The Outlook for Immigration Reform in the House of Representatives

Immigration reform faces a tough task in the House.
Immigration reform faces a tough task in the House.

The final immigration reform vote will take place in the Senate at the end of this week. The bill will very likely pass with virtually all of the Democrats voting for it and about a third of the Republicans. Many of us who have for worked for immigration reform over the last three decades know that while we will have many difficulties with what got into the bill, this is the best version of immigration reform that can be passed by the House of Representatives.

The significantly more conservative, Republican-controlled House of Representatives will not come up with a better version of immigration reform. So, don’t expect that the Senate bill will be rescued from its worst provisions by House Speaker John Boehner. This fact means that like it or not, reform advocates will have to push for the House bill to mirror the Senate bill as much as possible. We may get a few fixes, but we are just as likely to get new nastiness in the House version.

Central to advocacy after the Fourth of July Recess will be reaching out to Republican Congresspeople like Long Island’s Peter King and insisting that reform not be dealt with in piecemeal bits of legislation. A dozen bills on different aspects of reform will not achieve the balance the American people say they want in polls between bringing the undocumented into the mainstream of American life and securing the border. Piecemeal bills are likely to stress enforcement over welcoming. This approach will not only hurt immigrants, it will also make it impossible for the House leadership to produce legislation that has any chance of being acceptable to the Democratic leadership of the Senate.

The second thing that we need to do is press House Republicans to step on the accelerator. We are half-way through the year and the House still does not have an actual immigration reform bill in front of it. The longer this drags out, the worse the final bill will be. Time is not on our side. Congress needs to hear that we want reform and we want it now.

Give Peter King a call this week. Thank him for being open to supporting reform and make sure he knows that there are a lot of Long Islanders who want this thing to happen this year. You can call Congressman King’s office at (516) 541-4225.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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