On June 27 of last year, the Senate approved comprehensive legislation which would have given many of the nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States to obtain a documented status. The same legislation was supposed to bolster border security and simultaneously ensure that employers verified the citizenship status of their employees. Although this proposal originally seemed like a win-win option for both Democrats and Republicans, it stalled in the House of Representatives because the majority part wanted to take a piecemeal approach to debate comprehensive immigration reform. Additionally, members of the Republican party in the House could not come to an agreement on a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country.
Jessica Dominguez, an immigration lawyer based out of California, has a theory on why both sides seemed to find fault with the plan.
“We need more policies that protect immigrants who are vulnerable to abuse or fraud and we need a more humane approach that keeps families together,” said Dominguez. “This legislation would improve border security funding, create additional visas for immigrants, and change the criteria on how to qualify for visas. It would also establish a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that are currently in the country. It would be a lengthy pathway, which could take up to 13 years. Unfortunately this legislation came to a dead end at the House and families continue being separated due to deportations that are being carried out on a daily basis.”
The Senate passed the 1,200 page immigration reform bill with a 68-32 vote, yet nearly a year has passed and the Republican-controlled House is still stalling on bringing the bill through the next round of voting. Jessica Dominguez blames much of the “dead end” on partisan politics within the House.
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“The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has actually come out in support of immigration reform, but he refuses to bring it to a vote primarily because he’s afraid how that will look to hardline Republican voters,” Dominguez continued. “This is the same reason that many Republican legislators won’t take a stand on the issue. They fear appearing soft to fringe groups of conservative voters and the mere act of considering a rather mild immigration reform bill could hurt their standing with these groups.”
On April 24 of this year, Boehner mocked his Republican colleagues’ unwillingness to move on immigration reform while speaking in his hometown. He said he didn’t know if they would get to it this year, but he thinks they should and that they “got elected to make choices.”
"Here's the attitude: 'Ohhhh. Don't make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,'" the Speaker said of his fellow GOP members’ attitude towards the legislation.
While the national government is stalling on immigration reform cities and counties are taking on immigration. Politico reported that certain cities and counties are no longer holding immigrants in jail who are suspected of being documented, but would otherwise be released from jail. Officials in Philadelphia, Baltimore and counties across Oregon, Colorado, and Washington have adopted this policy.
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As for the national solution to immigration reform? Well, anything can happen – particularly given how quickly America’s demographics are changing. While advocates like immigration lawyer Jessica Dominguez are eager to see new legislation passed, the outcome appears precarious. When you take into account the fact that outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s recent primary defeat has been attributed in part, but not entirely, to his stance on the issue, and given that immigration is not on the House Republican Caucus’ spring legislative agenda, the prospects of immigrants seeing a solution to this problem in the foreseeable future remain uncertain.