The “H” in the House of Representatives
Just before the July 4th holiday, we witnessed the Senate approving a largely sensible, sound, secure and smart immigration reform bill. As this bill heads to the House of Representatives, the buzz is on what the House will or will not do. Statements from House leaders range from flat out opposition to the Senate bill, to luke-warm consideration of some of the aspects of the bill.
Thus far, many of the House members’ views have been Hostile, Hindering, and Hampering toward immigration reform. From Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, arguing in favor of a step-by-step approach that so far has featured mostly harsh, overreaching and unrealistic enforcement measures, to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) reiterating that the House does not intend to take up the Senate bill, but it is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill.
Common sense immigration reform must balance two competing interests. First, it must provide undocumented immigrants with a clear, albeit arduous, roadmap to legal status and eventual citizenship. Second, it must maintain border security and overhaul our legal immigration process so that legalization today does not invite further illegal immigration tomorrow.
The Senate bill makes a good attempt to balance both. It would put millions on a long road to lawful permanent residency and eventual citizenship. It would require applicants to pass security checks, pay fines and back taxes. It would also put new requirements on employers, double the number of Border Patrol agents on the Southwest border, and build hundreds of miles of border fence. Importantly, it would provide the country with an immigration process designed to meet the economic and social challenges of the 21st Century.
Inexplicably, in light of the Senate passing a tough immigration reform package—one that even Senate Republicans described as “almost overkill”, the House Republicans claim it lacks a strong “trigger” provision that would make legalization dependent on measurable progress on the enforcement front.
So what the Senate sees as Sensible, Sound, Secure and Smart, the House finds Hollow, Haphazard, and Hyped.
For immigration reform to become a reality and an historic accomplishment of the 113th Congress, the House must step up to the plate and demonstrate true leadership for America. First, Speaker Boehner must commit to bringing an immigration reform package to the floor for a vote. That means moving away from the gridlock-inducing mentality that says there must be a majority of Republican caucus votes to move legislation to a vote by the full House.
Second, members of the House must realize they have a tangible, real and crucial opportunity to show the American people that “H” stands for Humane, Humble, Heartfelt, and Historic. The House leadership must see the Humanity in immigration, they must be Humbled by the struggles of everyday immigrants who contribute to our communities, our schools, our lives, and our Country; they must show they are Heartfelt by the stories of young and old leaving families behind in search of a better future, that they understand the Historic importance of these times and their impending ability to make it real.
Immigration is about the Human aspect, about the Humility of many and the History of our Country. Leaders of the House have no small feat before them, but let them not forget it is Human and not just Hubris.