Posted by on October 03, 2013 in Blog

By Maha Sayed
Legal Fellow

Despite immense polarization within Congress surrounding the budget standoff that has led to the current government shutdown, House Democrats unveiled a comprehensive immigration reform bill yesterday that includes a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants working and living in the U.S. The House bill is viewed as a critical step forward to immigration reform and is intended to rally Democrats back to the immigration cause, while putting pressure on House Republicans to act on immigration reform.

On the second day of the government shutdown, House Democratic leaders introduced H.R. 15 “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” which addresses border security issues, includes provisions providing permanent legal status and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, strengthens the DHS’s ability to enforce immigration laws and correct procedural problems, and reforms existing nonimmigrant visa programs. The House bill resembles the Senate’s bi-partisan immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate in June, but replaces the Senate bill’s “border surge” provision with the bipartisan provisions of the McCaul-Thompson “Border Security Results Act” (H.R. 1417) that passed unanimously in May by the House Homeland Security Committee. H.R. 1417 provides specific metrics for border security while removing the Senate’s border security amendment, which calls for militarizing the border by doubling the amount of agents along the Southern border and authorizing the construction of a 700-mile-long fence, costing $30 billion.

The House immigration reform bill currently has 120 co-sponsors (117 voting members), meaning that immigration advocates need 101 additional supporters to reach a majority. A one-page summary of the bill can be found here, and a larger section by section summary of the bill can be found here.   

Although House Democrats believe this proposal reflects a compromise that both Democrats and Republicans should be able to support, it isn’t likely to advance in the Republican-controlled House. Republicans have instead urged for a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, emphasizing increased border security. The legislation is far from perfect but offers a chance to engage with Republicans on a proposal that emerged from a bipartisan process. 

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