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This Week in Immigration Reform: A Bill Drops in a Frenetic Week

The Arizona-Mexico border fence near Naco, Arizona, March 29, 2013 (REUTERS/Samantha Sais).

What a week.  Over the last seven days this nation experienced the Boston Marathon bombings and ensuing manhunt, the West, Tex. fertilizer plant explosion, and the failure of gun control in the Senate.  Intertwined in all of these, the Senate “Gang of Eight” released their immigration reform bill, “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013”.  Here is a rundown of what’s happened.

On April 15, the Gang of Eight and the immigration policy community were prepping for the legislation’s introduction.  An opinion piece by Sens. John McCain and Chuck Schumer in the Wall Street Journal positioned their comprehensive bill as a true compromise that would fix our broken immigration system.  However, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, the senators delayed its release.

To whet the appetite of interested parties, the Senators released a 19-page outline of the then-forthcoming legislation on Tuesday.  Though the bill is available to the public, this summary is still a good entry point before jumping into the legislation. 

On Wednesday, Sen. Schumer introduced the group’s bill (S. 744), which has come to be known as the Schumer-McCain bill.  The 844-page immigration bill is still being digested by the Senate and immigrant communities alike.  The eight Senators held a press conference Thursday to officially announce the bill, presenting a united front and explaining key components.  

Over the week, these are the helpful articles explaining the bill I’ve gone back to explaining the bill:

  • Wonkblog’s Q&A summary and the Post Politics crew’s “Inside the Immigration Bill” posts
  • The New York Times highlights some of the bill’s hidden gems
  • ABC News’ explanation of merit-based visas
  • The Immigration Policy Center, taking a fresh approach to social media launched Think Immigration, a policy wiki that explains the bill’s provisions and facilitates discussion
  • You might also want to check out my colleague’s reactions: Audrey Singer’s initial response to the bill and Jill Wilson and Neil Ruiz’s discussion of the changes to the H-1B program

What have the reactions been like?  Start at NBC Politics, where Carrie Dann catalogued the reactions of major players in the debate.  Supporters of immigration reform like Center for American Progress’ Angela Kelley want to see a quicker path to citizenship and decoupling of such from border security metrics.  Opponents of immigration reform are also making their voices heard and gearing up for a fight.  With his Tea Party roots, many conservative Republicans are heading to Sen. Marco Rubio with their questions and complaints.  Last week, Rubio’s office set up an “Immigration Reform Facts” website, complete with a “Myth-busting” section and met with Heritage Foundation representatives about the economic benefits of immigration reform.

Two issues from the week directly reflected challenges to the immigration debate moving forward—the failed gun control effort and the immigration status of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.  On the gun control front, the Post’s Chris Cillizza makes the argument that voting for both background checks and immigration reform could cost too much political capital for vulnerable politicians—maybe a good sign for immigration. 

In Friday’s first Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill, Sen. Chuck Grassley angled for the brothers’ immigration status to delay the legalization component of reform.  On Sunday Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer rebuffed that idea, arguing reform would strengthen our immigration system.  The Council on Foreign Relations’ Edward Alden offers a nuanced take that is worth a read.

The next big piece of the puzzle will be the on the House—how will members react and when will we see their comparable legislation?  Stay tuned—with House Judiciary Chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte already voicing his displeasure it is bound to be a bumpy ride.

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