Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), a key negotiator on immigration reform, said he and a bipartisan group of House members have been having “very quiet” conversations on immigration reform.
Becerra said the group hasn’t been public about these conversations and their efforts to move forward with immigration reform in the House. Instead, they have been meeting behind closed doors to discuss how they can work together in a bipartisan fashion to “break through the barriers that are keeping us from having a workable immigration reform.”
This comes as the “Gang of Eight” senators have been public about their efforts to introduce a bipartisan immigration reform bill by the spring.
Becerra, who is the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said the conversations in the House have been occurring “for quite some time.” Though he didn’t provide a list of House members involved in the conversations, he said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is one of the key members involved.
“I know that I and others have been hoping for a long time to get to a point where we can pass a smart, sensible bill to fix our broken immigration system,” Becerra told VOXXI. “But at this stage, I’m not saying much more than that simply because I want to see something get done, and I think it’s important that we try to do everything we can to get it done.”
The Democratic congressman added that he wouldn’t discuss any further details until House members are ready to vote to pass an immigration reform bill.
“When we—in the House—are ready to vote to pass an immigration reform bill, it will be a great time to have conversations about how we got the 218 votes that we need,” he told VOXXI. “Until then, the work is getting to 218, and anything that diverts us from that task I think is not worth exploring.”
Immigration reform: 20 years in the making
Becerra arrived in Congress in 1993 with the mindset of passing legislation that would fix the nation’s broken immigration system.
Now, 20 years later, he said the landscape for passing an immigration reform has never been as promising as it is today. There is bipartisan support and President Barack Obama has made passing an immigration reform a top priority.
“Today I see a climate far more favorable to a sensible fix of our broken immigration system than I’ve ever seen before,” he told VOXXI.
But a lot has happened in the last two decades to get to this point. From seeing numerous failed attempts to pass an immigration reform to seeing partisan legislations that would round up families and deport children, Becerra has seen it all.
“Over the years, when it comes to immigration policy, we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said, adding that there have also been several milestones in the battle for immigration reform.
Overturning of Prop. 187 seen as first milestone
In 1994, Proposition 187 was introduced in the California State Assembly, where Becerra served one term before heading to Congress, and voters approved it. That same year, former Republican California Gov. Pete Wilson made Proposition 187 a key issue in his re-election campaign.
“He posted nasty commercials on television across the state talking about how ‘they keep coming,’” Becerra said about Wilson. “He showed images of individuals crossing the freeway, running and making it look like all those who were in our country as immigrants were criminals, drug traffickers and un-American.”
Many Latinos mobilized and fought back against Proposition 187 and politicians who supported the measure. Several lawsuits were also filed in federal court against it, and a judge eventually declared it unconstitutional.
Becerra noted that California has “changed dramatically” since then. Today, Latinos in California are more involved in the political process and the state is decidedly blue. He added that with the overturning of Proposition 187, “We saw that this country and our judicial system worked even for the most disadvantaged of us.”