Comprehensive Immigration Reform Moves Forward After Introduction of White House and Senate Proposals

February 4, 2013

By Leslie Wollack

Comprehensive immigration reform took a giant step forward last week with the introduction of bipartisan framework released in the Senate and an immigration reform proposal released by President Obama in Las Vegas. Both proposals closely match NLC's comprehensive immigration reform policy and NLC applauds these important first moves in what is expected to be a lengthy and difficult process.

President Obama, in Las Vegas, offered a four part proposal similar to the Senate bipartisan proposal. NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers, mayor, Avondale, AZ, who attended the event said, "It was an honor and privilege to hear the President's important words today on immigration. NLC fully supports the President's leadership on this issue and will work in tandem with the Administration to support bold action in pursuing comprehensive immigration reform in the coming weeks and months," said Mayor Rogers.

"As the granddaughter of immigrants, this is a deeply personal issue for me. And as a Mayor, after witnessing for so many years how immigration touches the lives of our residents, the issue has become even more personal and the need for action more urgent. "

"City leaders throughout the U.S. witness the tragedies brought every day by a fragmented, divisive system: families torn apart, forced to live underground and unable to receive the basic care and services they need. The current policies are broken and together we must find a way to change our system in a fair, reasonable and inclusive manner," Rogers said.

Senate Immigration Framework

On Thursday, Jan. 28, a bipartisan group of Senators offered a brief framework for comprehensive immigration reform. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) also announced that the committee would hold a February 13 hearing on immigration reform, an important step in bringing legislation to the full Senate. The Senators estimated that their plan would be introduced in March and receive Senate consideration over the summer. 

The bipartisan group includes: Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Charles Schumer (D-NY).

The proposed Senate framework (found here: http://durbin.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=c28d0c8f-01c1-4e3b-bbe7-86a4abb56674) includes: establishing a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, reforming legal immigration, developing an effective employment verification system, and improving the process for admitting future workers. The plan is similar to legislation developed and passed in the Senate under President George W. Bush. The Senate framework helps lay the groundwork for the real work on this controversial issue as Senators try to agree on actual legislative language.

President's Proposal

On Tuesday, January 29, President Obama traveled to Las Vegas to present his immigration reform proposal. The proposal has four parts: criminal enforcement, employment enforcement, a path to earned citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, and a streamlined system for legal immigration of families, workers, and employers. Enforcement provisions include cracking down on transnational crime, passport fraud and human smuggling. Employment provisions include an employment verification system, combating identity theft, and the creation of new visas for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates and entrepreneurs. The path to legalization includes provisional status, background checks, fees and penalties, and a requirement to learn English and civics. The proposal also promotes efforts to integrate immigrants into their new American communities linguistically, civically, and economically, but does not mention assistance to state and local governments to cover the costs for these efforts.  For more informationon the the White House proposal click here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/01/29/fact-sheet-fixing-our-broken-immigration-system-so-everyone-plays-rules

Immigration in the House of Representatives

While no specific proposal has been introduced in the House, the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, (R-Va.) will hold a hearing on February 5, entitled "America's Immigration System: Opportunities for Legal Immigration and Enforcement of Laws against Illegal Immigration." A bipartisan group in the House has been working on their own proposal and plan to release it in the next few weeks.
NLC's Immigration Policy

NLC's Immigration Policy

In her statement on the President's speech, NLC President Rogers reaffirmed NLC's commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, applauded the bipartisan efforts of Congress and called on city leaders to take action at home and with their elected officials in Washington to adopt this critical legislation.

"NLC believes a comprehensive solution must include eliminating illegal border entry, increasing enforcement of visa overstays, strengthening the worksite enforcement capacity, supporting a process to allow undocumented immigrants currently living in the US to earn legalized status and providing local governments with financial and technical assistance to alleviate the local impact of new immigrants."

For the full text of our National Municipal Policy on immigration, please visit: http://www.nlc.org/Documents/Influence%20Federal%20Policy/nlc-immigration-resolution.pdf.