Jan. 18, 2013
On Thursday, US business leaders pledged to back immigration reform with “serious money” as a Republican Super PAC gathered steam. This, coupled with the commitment of Evangelical leaders from more than 100,000 US churches to promote immigration reform among their congregations, highlighted a week of forward movement on the immigration reform front. Meanwhile, Congress conducted meetings behind closed doors and called on President Obama for leadership in this week’s latest immigration news.
Corporate America clamors
US Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue, decrying millions of unfilled US jobs, called yesterday for a way for undocumented immigrants “to come out of the shadows,” reported ABC News.
Speaking at a news conference yesterday Donohue indicated that the ultimate goal needs to be allowing more immigrants to enter the US to meet the needs of businesses. Legislative priorities can facilitate immigration reform, he said. These could include:
Carlos Gutierrez, a former commerce secretary under President, affirmed at that meeting that he is growing the Republican super PAC he announced in November that will lobby Congress to support immigration reform.
Both men evaded specific questions about the “path to citizenship,” a sticking point in the immigration reform discussion. Neither did they advocate the process be done in one sweeping measure or several smaller legislative bills. They insisted, however, that the final goal must be the priority:
"The important thing is that they're legal," Gutierrez said in the ABC News report.
Undocumented immigrants need a way to "come out of the shadows," Donohue added.
Gutierrez said the government isn't going to "round up 12 million people and kick them out," and they're also not going to "hand out free passports." The solution, he said, "is somewhere in the middle."
Guitierrez committed to “put money behind the problem” of immigration reform. His super PAC, still in the paperwork stage, will raise money to promote immigration reform in critical legislative districts.
Meanwhile, the technology sector called immigration reform a “desperate need” this week as three top industry lobbyists assured their support for comprehensive immigration reform that includes both a path to citizenship for undocumented workers and high-skilled foreign workers.
Evangelical leaders who represent more than 100,000 US churches called immigration reform a “religious imperative” this week. They posed a challenge to their members in the pews to study and pray for 40 days about immigration in a program entitled “I Was A Stranger.” The program will involve political advocacy for immigrants.
Using social media and a downloadable toolkit, the program will empower grassroots citizens to involve themselves in the political process.
Church leaders spoke of the biblical call to welcome the stranger and framed the immigration issue in the area of “rights” legislation.
On Tuesday, the largest US farm group, American Farm Bureau Federation, endorsed immigration law reform. They called for a replacement of the current guest worker program and to put undocumented workers already in the country on a defined path to legal status.
Delegates at the annual meeting of the 6-million-member adopted the reform package as national policy, according to Reuters. AFBF is among a dozen agricultural and landscape industry groups that back immigration reform legislation.
Congress continues behind closed doors
Congress continues bipartisan meetings behind closed doors that avoid the public spotlight, currently occupied by gun control legislation and tax cut decisions. Democrats and Republicans alike have called on President Obama to take leadership on immigration, albeit a legislative responsibility.
The Hill’s Congress blog reports that in the House, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Godlatte (R-Va.), Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), and former Republican vice presidential nominee have indicated their willingness to address immigration reform. And, in the Senate, the “gang of eight” bipartisan group has been meeting with Sen. (R-Fla.) to come to compromise. The “gang of eight” is working toward a comprehensive immigration reform measure, while Rubio favors a series of smaller bills.
The work of Congress on immigration reform has for the most part thus far evaded the public eye. However the Senate Judiciary Committee will dedicate most of its time to comprehensive immigration reform, Sen. Patrick(D-Vt.), the committee's chairman, said Wednesday. The committee starts next month with public hearings, Leahy said.
The deck is clear and the legislative negotiations progress, as the failed immigration law of the land limps along. This is the ripest year of the last decade in the battle to repair a system that faltered generations ago. The news event of this week alone suffice to raise hopes.
Political compromises may, however, produce less than what advocates would term "comprehensive" immigration reform. The more significant question is whether the less desirable aspects of the compromises that are being hammered out behind closed doors will be acceptable as temporary solutions.
One hopes that the coming, hoped-for legislative cures will effect relief from the contemporary pains of the system. The potential for yielding something worse always lurks.
But, for good or for ill, change in failed U.S. immigration law appears to be more likely than ever.