Tough Road Ahead for Immigration Reform in the House

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Eighty immigrants from nearly 50 countries became U.S. citizens at the New York Historical Society last Friday.

What made this naturalization ceremony different was that a large congressional delegation visiting the city was participating. For Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida it was a chance to reaffirm the party’s appreciation of immigrants.

“What a privilege it is for us, what an honor it is for us to be able to call you our fellow Americans,” Diaz-Balart said in a speech

But after the ceremony, turning to the topic of immigration reform, the Congressman said he didn’t want to commit to a timeline.

“As far as when that’s going happen, when we’re ready, when we can get the votes, when we know it’s right,” he said.

Democratic Congressman Joseph Crowley, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx, said the right time is now.

“Republicans control the House,” Crowley said. “The ball is in their court. They have an opportunity to show whether or not they can actually act in the interest of the country in the next few weeks.”

And that’s a major sticking point in this debate: who is looking out for the interests of the country. Chris Collins, who represents Western New York, told YNN, an upstate TV channel that those who entered the US illegally you should not be rewarded.

“I think a lot of us agree that path to citizenship for those adults who broke the law coming in this country is a non starter,” he said.

After the Senate passed an immigration bill with the support of all Democrats and 14 Republicans, the House leadership declared that bill deeply flawed and decided to create their own version. The thorniest issue is a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

The Republican Party is split on this issue. Some House Republicans support it, but many others, like Collins, don’t. Coming from a district in upstate NY where only 3 percent of residents are Hispanic, it’s not likely to lead to complaints from his constituents. But for others, like Michael Grimm, the calculation is different.

On a recent day, a dozen young immigration advocates, chanting in support of immigration reform, were collecting signatures at the Staten Island Whitehall Terminal. They’re hoping to influence Grimm’s vote, the lone New York City Republican in the House who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn.   

A few feet away, three men also collected signatures, urging Grimm not to support immigration reform.   

"What do you think about amnesty for 30 million illegal aliens?” one asked, stopping passers-by. “You think that’s fair? They broke the laws; they compete with you for jobs.”

Congressman Grimm recently told reporters that citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally is "the ultimate goal." His colleague, Peter King, who represents Long Island, agreed.    “We should legalize those who are here,” he said at a community meeting in his district.

King is looking at the demographic shifts in his district: 23 percent of the population is Hispanic. And the numbers of Latinos and Asians turning 18 in 2014 - the year Grimm faces re-election - is greater than the margin he won by in 2012.  

But most House Republicans, nearly 85 percent according to Nate Silver, represent districts that are 20 percent or less Hispanic. And to them Speaker John Boehner has made a promise.

“I don't see any way of bringing an immigration bill to the floor that doesn't have the support of the majority of Republicans,” Boehner said last month.

That means 118 Republicans would have to back a bill.  Getting that level of support for a path to citizenship, experts say, is all but impossible. Democrats like Luis Gutierrez, a Congressman from Illinois, consider this approach undemocratic.

“We cannot have a Congress of the United States in which a minority, 117 members of the 435, dictate whether the majority will be heard,” he said.

Gutierrez is completing a comprehensive immigration bill with three other Democrats and three Republicans, which includes a path to citizenship. They plan to introduce it in September. Gutierrez says that bill already has the necessary 218 votes to pass. All he said he needs is for Boehner to allow it to come to the floor for a full vote.


Karen Frillmann


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Comments [4]

Lynn 10308 from Staten Island

My family emigrated here legally from China and it is unfair to all of us who waited and paid our dues to come here to see those who broke the law get equal treatment. Most of the Latinos on Staten Island are Puerto Rican anyway, and giving amnesty to illegal immigrants hurts them economically just like everyone else.

Illegal immigrants should never be given a path to citizenship, just a green card.

Sep. 01 2013 02:37 AM

We DO NOT NEED anymore immigrants, especially the uneducated ones. The h1b are alright since most of them have a Master's in Engineering, as one example. Only let in those who have a Masters in STEM disciplines and no one else. WE have plenty of fat, lazy, dirty illegals here that can't feed themselves. Send them to Chile !!!!

Aug. 05 2013 01:33 PM

Wall Street began a propaganda campaign a few years ago, using liberal talking-points but distorting them to the benefit of business. Suddenly, the common mantra was that we need "comprehensive" immigration reform, that the system is "broken." Nonsense. We have an extensive system of laws which adequately and generously allow people from other countries to immigrate to the U.S. We allow more people to immigrate here every year than does any other nation in the world. The only thing "broken" about our system is that the federal government does not stop unauthorized migration from Mexico, and/or deport unauthorized migrants living and working in the U.S.

We now have reportedly 11 million unauthorized migrants in the U.S. They get work because employers always want to flood the labor market with cheap labor to drive down wages, destroy unions, eliminate benefits. They've succeeded, along with increasing U.S. unemployment. Part of the same Wall Street mantra is "would you want to pay $12 for a head of lettuce," but this is a lie. Only 4% of unauthorized migrants work in agriculture. The rest of them (until recently) worked in building trades, where jobs which previously paid $18-25/hour and were done by skilled American workers, suddenly were filled with unauthorized migrants, not entitled to work in this country, being paid $8/hour.

The net effect on our communities is as follows: (1) loss of millions more American jobs in the building trades; (2) more unemployment; (3) more Americans who lose decent paying jobs are now competing for retail jobs at $11/hour, and are unable to pay their bills; (4) the unauthorized migrants often live 20 to a home and send part of their paycheck back to Mexico; admirable, but that money is not spent in the U.S.; (5) federal government gets tax money from unauthorized migrants, but (6) local communities lose money because the cost of social services (police, fire, schools, emergency rooms) grossly exceeds the amount of taxes unauthorized migrants pay at a state or local level.

What should happen? What is needed? First, any unauthorized migrant who has lived here for at least 5 years, has no criminal record, works and supports him or herself, should be allowed to stay as a temporary lawful resident. After that, they must go through all the requirements anyone else must meet to become a citizen except that they cannot use their adjusted status or their citizenship to bring their relatives to live in the U.S. Second, anyone who has been here less than five years, or has a serious criminal record, should be deported. Third, anyone who is an unauthorized migrant and is in prison or jail should be immediately deported.

Wall Street's primary goal is to increase the number of h1b visa workers they can import to take American jobs.

Jul. 30 2013 01:27 PM
Charles Stuart from San Francisco

“Republicans control the House. The ball is in their court. They have an opportunity to show whether or not they can actually act in the interest of the country in the next few weeks.”

Let's see, we anoint 1 million new citizens per year - 1 million new citizens!! What country does that? Meanwhile, Americans are out of work, on the street, increasing seeing a lower quality of life, struggling with healthcare and college debt, and getting dismembered in Afghanistan, etc.

Do we really need 1 million new Americans per year? Is that in the best interest of the the country?

Diaz-Balart's words ring hollow.

Jul. 30 2013 10:23 AM

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