The immigration reform legislation that was put together by the so-called “Gang of Eight” is receiving wide support after new details of the bill were released Tuesday and the bill was introduced very early on Wednesday.
President Barack Obama gave the bill his stamp of approval during a meeting Tuesday with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), two members of the bipartisan group. He also praised the senators for their work in crafting the legislation.
“This bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me,” Obama said in a statement. “But it is largely consistent with the principles that I have repeatedly laid out for comprehensive reform.”
The president also touted some of the legislation’s provisions, including one that would give provisional legal status to about 11 million undocumented immigrants and ultimately put them on a pathway to citizenship once certain border security benchmarks are reached. The bill would also increase the number of H-1B visas for high-skilled workers, create the “W-Visa” program for low-skilled workers, implement a national employer-verification system, among other provisions.
Debate over the bill will begin at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Friday. Another hearing is scheduled on Monday.
Latinos, advocates widely approve the bill
The immigration reform bill is also receiving wide support from Latinos and immigrant rights advocates.
“Overall, the bill is a compromise and as in every compromise there are things we like and things we don’t like,” Maribel Hastings, senior advisor with America’s Voice, told VOXXI. “But we think it’s a good starting point that places the issue on the table and opens the possibility to reform our dysfunctional immigration system once and for all.”
Hastings said her group is “very pleased” to see that the bill offers undocumented immigrants a chance to become U.S. citizens. She said America’s Voice will closely monitor the bill to ensure the path to citizenship is “as wide, inclusive and direct as possible and that the requirements don’t thwart the process.”
Additionally, she said her group is concerned about the elimination of several family visa categories, such as one that currently allows legal immigrants to petition for their siblings.
Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said the bipartisan immigration reform plan is “a strong start for the immigration debate this year.” Noorani also applauded the “Gang of Eight” for its work on what he called the “much-needed reform of our immigration laws.”
“We urge Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and in the House to support fair and practical immigration solutions that include an earned path to citizenship for immigrants who are currently living here, contributing to the progress and well-being of our communities,” he added.
Immigration reform supporters are hopeful
If Congress approves the immigration reform bill, it will be the first of its kind in nearly 30 years. Many immigration reform supporters say they are hopeful that will happen.
Laura Vazquez, a legislative analyst at National Council of La Raza (NCLR), said her group is “very optimistic” about the bill passing in Congress this year. She said that based on the first details that had been released of the bill’s text, the legislation would provide “a balanced solution” to the nation’s broken immigration system.
“We really see the introduction of this bill as a very significant breakthrough in the debate over immigration,” she told VOXXI.
Vazquez said her group is especially pleased to see that a roadmap to legal status and eventual U.S. citizenship is at the center of the legislation. She described the roadmap as “an important piece” to solving the immigration issue.
Also optimistic about the bill’s passage is Jose Penalosa, an immigration attorney from Arizona. He said he is “100 percent” confident that the bill will pass for two reasons: Many Republicans recognize they need to support immigration reform to stay competitive and Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the “Gang of Eight,” could benefit from the bill’s passage if he runs for president in the future.
Penalosa attended a town hall meeting held in Phoenix last month where McCain told immigration reform advocates that there could be some provisions of the bill they wouldn’t like.
“I took that to heart,” Penalosa said of McCain’s remarks. “I look at the bill now, and I think that as a compromise bill and as a starting point, it is very assuring to both sides of the aisle in terms of reform and security.”
The Hispanic Leadership Network was also pleased with this starting point.
“We must protect America’s legacy as a nation of immigrants and as a nation of laws,” said the organization’s executive director, Jennifer S. Korn, in a statement. ”The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is a strong conservative start to the immigration reform process.”
The House’s ‘Gang of Eight’ is optimistic
The House of Representatives has its own bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” comprised of Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), John Carter (R-Texas), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Sam Johnson (R-Texas), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.). They have been working much more quietly on their own immigration reform package. The House eight put out a statement, applauding the senators’ efforts and saying they are confident they will all agree on a plan.
“We believe we will soon agree on a reasonable, common-sense plan to finally secure our borders and strengthen our economy, with a tough but fair process that respects the rule of law so immigrants can contribute to our country,” read the joint statement from the representatives. “While we have made substantial progress, we continue to work diligently towards a bill that keeps America strong, competitive and true to our values.”
Dreamers react to immigration reform bill with a bit of disapproval
United We Dream Network stated Tuesday that Dreamers are content with a provision in the immigration reform bill that would allow undocumented youth to apply for green cards in five years. They called the provision “a major victory for the movement.”
However, they disapprove of other provisions. The main one is the path to citizenship for the families of Dreamers, which they argue is “too long.”
“The DREAM provision of this bill represents the power our movement has built and is a landmark achievement… but we will not accept anything that would make the path to citizenship for anyone contingent on unattainable, unnecessary border security metrics,” said Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy and policy with UWD.
Members of UWD also disapprove of the bill’s border security provisions, saying they aren’t necessary because the border is already secure. Furthermore, they are disappointed that the bill is not inclusive of LGBTQ immigrants. They want the bill to include a provision allowing U.S. citizen or permanent legal residents to petition for their spouse regardless of gender.
“We will continue to fight for a shorter, more direct path, and the inclusion of LGBTQ people and parents who’ve been separated from their children by our broken immigration system,” UWD said in a statement.