National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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Senator Schumer: An Encouraging Selection For Immigration Subcommittee Chairman

February 19, 2009



Washington, DCOn Wednesday, it was reported that Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would take over as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration.  He replaces Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) in that role.  The following is a statement by Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan pro-immigrant advocacy group in Washington. 


 


Selecting Senator Schumer to run the Immigration Subcommittee in the Senate shows that immigrants and immigration reform will be taken seriously in this Congress.  Senator Chuck Schumer is a leader who gets things done.  He comes from a border state, a state that practically defines immigration to America both historically and in the present day, and like the people of his state, Schumer is a tough, no-nonsense guy.  He combines national security bona fides and a deep, personal understanding of the contributions immigrants and their families make everyday to the bottom line in New York and across the United States.


 


No human could possibly fill the shoes of Senator Ted Kennedy when it comes to his stewardship of the immigration issue across decades of shifting political winds and economic ebbs and flows, but we have high expectations for Senator Schumer nonetheless.  He takes over the subcommittee at a key moment for immigrants and the future of immigration to the U.S.  For several years, the immigration issue has festered on Capitol Hill, seemingly stuck in the old politics of division and partisan gridlock.  If anyone can get immigration reform unstuck, it may just be a person with a commitment as strong as Senator Schumer’s.


 


To move forward economically and politically, we need to move forward on immigration reform.  Sensible reform will strengthen the workforce by ensuring that workers are here legally, protected by labor laws – operating inside a legal framework where employers and employees are playing by rules that are being fairly and evenly enforced. 


 


Until we see definitive movement forward on immigration, the politics of every other agenda item that the President or Congress tries to move will get mired in immigration squabbling.  Although far weaker now after several election seasons of losing, the opponents of immigration reform are still willing to make everything from the stimulus package, to the budget, to health care devolve into a debate about immigration. 


 


The Immigration Subcommittee has a wide portfolio, including oversight of Department of Homeland Security’s immigration-related entities (ICE ,CBP, USCIS), and Department of Justice immigration functions, and the U.S. refugee program.  Under Senator Schumer’s leadership, we expect to see strong oversight of these programs.  Top priorities should be working with Janet Napolitano, the new Secretary of Homeland Security, in her evaluation of the resource and enforcement priorities of her Department and working with Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been asked to review civil rights violations related to immigration enforcement, DOJ prosecution guidelines with respect to worksite raids, and ongoing concerns about the state of immigration courts.


 


More broadly, we hope Senator Schumer and his subcommittee, working with the White House and the rest of the Congress, will shortly begin reforming our immigration laws directly, definitively, and in a bipartisan manner so that we can move on to solve the other difficult issues facing our country.


 


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