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The Avenue

This Week in Immigration Reform: Comprehensive Immigration Reform Roller Coaster

Nicole Prchal Svajlenka

And you thought current efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform in Congress couldn’t get any more exciting! Here’s a recap of what was a wild week in the world of reform.

Let’s start with the biggest news coming out of the Senate, where we are seeing some conservative pushback against S.744.  Early last week, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Jeff Sessions, Michael Lee, and Chuck Grassley (all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee) restated their opposition to S.744 in a letter describing the bill’s “serious flaws.”

The most notable conservative who has issues with the bill, however, is Gang of Eight member Sen. Marco Rubio. Rubio raised questions about the number of votes S.744 bill can garner and said he would not vote for the bill unless it more forcefully addressed border security. To that end, he is supporting Sen. John Cornyn’s forthcoming RESULTS amendment. Announced in the Dallas Morning News, the amendment would tie the legalization process to tougher, measurable border security improvements. Democrats are unlikely to support such a fundamental change to the bill, with Sen. Harry Reid calling Cornyn’s proposal a “poison pill.” The Obama administration has also spoken up against any amendment that “undercuts or eliminates a pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants. 

Amendment attention is focused on border security, and, in addition to Sen. Cornyn’s proposal, Sen. Rand Paul is also proposing an amendment that would require Congress to vote the border is secure every five years. Politico reports on potential amendments addressing gun control and gay rights. Roll Call has the details of the four amendments Sen. Orrin Hatch plans to offer (and expects to pass before he votes in support).

The Schumer-McCain bill hit the Senate floor on Friday, with Sens. Jeff Sessions and Michael Lee leading the charge to take down the bill. AILA compiled a helpful fact sheet on what to expect from the legislative process over the next few weeks.

On the House side, Sens. Rubio, Paul, and Lee met with House Republicans to discuss immigration-related issues. However, the issue of citizenship for undocumented immigrants remains a deal breaker for many.  Wednesday evening Rep. Raul Labrador announced he was leaving the House’s Gang of Eight over healthcare and would move forward to write his own immigration-related bill. This gives Labrador significant power in the reform debate but makes some question whether Republicans are committed to passing reform. The House group will continue in Labrador’s absence. (Need a refresher on how healthcare figures into the current debate? Check out the AP’s coverage here.)

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Last week, the House approved a Rep. Steve King sponsored amendment to the DHS spending bill that would defund Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and prosecutorial discretion. 

While the bill will likely not be signed and is not directly related to current immigration reform legislation, the near party line vote speaks to the difficultly a legalization program will face in the House. 

Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s House Judiciary Committee released its fourth immigration-related bill on Thursday, covering enforcement.

While the potential for current reform efforts looked dismal last week, there were a few bright spots—Sen. Kelly Ayotte announced she would vote for S.744 and Sen. Dean Heller penned a column in the Las Vegas Review-Journal in support of the bill. And in the House, Speaker John Boehner is laying the procedural foundation to address immigration bills in the future.

Lastly, some notable state and local developments:

  • Joe Arpaio, the sheriff for metropolitan Phoenix, has temporarily suspended all his immigration efforts after a federal judge concluded two weeks ago that the sheriff’s office had racially profiled Latinos in its patrols”
  • “Risking a Hispanic backlash in favor of his conservative base, Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday rebuked President Obama’s immigration policy by vetoing a bill intended to help children of illegal immigrants get driver’s licenses.”