While speaking to the farm community in his home district on Monday, House Speaker John Boehner responded to a question about immigration reform by saying, “I'm still working with the President, working with my colleagues in a bipartisan way, and the Congress to move this issue along.” This statement represents a positive turn after the Speaker stated that immigration reform would be difficult because many Members of the House don’t trust the President to enforce the law. Boehner’s previous statement came after the release of Republican standards on immigration reform when many Members of his caucus expressed the opinion that the House should not take up immigration reform this year for political reasons. Roll Call is conducting a whip count of Republican House Members support of Boehner’s immigration principles. Currently, 18 Members have responded that they support the standards, 2 have responded that they possibly support them, 34 Members oppose the standards and the rest are either undecided, declined to comment or have not responded.
House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that House Democrats will be coming to a decision as to whether or not to move forward with a discharge petition on comprehensive immigration reform bill, H.R. 15. A discharge petition is a procedural mechanism to bring a bill to the House floor for a vote by bypassing the committees and/or House leadership. The petition must have a majority of House Members (218) sign on to it to move a bill. H.R. 15 currently has 196 Democratic cosponsors, 5 of whom are non-voting members, and 3 Republican cosponsors. Discharge petitions are largely viewed as flouting leadership and the three Republican cosponsors of H.R. 15, Representatives Valadao (CA), Denham (CA) and Ros-Lehtinen (FL), have said that they would not sign a discharge petition. The Minority Leader plans to meet with stakeholders this week to discuss the strategy.
Immigration advocates and some politicians have increased calls for President Obama to decrease the number of deportations. Obama has deported around 2 million people, more than any other President. It makes little sense to spend millions of dollars and inflict great harm on families by deporting individuals who would be eligible for legalization under the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill or similar legislation. On Presidents’ Day, about 30 faith leaders, immigrants and other advocates were arrested in front of the White House as part of a protest against the President’s deportation policy organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and the United Methodist Church. More recently, Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of la Raza (NCLR), called President Obama “the deporter-in-chief” and urged him to stop the deportations. On Tuesday, at an NCLR awards dinner, Senator Menendez (NJ) echoed her call for an end to deportations and said that the President should take additional administrative action to keep families together.
Farmworkers and other local groups are protesting the building of an ICE detention facility in Santa Maria, CA. While ICE says that the facility will only be used to process immigrants who are convicted criminals, the farmworkers say that it will make them feel unsafe and they may choose to go work in other parts of California if it is built. Santa Maria is in Santa Barbara County and is an important agricultural production area.
Fast for Families Across America launched a bus tour last week in Los Angeles. The tour will take two routes one through the Southern United States and one through the Northern United States reuniting in Washington, DC. The buses will visit over 75 Congressional districts to meet with local advocates and community members to “underscore the moral urgency for Congress to pass commonsense immigration reform this year.”