Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year’s Message of Hope for Immigration Reform By Rev. Samuel Rodriguez and Robert Gittelson, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

A New Year’s Message of Hope for Immigration Reform By Rev. Samuel Rodriguez and Robert Gittelson, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Together, we are writing this New Year’s Message of Hope regarding the possible passage of immigration reform legislation in the upcoming New Year. Because we are, by nature, optimists, many of the messages that we have been writing for years have speculated that the upcoming year would probably bring reform. This year is no exception. However, we must admit that we are more optimistic than we have ever been that next year will be the year.

True, immigration reform advocates are currently quite frustrated that immigration reform did not reach the President’s desk in 2013. We share in that frustration. And yet, we look at this issue as the glass being half full. 2013 brought us passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate. That was no small achievement. Furthermore, we are convinced that the House is poised to move on this issue. The stars are about to align.

The other day, we were having a meeting with one of the Republican members of House Leadership. As our discussion turned to immigration - and because he understood that we have been meeting with many House Republicans about this issue - he asked us how many of his members are for immigration reform? He wanted an outside opinion. We told him what we are quite certain is the truth. We told him that if the House voted on the type of legislation that has been envisioned and articulated by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, that he would have a majority of the majority that would vote for the bills.

It is important to note the specific distinction that we explained to him. The Goodlatte plan would offer the undocumented a pathway to legalization, and the opportunity to pursue citizenship through our previously established legal channels, but would differ from the Senate plan, in that it would not offer a specific and separate pathway to citizenship.

Is that a difference without a distinction? No. The Goodlatte plan, while not yet introduced by any Republican member, envisions an opportunity for many, perhaps even a majority of the undocumented to eventually attain citizenship. However, and by his own admission, this new plan would not necessarily cover all of the undocumented population. His plan would be meant to thread the difficult needle that represents the dividing line between “amnesty,” and the “Rule of Law.”

We note that Congressman Steve Stockman, one of the few House Republicans opposed to any type of change to immigration law, recently tried to put together a coalition to sign a letter addressed to Speaker Boehner arguing against any type of immigration reform. Our understanding is that he was only able to receive 18 signatures for his letter. Another prominent Republican Committee Chairman involved with the debate over immigration reform recently speculated to us that perhaps as many as 60, but at the most 80 Republicans would oppose the type of immigration reform as proposed by Chairman Goodlatte. While that is a lot of no votes, it is certainly well short of a majority of the majority – the imaginary dividing line as specified by the “Hastert” rule preferred by Speaker Boehner to pass immigration reform.

The recent Budget agreement that passed both the House and the Senate has many of the progressive immigration reform advocates speculating that Congress might now be willing to come together in a Kumbaya moment to start to pass the President’s Agenda. They couldn’t be more wrong. There are any number of issues that House Republicans can and will unite behind that will stand in stark disagreement with President Obama’s Agenda for this Congress. Republicans are almost universally united against Obamacare, the President’s Climate Change and Energy Agenda’s, and the President’s new willingness to stand down on sanctions against Iran. The fact that the President just hired Washington insider John Podesta in an effort to shore up his Energy and Climate Change legislative strategies will mean that the House will certainly have its work cut out for itself opposing the parts of the President’s agenda that they disagree with, well into next year.

So where does that leave immigration reform? In our opinion, immigration reform is in pretty good shape. It is one of the few issues in which common ground actually does, in fact, exist. I would caution my fellow immigration advocates, (first the advocates on our side – the right – but particularly our progressive friends on the opposite side of the aisle), to continue to work on this issue diligently, but agreeably. Actions that “demand” immediate immigration reform, or seek to shut down offices occupied by Republican members, does not create an affable or affirmative work environment. In fact, it gets otherwise agreeable members to back away in their willingness to proceed on this issue. We know this, because we have heard it directly from the members, and have seen how these tactics affected members on this issue going back to 2010.

We now have an opportunity to have both sides of the aisle, and both Houses in Congress, work together to forge an immigration solution that can work effectively for years, even decades to come. We would say that to date, the House has bipartisan agreement on well over 90% of the issues surrounding the discussion about the most effective, fair, and moral ways in which our Nation can solve this crisis. Therefore, we urge all Americans, regardless of political ideology, to work together to solve this complex but resolvable problem. We believe that a bipartisan solution is at hand. We should hold our elected officials accountable to work together to get this issue fixed, once and for all. Our national security demands it. Our economy depends on it. Our faith compels it. Finally, we cannot forget that there are multi-millions of families praying for the opportunity to live in dignity, in safety, and for the ability to emerge out of the shadows of society, and to pursue their own American dreams.

 

By        Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

             Robert Gittelson, Vice President for Governmental Affairs, National Hispanic Christian               Leadership Conference

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2013/12/a-new-years-message-of-hope-for-immigration-reform.html

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