Reform advocates fear the government shutdown stalled their momentum in Congress and seek to make strides yet this year.
With the shutdown in Washington behind them and the waning calendar for this session in front of them, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., on Monday said the time is right for Congress to renew efforts to address federal immigration reform.
Ellison, who voted against several House bills addressing the issue and admits he has some problems with a Senate version that passed earlier this year, said he would vote for a bill that is “51 percent good.”
“The reality is, I’ve got to get a bill that gives people a pathway to citizenship, that gives these young dreamers a future, that allows people to bring their families back together and allows people to not have to live in fear over the next knock on the door,” Ellison said at a news conference Monday at Minneapolis City Hall. He was joined by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and several advocates for reform.
After resolving the federal shutdown, President Obama has indicated his three top priorities are passing a budget, a farm bill and immigration reform, which had been the centerpiece for his second-term agenda before the shutdown.
Realizing that time may be running out, reform advocates are pushing for action amid fears that momentum for immigration reform was stalled by the partisan brinkmanship that brought on the government shutdown.
In an interview last week with Univision’s Los Angeles affiliate, Obama indicated he will press forward on immigration reform immediately and demand that House Republican leaders allow a vote on a Senate-passed comprehensive bill.
Immigration activists and reform advocates are pressuring lawmakers in pursuit of a breakthrough before Thanksgiving or, at the latest, mid-December, with only about two dozen legislative days remaining before lawmakers leave town for the holidays.
“It’s the closest we’ve been to passing immigration reform in the last generation,” said John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.
In June, the Senate passed a comprehensive bill that included a massive investment in border security and a 13-year pathway to citizenship for many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States.
A comprehensive immigration bill has yet to get a vote in the House. Instead, the House has been working on smaller pieces of immigration legislation that have focused on strengthening border security and creating a guest worker program. People who were brought to the United States illegally as children would be able to obtain legal status under another proposal.
Ellison said he is prepared to do whatever is needed to make sure his colleagues focus on the issue. Earlier this month, he was arrested by U.S. Capitol Police during an immigration rally on the National Mall.
“You never know the prospects until you push and you fight and you raise the issue and you don’t relent, and then you’ll know the odds,” he said. “We will make our odds as we push forward.”
Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434