After a couple stutter-steps as they waited for the full text of the bill, statements from outside groups began pouring in this morning in reaction to the Senate immigration legislation that dropped overnight.
The responses from pro-reform stakeholders have all been similar: They applaud the bipartisan nature of the Senate plan, believe it meets overarching goals for citizenship and legal immigration, and are optimistic about the “starting point” offered by the legislation that can now be discussed and amended in the upper chamber.
There are a few points of concern for various groups, which will lobby for improvements in coming weeks. Those concerns include -- but aren’t limited to:
- Some, including the AFL-CIO and Asian-American groups, don’t like the provision that would eliminate family-based visas for the siblings of U.S. citizens. (AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday “Are brothers and sistersclose family members? Well, to ask the question is really to answer it. Of course they are and so we’re going to fight for that issue.”)
- There’s some concern that the fines (currently a total of $2000 for an undocumented immigrant who eventually becomes a citizen)are too high. (For example: Marielena Hincapié , head of the National Immigration Law Center, said on the same call that “thecombination of fees and penalties cannot price out today’s low-income immigrants who could be tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.”)
- Advocates for gay rights had been lobbying for the inclusion of measures to address visa eligibility for binational LGBT couples; those were not addressed. The Human Rights Campaign said in a statement: “As drafted, the bill omits reforms that would end discrimination against tens of thousands of binational gay and lesbian couples … “Failing to act [on a legislative fix] would stand in stark contrast to this bill’s unprecedented inclusivity. As we stand at the crossroads of history, leaving anyone out weakens the moral authority of this once-in-a-generation legislation. No one should be forced to live in the shadows of society.”
- Privacy and civil liberties groups like the ACLU historically haven’t keen on the E-Verify requirements, which ACLU called “job-killing,costly and privacy-invasive” in its statement.
Meanwhile, those who oppose the bill have today reiterated past warnings that the reform will hurt American workers and reward lawbreakers without enforcement of border security measures.
Here are excerpts of some of the written responses from key groups on both sides of the debate:
President Richard Trumka
“The bill introduced today is another step toward addressing a real crisis. The United States urgently needs a roadmap to citizenship for more than 11 million aspiring Americans. And while Washington, D.C., is full of legislative unveilings that dissolve into recriminations and unsolved problems, this time actually is different. Our cause is unstoppable. There will be a roadmap to citizenship in 2013. As is to be expected in an 844-page first response to an issue as complex as immigration, there are several details in the bill that cause unintended, but serious, harm to immigrant workers and the broader labor market. We will work to correct those problems now that a bill is before the Senate Judiciary Committee. … Our role is to make sure that the roadmap leads to citizenship achievable not only in theory but in fact. Workers care for the elderly, mow our lawns or drive our taxis, work hard and deserve a reliable roadmap to citizenship. And so the labor movement’s entire grassroots structure will be mobilized throughout this process and across this country to make sure the roadmap is inclusive.”
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
President and CEO Tom Donohue
“The Chamber has long called for comprehensive immigration reform that incorporates four critical components—increased border security, expansion of temporary worker programs and employer-sponsored green cards, some type of pathway to legalization and eventual citizenship under tight criteria, and a balanced and workable employment verification system. This legislation meets these goals. We welcome this legislation as a critical step toward a final law that will work for our economy and for our society. There is no doubt that there will be additional input and analysis through Senate hearings and amendments, and we look forward to being part of that needed process.”
National Council of La Raza
President Janet Murguía
“This legislation, while not perfect, is a monumental step forward in ensuring that this nation has a fair, humane and effective 21st-century immigration policy that serves our nation’s best interests and works for all Americans, including families, workers and businesses. It is especially important that this legislation includes a real roadmap for undocumented immigrants to earn legal status and eventual citizenship, one that is true to our nation’s history, our laws and our values. We urge policymakers to follow the example of these senators and work as quickly as possible to pass a bill. We would note that immigration is a galvanizing issue for the nation’s Hispanics, whose vote last November generated a game-changing moment for this debate, giving us an opportunity to arrive at a solution. Our community is engaged and watching this debate closely. As the legislation progresses, we will work to ensure that legalization is real, enforcement is accountable and families and workers are protected. We have cleared a substantial hurdle today, but we cannot rest until we see legislation signed into law.”
Human Rights Campaign
President Chad Griffin
"The bill introduced by the Senate’s Gang of Eight brings us one step closer to the historic immigration reform this country desperately needs. From a groundbreaking pathway to citizenship, to a lasting solution for the young DREAMers hopeful for a future in this country, to much-needed reform for asylum-seekers, this bill will change millions of lives for the better. But as immigration reform reaches the Senate Judiciary Committee, there is work left to do. As drafted, the bill omits reforms that would end discrimination against tens of thousands of binational gay and lesbian couples. Currently, committed couples like Santiago Ortiz and Pablo Garcia from New York City are stuck in legal limbo because gay or lesbian couples are denied a chance to obtain relationship-based permanent residence. Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy has been an outspoken champion of the legislative fix to this problem, the United American Families Act (UAFA, S. 296). This bipartisan legislation, also sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, deserves a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee as an amendment to the immigration bill. Failing to act on UAFA would stand in stark contrast to this bill’s unprecedented inclusivity. As we stand at the crossroads of history, leaving anyone out weakens the moral authority of this once-in-a-generation legislation. No one should be forced to live in the shadows of society.”
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Migration Committee Chair Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles
“I welcome the introduction of legislation today in the U.S. Senate. The U.S. bishops look forward to carefully examining the legislation and working with Congress to fashion a final bill that respects the basic human rights and dignity of newcomers to our land—migrants, refugees, and other vulnerable populations. I commend the Senators who have introduced this bipartisan bill, as they have shown leadership and courage in this effort,” Gomez said. “We will look to work constructively with them and other members of Congress to improve upon their proposal, should such improvements prove necessary, so that any final bill creates an immigration system that restores the rule of law in a humane and just manner.”
Hispanic Leadership Network
President Jennifer Korn (Republican-affiliated group)
“America’s legal immigration system is broken. We must protect America’s legacy as a nation of immigrants and as a nation of laws. The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is a strong conservative start to the immigration reform process. We need a lasting reform that overhauls our bureaucratic visa system, secures our borders, creates a temporary worker program, establishes a worker verification system, and allows the eleven million undocumented immigrants in our country to earn a legal status. We need an immigration system that reflects the needs of our economy and cuts the deficit. This is what the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 has brought us. I look forward to an open and honest legislative process.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a leading Senate Judiciary Committee opponent of reform bill
“Has Congress forgotten who it represents? Congress’ duty is to the American people. I believe it is going to be clearly established that this plan will be detrimental to working Americans—and will not pass. What Congress needs to understand is that our obligation is to law-abiding Americans who have seen their wages erode over the last decade. We can’t further weaken their financial position in order to provide more benefits to those here unlawfully. I understand the hard work that went into this bill. But as we explore its many flaws and loopholes in the coming days, I am confident the American public will firmly reject it—and will demand reform that puts the national interest first.”
President Roy Beck
“Nearly every section of the Gang Amnesty bill seems to add more foreign workers to compete with unemployed and underemployed Americans. The Gang apparently believes that the way to help the 20 million Americans who can't find a full time job is to give out another 20 to 30 million lifetime permits to foreign citizens over the next decade. None of this is the kind of economy or society most Americans desire. Surely a compassionate and thoughtful citizenry will put a stop to this nonsense and ask its Senators to go back work putting Americans back to work."
Federation for American Immigration Reform
President Dan Stein
“The programs that grant amnesty to illegal aliens and a steady supply of low-wage labor will be implemented, regardless of whether the border is secure. The Washington and Wall Street elite have the bill they want. Now it is time for the American people to have their say,” Stein noted. “Over the coming weeks, FAIR and other groups dedicated to immigration reform that protects the interests of Americans will be mounting a full-scale effort to educate the public about this bill’s blatant attempt to favor special interests at their expense and to mobilize opposition.”