CHN: House Democrats Introduce Immigration Bill
On October 2, House Democratic leaders introduced a bill To Provide for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and for Other Purposes (H.R. 15). Lead sponsor Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL) and the 120 co-sponsors hope that the bill will help build momentum for a bipartisan effort in the House to enact comprehensive immigration reform this fall.
H.R. 15 combines two bipartisan measures – the Senate-passed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) and the House Homeland Security’s Border Security Results Act of 2013 (H.R. 1417). It incorporates most of the provisions in S. 744 including the 13-year path to citizenship, but replaces the Hoeven/Corker amendment on border security with H.R. 1471. The amendment sponsored by Senators Corker (R-TN) and Hoeven (R-ND), the so-called ‘border surge,’ calls for 20,000 more border agents, hundreds of miles of additional fencing, and more surveillance equipment at a cost of $46 billion. (For more details on the Senate bill see July Human Needs Report.) H.R. 1417 does not set a price nor mandate a number for security hires or miles of fence. Rather, it instructs the Department of Homeland Security to write a plan that Congress would approve that ensures apprehension of 90 percent of undocumented border crossers using existing methods including cameras, radar and unmanned drones within 5 years.
Thus far the House has taken a piece-meal approach to immigration reform, passing 5 smaller bills in committees. Advocates favor a comprehensive approach and they understand how difficult it would be to pass a bill if the House waits until next year when elections are on the horizon. They also understand that both the comprehensive Senate bill (S. 744) and the Democratic House bill (H.R. 15) are far from perfect. The path to citizenship is long, immigrants would not have access to the Affordable Care Act for at least a decade, and they are denied access to basic government assistance programs including nutrition and student aid. Advocates will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to pass comprehensive immigration reform and strengthen provisions that make citizenship possible for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country.