As I alerted my readers in my January blog, broad immigration reform is becoming a distinct possibility at last. Last week a working group of Senators from both parties partially agreed on broad principles for overhauling the nation’s immigration laws, representing the most substantive bipartisan effort toward major legislation in years.
The move would amount to the first step toward comprehensive immigration reform after fierce Republican opposition on the issue in Obama’s first term. The new effort was spurred in large part by the growing influence of Latino voters who strongly backed President Obama and other Democrats in November.
Immigration Reform a Top Priority for President Obama
Obama has also called immigration reform one of his top legislative priorities and is launching his own public campaign on the issue next week. But many conservatives, particularly within the Republican Party, remain opposed to laws that would make it easier for undocumented immigrants to stay in the country legally.
Yet, the senators are expected to endorse normalizing the status of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, including allowing those with otherwise clean criminal records to obtain legal work permits, officials said. The group is also likely to call for stricter border controls and a better system for employers to verify the immigration status of workers and they are not clear what mechanism undocumented immigrants could use to pursue full citizenship.
“We have basic agreement on many of the core principles,” Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), a member of the group, said last week. “Now we have to draft it. It takes time.”
Other senators involved in the talks are Democrats Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Republicans Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.).
Two others, Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), have also been involved in some of the discussions.
Most In-depth Immigration Talks Since 2010
Congressional aides stress that a final agreement has not yet been reached. But, the negotiations mark the most in-depth immigration talks involving members of both parties since a similar attempt broke down in 2010 without producing a bill.
McCain, who spearheaded an earlier failed effort in 2007, said Republican attitudes have dramatically shifted since the party’s losses at the polls in November. Obama won more than 70 percent of the vote among Latinos and Asians, and a growing number of GOP leaders believe that action on immigration is necessary to expand the party’s appeal to minority groups.
“Obviously, it’s had a very distinct impression,” said McCain, who lost his own bid for the White House in 2008. “It’s time to move forward on this.”
But, he added, “I don’t claim that it’s going to be easy.”
The accelerated pace signals that immigration reform is expected to be one of Congress’s highest priorities, as it is in the White House.
For advocates of fair and humane changes in our immigration laws you may want to check out the recently published four-page framework for immigration reform, with an emphasis on protecting civil liberties, put forward by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). You can find it at: http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/aclu_statement_on_immigration_reform_final-lgbt_added.pdf.
Let’s all work together for immigration reform in 2013. We ALL need it!
Daniel E. Chavez is an immigration attorney, located in Petaluma CA. Contact our San Francisco Bay Area immigration lawyer online or call 707-775-4531 for a confidential consultation. We are available to meet with you weekdays, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and evenings and weekends upon request. Our office is located in historic downtown Petaluma