The Avenue

This Week in Immigration Reform

Nicole Prchal Svajlenka

It’s crunch time for immigration reform. Congress is back in session, with Syria and the debt ceiling commanding nearly all attention. Immigration reform by way of the House Judiciary Committee’s piecemeal bills is still part of the fall 2013 legislative agenda, according to a memo to House Republicans from Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

While reform is still on the docket, the timing looks worse than ever. In an interview on Univision’s Al Punto, Rep. Raul Labrador sounded grim on reform’s prospects this fall. He said, “I think that if we don’t do it now, in 2013, it’s not going to be—it’s not going to happen in 2014. And that means that we’re going to have to wait until 2015.”

Proponents of immigration reform still don’t buy it, claiming “a failure of leadership by House Republicans” is the only way immigration reform will sink. The pressure facing Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is well documented—on one hand, he has Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul tying a House vote on the Senate immigration bill to the loss of his leadership role and on the other he has rising party stars like Rep. Paul Ryan remaining steadfast in support for reform with a path to citizenship.

Timing is not the only problem with immigration reform in the House. The Gang of Seven is wrestling still with policy issues at the heart of their comprehensive reform bill, including border security, a pathway to citizenship, and checks on the executive branch. Rep. Xavier Becerra is trying to frame immigration reform as part of a solution to the impending debt crisis.

Pro-reform Alliance for Citizenship quantified their August campaign, tallying “1,200 events and actions held in 41 states, more than 80,000 contacts made to Congress, and 600 press hits over the last five weeks.” In addition the Alliance “[delivered] on Wednesday 600,000 signatures to House Speaker John Boehner’s Ohio office, calling for a path to citizenship.”

Advocates are gearing up for an October even bigger than August. The New York Times highlights some of the activities being planned for the month, including “rallies in at least 40 cities on Oct. 5 followed by a march and rally in Washington on Oct. 8.” Some activists are even hoping to see a Deferred Action-type program expanded to a broader group of unauthorized immigrants, protecting them from deportation, if reform fails.

Without definitive action, things continue to percolate on their own. Last week, issues of farm workers were forefront, with conversations about guest worker programs and how to protect farmers and workers from ICE audits. E-Verify was at the center of a battle between North Carolina’s Republican governor and state legislators, and Hazelton, PA Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi wants to bring his city’s efforts to restrict housing for unauthorized immigrants to the Supreme Court.

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