By Leslie Wollack
Immigration at Congressional City Conference
NLC conference attendees will have several opportunities to hear about the issue and understand its importance to cities at the upcoming Congressional City Conference next month. With discussion before two NLC Policy and Advocacy Committees, a federal agency round robin, general session speakers and a concurrent plenary moderated by NLC President Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers and featuring Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, immigration issues will be front and center for conference participants.
A federal agencies round robin on Monday, March 11 from 2:00 - 3:30 PM, will allow attendees to meet with officials representing multiple agencies in small groups to discuss programs crucial to cities. Included in that group will be representatives of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who can speak to immigration issues. Additionally, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) staff will speak to the Public Safety and Human Development Policy and Advocacy Committees on Sunday, March 10.
The Concurrent Plenary, on Tuesday, March 12 from 8:30 - 10:00 AM will be one of three sessions focusing on the three top NLC priority issues identified by NLC's Board of Directors in January. A panel featuring Secretary Napolitano and Mayor Rogers will focus on the impact that the current broken system has on city leaders, how immigration can be a powerful tool for innovation and economic growth, the public safety concerns for local law enforcement that diverts scarce public resources to enforcing federal law, and the need for resources to local governments to absorb the new responsibilities of integrating immigrants into communities.
Immigration Moves Forward in Senate
At the first Senate hearing on comprehensive reform of the new Congress, the battle lines between those seeking enforcement of current laws and those seeking an overhaul of the current system were clear, highlighting the challenges ahead.
Following the speech by President Obama in Las Vegas, the President's remarks in his State of the Union address and the bipartisan proposal released by the Senate "Gang of Eight," the hearing represented the first step in the long fight to put together a bill that could be approved by both the House and Senate and be signed by the President.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano testified that US borders have "never been stronger," and rejected extensive criticism from committee members that Congress needed to adopt legislation strengthening the borders before enacting comprehensive reform.
Napolitano noted the progress that has been made by doubling the number of Border Patrol agents and the drop in border apprehensions, but warned that the bigger danger was the failure to find a solution to the 11 million undocumented immigrations.
Legalization of existing, law-abiding undocumented immigrants would free DHS to devote its full resources to tracking and removing known criminals and drug smugglers, Napolitano testified.
The hearing also featured a brief statement by Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist who revealed his undocumented status in 2011. Vargas testified about the need for a "path to citizenship so we can actively participate in our American democracy."
Vargas asked the committee to find a solution to the many undocumented immigrants in this country. "Immigration is about our future," he said and asked on behalf of others in his situation, "for the 11 million of us, what do you want to do with us?"
Details: NLC's Congressional City Conference in Washington this March will offer the opportunity to hear more about immigration, and help ensure that Congress hears NLC's message in support of comprehensive immigration reform that will help local economies and create safer local communities. For additional information click here.