Velazquez, Menendez and Gutierrez on Immigration Reform
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s promise to add the DREAM Act to the defense authorization bill is good news for immigration reform advocates, but some lawmakers are pressing for more work to be done on immigration issues. Today Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), along with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), said she will not stop until Congress passes additional reform of the immigration system.
“Don’t all immigrants deserve the respect and relief that the Dreamers will get?” Velazquez, chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said. “Definitely. And we won’t stop until we get comprehensive immigration reform.”
At a pro-reform meeting today, Menendez announced he will unveil a comprehensive reform bill, which the lawmakers said they hope to pass as soon as possible. (Prospects for passing a bill, of course, remain bleak, particularly with the current anti-immigrant fervor.) The three politicians said they will meet with President Obama tomorrow to discuss immigration issues.
“We need the president to speak loudly that when Bob Menendez introduces that bill, he will stand behind that bill,” Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said he plans to ask Obama to freeze non-criminal deportations — particularly of parents of U.S. citizen children — until comprehensive immigration reform passes. This could provide security from deportation for a large number of illegal immigrants: There are 4 billion U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants, according to the latest estimates.
The DREAM act, which should go up for a vote as part of the defense bill next week, is “a step in the right direction,” Velazquez said. First, though, it needs to pass. “We need Republicans to stand up and say ‘yes’ to the DREAM Act next week and allow a vote,” Gutierrez said.
Advocates of comprehensive immigration reform were once wary of supporting the DREAM Act as a standalone measure because it could scare off future votes for comprehensive immigration reform. Mary Giovagnoli, director of Immigration Policy Center, told TWI recently that it is no longer clear how the DREAM Act’s passage would impact comprehensive reform efforts.
“We don’t have a good measure anymore of what will happen once we get something discreet like the DREAM Act passed,” she said. “But when the sky doesn’t fall in and if people still get re-elected after supporting DREAM, it may show members of Congress that leaning into the immigration issue and voting for comprehensive immigration reform could help them politically.”