Immigration Reform: Tough Road Ahead, Say U.S. Lawmakers

by Joseph G. Lariosa

 

CHICAGO – Lawmakers from Chicago believe it is still a “50-50” chance to have the comprehensive immigration reform that would legalize 11 million undocumented immigrants pass U.S. Congress.  They are urging the American people to call their senators and congressmen to support passage of a law that would “fix and change” the broken immigration system.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL-4th) discussed this pressing issue at a press conference Feb. 4 held at the Instituto del Progressso Latino in the South Side of Chicago.

Durbin, Assistant Majority Leader of the Senate, said: “A word of caution. We are facing very tough issues. … This is not a done deal. But we are trying to get this done in a matter of weeks. We have a better chance this time. And I give passage of this bill a 50-50 chance.”

Gutierrez, a member of the House Committee on Judiciary as do Durbin in the Senate, agreed with his but he believes this is going to get through. He said the new immigration bill would clear the backlog of applicants for legal residency based on family preference who have been waiting for more than 20 years.

“On Nov. 6, this bill was what the American people voted for. The Democrats want this and the Republicans need this. And Congress should pass this bill,” said Gutierrez.

Durbin added that if this bill will not pass, it would be  “heartbreak for millions, who are living in this country, whose dreams are to give their children a better life.  It will not speak well for our political system that when we have a serious problem, we cannot fix it.  It was 25 years ago that we had the last serious conversation about this problem.”

NO PREFERENCE FOR 11 MILLION UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS

The lawmakers also emphasized there will be no preference for 11 million undocumented immigrants but said: “We will hasten family reunification.  For a brother in the Philippines, a mother in Mexico and a wife n Ireland, we will speed up the process that they come in for as long (1) American workers and those born in this country get the first crack t a job in the U.S.; and (2) before any undocumented gets permanent residence, we must clear the backlog and we are not going to wait for 20 years and clear the backlog quicker.”

When asked by this reporter if they are willing to revive a previous proposal of retired Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) to include in the new comprehensive immigration bill the “grant of special immigration status to children of Filipino World War II veterans to promote family reunification,” both Senator Durbin and Rep. Gutierrez agreed.

In 2006, Senator Akaka introduced Amendment No. 4029 to the Senate Comprehensive bill, S. 2611, adding Sec. 509, that would amend Sec. 201(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act that that would allow children of Filipino World War II veterans to obtain lawful permanent resident status (green card) without waiting for visa availability of Family-Based First Preference (unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens) or of Family-Based Third Preference (married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens). But S. 2611 died in the Senate.

Former Hawaii Congressman Ed Case similarly introduced a counterpart bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 901, giving special immigrant status for children of Filipino World War II veterans for family reunification. But the proposal did not get off the ground.

A meeting of Durbin and Rep. Gutierrez preceded the press conference with leaders of community groups from the business, labor, education and faith to discuss the comprehensive immigration reform framework Durbin and seven other senators unveiled last week.

Once immigration legislation is drafted, it will move to the Senate Judiciary Committee for hearing and debate. When the legislation is reported out of committee, it will, then, move to the Senate floor for debate and a vote. Should it pass, the bill would then move to the House of Representatives for consideration. It will await the signature of President Barack Obama, who is urging Congress to pass the bill as soon as possible.

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PHOTO CAPTION AND CREDIT

TOUGH ROAD AHEAD:  U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Il) says the U.S. Congress with the help of President Barack Obama will try to pass this year a “tough but fair” comprehensive reform bill that would help fix and change a badly broken system.  To. Sen. Durbin’s left is U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Il-4th) (JGLiink photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

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