Freshman U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1) is one of five house Democrats trying to revive immigration reform. In June, with 14 Republicans on board, the senate passed an immigration reform bill 68-32 that would have put billions of dollars toward beefing up border security along with earned-path-to-citizenship guidelines. However, a bipartisan companion house effort fell apart when Republicans abandoned the plan last month.
Today's house bill was proposed by a new group of reps, all Democrats, including DelBene, her house judiciary committee colleagues Judy Chu (D-CA, 27) and Joe Garcia (D-FL, 26), plus Jared Polis (D-CO, 2). Perhaps most significantly, the bill was backed by Steven Horsford (D-NV, 4), a member of the house homeland security committee, which passed a Republican-approved border security plan that has been xeroxed and inserted into today's broader immigration reform bill.
The bill also includes earned-path-to citizenship provisions (a 13-year program for the 11 million undocumented immigrants to pay fines, taxes, pass background checks, and maintain employment) with fast-track provisions for children of undocumented parents ("Dreamers") and agricultural industry workers.
The bill also reforms the E-Verify program, which currently frustrates both employers and workers because it scares off job applicants, with a five-year plan to fix technical glitches that have incorrectly ID'd job applicants as illegal workers, with reform provisions to make it easier for temporary ag workers and people trying to earn citizenship to be approved for jobs.
The bill includes earned-path-to citizenship provisions with fast-track provisions for children of undocumented parents ("Dreamers") and agricultural industry workers.
The program doesn't provide the $46 billion in border security spending for drones and helicopters or the hundreds of miles of new fencing that the macho senate version included, but it does include more specific metrics and goals for actually stopping illegal border crossings.
Among them: Demanding that border agents stop 90 percent of illegal border crossings in the Southwest before forking over billions of dollars. This is the piece that passed the GOP-controlled homeland security panel.
The Washington Post has a good summary of the bill today and describes the difference between the border security provisions this way:
Thanks to a last-minute amendment, the final version of the Senate immigration bill would spend $30 billion to double the number of federal border agents, complete 700 miles of fencing, and expand radar and aerial drone surveillance along the border.
The House Democrats' bill takes a different approach, adopting a plan approved by the House Homeland Security Committee in late July. That measure would require the Department of Homeland Security to create a detailed plan leading to the apprehension of 90 percent of illegal border-crossers in high-traffic areas within 33 months and across the U.S.-Mexico border in five years. The measure doesn't specify a path toward that goal, but any plan would have to be reviewed by Congress before money started flowing.
DelBene was first elected last November over her arch-conservative opponent, Snohomish County Council member John Koster. DelBene, whose opponent Koster was hostile to undocumented workers and opposed things like the DREAM Act and a path to citizenship, said in a statement this morning:
In order to grow our economy and create jobs, we must take a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. We can’t settle for a piece-meal approach. Our system today has so many moving parts that if we just tweak policy in one narrow area, it will create unintended consequences in other areas. There is tremendous support for comprehensive immigration reform from the business community, farmers, faith leaders, law enforcement and the broader American public because of the positive impact it will have on our country and economy. I urge my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to support this bill.
This summer, after the senate passed its version, 26 house Republicans said they supported a path-to-citizenship bill. (I'm sensing a theme today, though, about house GOP leadership preventing their members from voting when they happen to side with Democrats.)
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2) was one of DelBene's Democratic colleagues who quickly signed on this morning. Larsen said:
We are a nation of immigrants. Whether we come from places like Norway, like my ancestors did, or from places like Mexico, Korea or the Philippines, we are all looking for the same thing: a good education, opportunity and work.
I’m focused on breaking down the barriers that stop people from fully participating in the economy and our democracy. Immigration reform will help us do that. I’ve met with farmers and high-tech companies and their workers who have shown me the need for visa reform. And I’ve met with members of cultural communities throughout Northwest Washington, who have told me why they and their families came to America. At the core, their message to me has been the same: we need reform that expands opportunity and grows the economy.