much saving as possible, it’s time to re-examine how we can improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of our immigration enforcement programs. For more information about immigrant detention, please read:

Bipartisan House group set to reveal immigration bill
According to news reports, a bipartisan group in the House is close to introducing its own immigration reform bill. While legalization will be an important component of the reform proposal, some predict that it would not include a direct path to citizenship for legalized immigrants - a significant departure from similar proposals in the White House and Senate.

Poll after poll shows growing support by voters – including Republican voters – for immigration reform legislation that includes a path to citizenship. It is time for political leaders, especially in the House of Representatives, to catch up with the American public on the issue of citizenship.

In the meantime, the senate’s “Gang of Eight” bipartisan working group continues to forge ahead with bipartisan immigration reform legislation. According to Democratic sources, the group may unveil the bill before the end of March. Last Thursday, senators McCain, Graham and Flake briefed Republican House members working on immigration reform legislation.

CALENDAR: Please visit our Events page.

Summary of immigration legislation introduced and government reports on immigration:

MUST READ: ABC/UNIVISION NEWS: How the GOP Could Break an Unwritten Rule and Pass Immigration Reform
House Republican leaders eschewed a long-held principle when they held a vote on the Violence Against Women Act on Thursday. Only 87 out of 232 House Republicans backed that bill, but they still chose to bring it to a vote.
That decision made all the difference. The bill passed thanks to near-unanimous support from House Democrats and backing from some Republicans.
By allowing the bill to come to a vote, Republicans broke the "Hastert Rule" -- named after former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). The basic idea: don't let something come to a vote unless a majority of the party supports it.
If the unofficial Hastert rule is no longer a precedent for House Republicans, that could have a implications for other controversial, bigger pieces of legislation this year, such as immigration reform.
The rule has been a guiding convention for House Republicans for years. Hastert coined the phrase in a 2004 speech, in which he said that the House would only bring a bill to the floor if "a majority of the majority" (i.e., a majority of Republicans) backed it. Since then, Republicans have largely operated under that rule when they have controlled the House of Representatives, including under the current speakership of John Boehner (R-Ohio).
But Thursday's vote was not the first time this year that House GOP leaders allowed a vote on a bill that did not enjoy support from the majority of their conference. A deal to avert the fiscal cliff at the beginning of the year passed the House with only 85 Republican votes at the tail end of the last Congress. And only 49 Republicans voted for a relief package for victims of Superstorm Sandy, which passed into law.
Read more:

THE HILL: Pressure builds on Senate group to unveil immigration reform specifics
By Alexander Bolton
A bipartisan Senate group working on immigration reform plans to set a timeline for unveiling legislation, as it feels subtle pressure from the chairman of the Judiciary Committee to act.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a lead negotiator of the ad hoc group on immigration reform, says he and his colleagues realize the clock is ticking. They hope to soon have a timeline for unveiling legislation.
“We know time is of the essence. Sometime in the next few weeks we will have a definite timeline. We got a couple of very big issues to resolve,” McCain told The Hill.
A Democratic source familiar with the talks said the group may unveil the bill itself before the end of the month.
Either way, time is running short. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), McCain’s negotiating partner, said he expected to have a bipartisan bill sometime in March. There are only three weeks left until Congress leaves for a two-week Easter recess on March 22.
Lawmakers and groups advocating for reform say McCain, Schumer and their partners, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), need to show substantial progress before the end of the month.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) has turned over authorship of immigration reform to the group but his patience is limited. He is eager to move shortly after the committee marks up a series of gun-violence bills this month.
Read more:

CBN News: Caring for the Stranger: Immigration Reform in the Pews
By Heather Sells
CBN News Reporter
Thursday, February 28, 2013
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- While Washington engages in a high-profile fight on immigration, Christian leaders in key states are quietly engaging their grass roots.
They're part of the newly formed Evangelical Immigration Table that unabashedly supports reform, and they're talking to people in the pews about what the Bible says about immigration. It's an effort that could help fuel momentum back in Washington.
Although evangelicals aren't generally known for supporting immigration reform, the EIT believes it makes sense to target this politically influential group because often they're already connected with immigrants in ministry settings.
Also, the EIT hopes an emphasis on biblical teaching will convince evangelicals that strong theological reasons exist to support immigrant care.
Engaging the Immigrant
At First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, 100 or so immigrants pour into the church each week. They're refugees, newly arrived in the United States and eager to learn English. Church members who tutor them say their stories are inspiring.
"Most of them take the bus and transfer two or three times to get to class," volunteer Nancy Gagner said. "They're just so diligent about showing up every day."
"It's just amazing to me the courage that it takes for them to come here," Shelley McBride, another volunteer tutor, said. "Often it's their best option but it still takes a tremendous amount of courage to start over."
This direct engagement with immigrants has heightened awareness of the national debate on immigration reform, Michelle Swanson, associate for Local Missions at First Presbyterian, said.
"It certainly has raised the awareness of neighbors on our doorstep from around the world," she said. "Once you have names and faces to put with it it no longer is this issue that you just read about in the newspaper."
Applying Biblical Principles
Not all churches in Colorado are so actively involved. For years, many have simply been unaware of immigrant communities right in their midst.
It's one reason why the EIT is organizing in states like Colorado, Texas, and Florida where the immigrant population has exploded.
"I think that when you don't know immigrants and you don't interact with them it's just not on your radar," Michelle Warren, who works for the EIT in Colorado, explained.
The EIT's strategy for such churches: begin to explain biblical principles for caring for immigrants.
The coalition began just last summer and already its membership includes prominent evangelical names and organizations, including Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family; Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College.
The EIT's platform calls for respecting the God-given dignity of individuals, protecting the unity of the immediate family, respecting the law, guaranteeing secure borders, ensuring fairness to taxpayers, and establishing a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and wish it.
'I Was a Stranger'
The EIT also wants to encourage churches to minister to immigrant communities in their midst. Its new 40-day "I was a Stranger" campaign leads individuals and churches on such a path with a 40-day study on immigrant passages in the Bible.
Read more:

Crossroads Campaign Solutions