CHANGE IS COMING!

By Robert L. Reeves & Nancy E. Miller

The opening salvo has sounded in Congress!  The Senate Immigration Subcommittee, with Senator Schumer at the head, held a hearing last week.  This was Senator Schumer’s first event as the head of the Subcommittee and it was not a disappointment.

Between the speakers, they covered all the bases in making the case for why Congress can and must pursue immigration reform now.   It was a strong statement of commitment and was extremely encouraging.  Alan Greenspan began the hearing by making the economic case for immigration reform.  This was the right place to begin.  Everyone is concerned about the economy.  Members of Congress will want their constituents to know that immigration reform will have a beneficial effect on economic recovery.  Mr. Greenspan’s testimony will be something senators can point to when they discuss this issue in their home states. 

After Mr. Greenspan spoke, Pastor Hunter made a strong moral argument explaining why reform is the right thing to do.  Wade Henderson, the executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, spoke eloquently on the civil and human rights implications of our broken immigration system. 
 
Law enforcement was represented by Major Cities Chiefs Association, Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger.  He was convincing and unequivocal in arguing for the law enforcement and security imperatives for comprehensive reform. Former Commissioner of INS Doris Meissner elaborated further on the economic and security implications of our broken system and offered up a vision for solving those problems.

Representing the employer position on reform was President and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership Jeff Moseley.  He was followed by Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union.  Both supported reform.  Mr. Medina was particularly compelling in discussing the importance of reform for all workers.

No hearing on immigration reform would be complete without a representative from FAIR.  Kris Kobach, who is Of Counsel to FAIR’s legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, argued for more border enforcement and no amnesties.  His testimony did not go unchallenged.  Senator Schumer differentiated the previously proposed earned legalization from an amnesty. 
 
This week, the White House announced that it will ask Congress for $27 billion to be added to the next budget year for border and transportation security in order to fulfill a promise to the Mexican government to battle southbound flow of illegal weapons.  This move is widely viewed as setting the stage for immigration reform by first addressing enforcement. The spending will enable the administration to hire more agents and enhance security at air and seaports.  President Obama is expected to request additional funds to expand screening for illegal immigrants in jail and to improve a Web-based program for verifying workers’ employment eligibility.  This follows on the heels of changes already made in immigration work-site enforcement.  The current administration has shifted the emphasis from illegal workers to employers who break the law by hiring them.  In devoting more money to security and enforcement, the president is thought to be creating necessary political space in order to revamp the immigration system. 

More hearings are scheduled in Congress for next week.  Stay tuned!