Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Seven Takeaways from Monday’s Immigration Reform Hearing

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee held on Monday the second hearing on the immigration reform bill introduced last week by the “Gang of Eight.”

The hearing, which lasted more than seven hours, included testimonies from a long list of immigration reform advocates, critics, scholars and elected officials. At times, there were heated discussions over the 844-page bill that seeks to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. VOXXI compiled a list of the top seven takeaways from today’s hearing.

Efforts to ‘exploit’ the Boston bombing need to stop

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused opponents of immigration reform of exploiting the Boston Marathon bombing and using the tragedy to “derail” immigration reform. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined in, saying there are politicians who are using the Boston tragedy as an “excuse” to delay efforts to move forward with immigration reform. These remarks seemed to be directed at several Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He defended himself during Monday’s hearing, saying Leahy and other members of Congress have exploited recent tragedies, like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, to push their own agendas. He also defended his decision to use the Boston Marathon bombing as a basis to question “gaps and loopholes in our immigration system.”

The immigration reform bill would grant ‘amnesty’ to terrorists

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who coined the term “self-deportation” and is the architect of some of the nation’s toughest immigration laws, identified three “flaws” in the bipartisan immigration reform bill. First, the background checks included in the bill are insufficient to prevent terrorists from “gaining amnesty.” Second, the bill allows recently deported undocumented immigrants to return to the U.S. and “gain amnesty.” Third, the bill legalizes “dangerous aliens” who received deportation reprieve and work permits under the new deferred action program for undocumented youth. Kobach also tied the Boston bombing to the immigration reform bill. He said the bill would grant “amnesty” to terrorists, enabling them to travel abroad to “gain terrorist training” and return to the U.S. to carry out terrorist attacks.

Dreamer gives voice to undocumented immigrants during the hearing

Gaby Pacheco, a Dreamer who came to the U.S. from Ecuador at age 8, was the only undocumented immigrant who testified Monday. She described herself as an “undocumented American” and spoke about the “Trail of Dreams,” a 1,500-mile walk from Miami to Washington, D.C., that she and three other Dreamers participated in 2010. Pacheco said that throughout their journey, she and the other Dreamers heard “the stories and dreams” of thousands of undocumented immigrants. She asked the committee members to give her, her family and the rest of the 11 million undocumented immigrants “an opportunity to fully integrate and achieve our American Dream.”

Republican senator warns against a path to citizenship

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) referred to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants as the most “divisive” issue in the debate over immigration reform. He warned that “any bill that insists upon that jeopardizes the likelihood of passing any immigration reform bill.” Cruz also advised the “Gang of Eight” and other immigration reform supporters to  focuses on two areas where there is bipartisan agreement: increasing border security the border and improving legal immigration. His remarks triggered a response from immigration reform advocates. They noted through social media that a majority of Americans support a path to citizenship, suggesting that it is not a divisive issue like Cruz claimed.

Immigration reform bill should be called ‘No Illegal Alien Left Behind’

Mark Krikorian caused substantial attention through social media when he said during Monday’s hearing that the title of the bipartisan immigration reform bill should be “No Illegal Alien Left Behind,” rather than “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” He also criticized the bill, saying it legalizes undocumented immigrants before the necessary steps are taken to avoid future flows of “another large illegal population.” He said “a better approach” to addressing the immigration issue would be to “make the initial legalization dependent on the bill’s enforcement provisions.”

The nation’s food supply is at risk because there aren’t enough farm workers

Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, warned that the nation’s broken immigration system “threatens our nation’s food supply.” He said that’s because there is a shortage of farm workers, even though there are nearly two million farm workers — 600,000 of them being U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents — who work on the fields everyday. The solution, he said, would be the new visa program being proposed in the immigration reform bill. Essentially, the new program would give out 112,000 visas for farm workers every year and would provide current undocumented farm workers with a five-year path to permanent legal residency.

Immigration reform leaves out LGBTQ families

Former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) said that while the immigration reform bill is an “excellent” starting point for reform, the bill is “still incomplete” because it leaves out LGBTQ families like his. Kolbe told the story about how his partner from Panama had to return to his native country after his work visa expired and Kolbe couldn’t petition for him to stay. Eventually, his partner was able to return to the U.S. using another visa but Kolbe described the process as long and expensive. He asked the committee members to consider adding a provision to the immigration reform bill that would allow LGBTQ Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners to come to the U.S. and eventually be put on a path to legalization.

This article originally appeared on Voxxi.