Last week, I attended a retirement luncheon for Bishop Howard Hubbard, Bishop of the Diocese of Albany for the past 36 years. Bishop Hubbard and the late Sr. Maureen Joyce hired me in the summer of 2000 to set up and oversee an Office for Immigrant Services at Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Albany. This office sees low and no income clients, many of whom cannot afford to walk into a private practitioner’s office. Many of these (potential) clients also have immigration-related issues that would be well served by Comprehensive Immigration Reform (“CIR”).
While walking into the luncheon, Bishop Hubbard pulled me aside and asked how our numbers were in the office. I told him we were as busy as ever, and that if CIR was signed into law, we would have to re-think our office’s ability to handle the anticipated increase in caseload. When I said this, he looked at me curiously and said he thought that CIR was dead. I responded that in light of current events in Washington (e.g., the government shutdown, raising the debt ceiling, the fumbled rollout of Obama Care, etc.), that CIR was not dead, but that the support for it was definitely muffled. I hope I was right in saying that.
So what’s going on with CIR? Well, we know that the Democratic leadership in the House introduced H.R. 15, a CIR bill generally modeled after the successful bipartisan Senate bill (except that the House Democrats’ bill does not include billions of dollars requiring hundreds of miles of new border fence, as the Senate bill did). As of today, there were actually three Republican co-sponsors to H.R. 15: Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Denham (R-CA).
In a statement released when he decided to co-sponsor H.R.15, Rep. Valadao stated: “I have been working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find common ground on the issue of immigration reform. Recently, I have focused my efforts on joining with likeminded Republicans in organizing and demonstrating to Republican Leadership broad support within the Party to address immigration reform in the House by the end of the year. By supporting H.R. 15 I am strengthening my message: Addressing immigration reform in the House cannot wait. I am serious about making real progress and will remain committed to doing whatever it takes to repair our broken immigration system.” (Finally, some common sense coming out of the House.)
You would think Republicans would have learned after the 2012 election debacle that CIR was a necessity. You would also think that after Republicans took it on the chin in the media for their antics during the government shutdown that they would be looking for opportunities to curry favor with voters. Public Policy Polling recently released new polls that looked at eight Congressional districts currently held by Republicans. The poll finds that while voters in each of these districts are unhappy with their Republican Representatives because of the government shutdown, the polls also found that “voters make it clear in each of these districts that they’ll be more likely to vote to reelect their Congressmen next year if they vote for immigration reform.”
“Now is the time.” That’s what President Obama said on January 29, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada when he introduced his four (4) part plan for CIR. When will Republicans get this?