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Immigration Reform: What's Next?


A group of advocates gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol, on June 27, 2013, to pray for compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

Update, Feb. 3, 2014: House Republican leadership has released a set of immigration reform principles. As expected, they offer a step-by-step approach to legislation rather than a comprehensive bill, such as the one the Senate passed last June. Border security and internal enforcement are prioritized as the first steps in the principles, but the guiding document also includes a path toward legalization—although, unlike the Senate bill, it does not specify a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants. The principles do, however, include a possible path to citizenship for young people brought to the United States as children, provided they either join the military or graduate from college.

It is unclear when and if the principles will jump-start immigration reform legislation in the House this year. We will continue to follow developments, report them on the Bread blog, and urge members of Congress to craft legislation that explicity addresses poverty both here in the United States and abroad.

Read Bread for the World’s immigration principles, which include ensuring legal status and a path to the citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States, as well as providing development assistance to countries with high poverty rates.

Original post: In coming days, House Republican leadership will release its principles for immigration reform, making the near-term prospects for reform clearer. The principles, likely to be issued around the time of the president's Jan. 28 State of the Union address, are expected to approve granting unauthorized immigrants provisional legal status that will give them the right to live and work in the United States. Under the principles, immigrants granted provisional status will eventually be allowed to apply for a green card.

This is the first time that House Republican leaders have endorsed legal status for many of the 11-12 million people living in the United States without legal permission. These principles, along with President Obama's State of the Union address, will provide clues to how Congress will address reform in early 2014.

The House Republican principles are expected to be broad, but will nevertheless provide the foundation for additional immigration bills that Republicans both inside and outside of the House Judiciary Committee are currently crafting. While Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office is leading the drafting of the principles, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is said to be leading the drafting of a Republican version of the DREAM Act, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) is also playing a minor role.

The emerging GOP approach also presents a challenge to Democrats, who have traditionally said that anything short of citizenship is an unacceptable second-class status. Nevertheless, there have been positive reactions from Democratic congressional leaders regarding the current movement among Republicans on the issue. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) called the principles "a very important moment," adding that "part of the problem here is that the debate has been framed [as] 'Either it's citizenship for all or it's justice for no one.'"

Analysts and economic leaders also continue to present the economic case for immigration reform. This week, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will meet with Republican lawmakers. It will be his first major public policy event since his term ended on Dec. 31. The meeting will include prominent Republicans and U.S. Chamber of Commerce representatives. The Baltimore Sun recently published a Bread for the World Institute op-ed on the potential of immigrants to revitalize Rust Belt cities and regions. And last week, an event on Capitol Hill that brought together immigrant integration civic leaders from the Midwest reinforced the economic argument for immigration reform.

As Congressional leaders seek bipartisan compromise, elevating the research on the economic contributions of immigrants, including low-skill immigrants, will be key to making the case for reform.

 

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