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This Week in Immigration Reform

Immigrant families, workers and supporters march to the Federal building downtown to protest the United States Department of Homeland Security I-9 audits of their employment eligibility in San Diego (REUTERS/Mike Blake).

Following the Boston Marathon bombings, questions about the Tsarnaev brothers’ immigration status dominated last week, containing serious implications for the future of reform. Some argued that reform talks should be stalled. Some questioned our refugee program and foreign student visas. Some wondered if we are doing enough to integrate young immigrants.

Last Monday the Senate Judiciary Committee held an epic hearing (23 testifiers!) on the Schumer-McCain bill. The hearing ran the gamut of immigration-related topics, but the argument between Sens. Chuck Grassley and Chuck Schumer over attempts to delay the legislation was by far the most covered discussion of the hearing. Tuesday’s rescheduled hearing with Janet Napolitano also focused on Boston, with Napolitano reiterating comprehensive immigration reform would make our country more secure.

Is there any other action to report on? On the Senate side, mark your calendars for May 9. That’s when the Schumer-McCain bill’s “markup” is set to begin. While the “Gang of Eight” senators are hopeful the bill will pass with bipartisan support, National Journal’s Michael Catalini reports on eight additional senators that might be big influencers on that vote tally.

The House of Representatives is the next place to watch for action on reform, and last week they upped their game. In an opinion piece at Fox News, Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) announced he soon release piecemeal bills, beginning with E-Verify and a “new temporary agricultural guestworker program.” This also puts Rep. Troy Gowdy, chair of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, back in the spotlight. House Democrats are feeling the pressure, and recently briefed their party on a long-in-the-works comprehensive bill. Responding to the House announcement, Sens. McCain and Schumer reinforced the need for a comprehensive package that will not leave out any components, most importantly a path to citizenship. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is also making his pro-reform stance known, teaming up with Illinois Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez at an event in Chicago last week.

In additional to Goodlatte, some other big name conservatives penned op-eds on the reform debate over the last week: Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul, and Grover Norquist.

While reform is being debated, there is also some movement related to deportations. First, as reported by the New York Times, for the first time “a federal judge in California has ordered immigration courts in three states to provide legal representation for immigrants with mental disabilities who are in detention and facing deportation, if they cannot represent themselves.” Second, according to ABC’s Ted Hesson, “The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that immigrants caught sharing small amounts of marijuana will not be subject to automatic deportation.” And third, not all news is good news.  “A court challenge by federal immigration agents seeking to block President Obama’s deferred-deportation initiative,” led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, “will probably succeed, a judge said.” The news is alarming for DACA recipients and immigration activists.  According to the Huffington Post, the threat of repeal exacerbates the need to pass reform soon.

Finally, the Washington hardy perennial of cutting or or even eliminating the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey (ACS) resurfaced. The recent efforts come from Republicans Rep. Jeff Duncan, Sen. Rand Paul, and Rep. Ted Poe. Here are past but relevant responses from by Brookings’ colleagues about the importance of the ACS and how it guides federal funding.

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