Immigration Bill Update

Latino Leaders Welcome Senate Immigration Reform Bill

New York, NY – On April 17, 2013, the Hispanic Federation and its vast network of community-based organizations welcomed the introduction of a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill in the U.S. Senate. If enacted, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act would be the most complete overhaul of our nation’s immigration system in a generation. The legislation was authored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), John McCain (R-AZ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

If enacted, the bill would create a 13 year roadmap to citizenship for people who have been here for years, working and raising families. While the pathway may be longer than we would like, for DREAMers and agricultural workers the pathway is shorter. The proposal sets forth border “triggers” that must be implemented prior to adjustment. Lastly, the bill would create a new worker visa program with features intended to avoid constant abuses inherent in previous guest worker programs.

José Calderón, President of the Hispanic Federation: “Today’s introduction of a bipartisan immigration bill represents a major step forward toward fixing our broken immigration system. Never has the need for a comprehensive overhaul of our immigration system been more urgent, and we applaud the Senate Gang of Eight for reaching across the aisle and working tirelessly to craft a serious bill that addresses many of the problems with our current immigration system.

While the proposed legislation includes much-needed reforms, we remain deeply concerned over certain provisions: emphasis of merit-based immigration over family ties and excessive burdens, border security triggers and penalties that threaten to keep immigrants in the shadows rather than on a pathway to earned citizenship. However, we remain cautiously optimistic that our concerns can and will be addressed as the legislative process unfolds. To that end, we will continue to educate, engage and mobilize our community to ensure their voice is fully heard in the legislative debates in the weeks ahead.

The Latino community has expressed loud and clear the urgent need for broad, just and inclusive immigration reform. We expect this bill to spur action in both chambers and be an important turning point in achieving this long awaited goal. This is the year. Now is the time.”

Angela Fernandez, Esq. Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights: “Introduction of the Senate’s immigration bill is a historic step, yet there is still much work to do. Our country’s democracy was founded on the principal that all people are created equal under the law. We have a responsibility to uphold those principals. The decades-long dysfunction of our present immigration system has led to generational injustices that can only be remedied with expanded due process and civil rights protections. Any immigration reform bill must include a fair hearing and access to counsel for anyone who is detained or in danger of being deported. We hope that as we enter the debate process that Congress votes on a new bill which creates an immigration system that is consistent with our values of protecting of civil and human rights.”

Graciela Heymann, Executive Director of Westchester Hispanic Coalition and Chair of the New York Immigration Coalition: "I have been working with immigrants for the past 20 years and I am now witnessing history in the making. As a nation, we are recognizing the 11 million people who are living in the shadows and allowing their families to become legitimate stakeholders of the American Dream. Today marks the first step of the eradication of an underclass and an opportunity for immigrants in Westchester and nationwide to stand tall and shed their fears. Legislators should strive to ensure that permanent residency, a pathway to citizenship and political equality should be achieved sooner than that of the proposed bill. Civic engagement and life quality improvements of these new immigrants will only be attainable if they find light at the end of the Citizenship tunnel."

Yanil Terón, Executive Director of Center for Latino Progress: “Although this bill has very positive opportunities for future new Americans, it is missing provisions for civic education and integration, as well as protection for the most vulnerable individuals. As Americans, we cannot lose sight of the fact that more than a few are ready and willing to take advantage of the most vulnerable. Resources for protection and information should be included in the bill.”

Raymond Ocasio, Executive Director of La Casa de Don Pedro: “We are ecstatic that as a nation, we finally have a plan to make sense out of our immigrant laws and will provide a roadmap to fully incorporate individuals and families that are so much of our communities and society. The proposed extended time before obtaining full citizenship might be somewhat excessive, but manageable. However the caveats linking immigration to border security could be counterproductive to achieve the full benefits of clear path to citizenship to those who represent so much of future as a nation, just as it has done so throughout our history.”

Guillermo Chacon, President of Latino Commission on AIDS: “The Latino Commission on AIDS is eager to learn the details of the bipartisan effort to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. This legislation must include a fair and humane pathway to citizenship for the undocumented, keep hard working immigrant families together, and provide access to health care. The Commission is committed to supporting the immigrant rights movement in order to bring justice, respect, and dignity to all of our communities. "

Tania Gordillo, Member of Make the Road New York: “My family and community have been waiting for this proposal for years, and we will fight to improve and move it forward to passage this year. My family currently has three different immigration statuses. Reform will not be complete until we have only one: citizenship."

Zoe Colon, Executive Director of Hispanic Resource Center: “While we are enthusiastic about the prospects of reform, we hope that this bill will include fair and realistic options for the millions of families that have been subject to a broken immigration system for decades now.”

The Hispanic Federation maintains that to succeed in overcoming the chaos of our current immigration system, any legislative packet must: provide a broad, clear, and fair path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants; eliminate system backlogs; preserve family unity; ensure due process and civil rights; humanely enforce immigration laws; and re-establish and maintain federal pre-emption. A copy of the Federation's 2013 immigration policy brief can be found by clicking here.