Immigration Debate Returns to Capitol Hill with Gutierrez’s CIR ASAP Bill

Saying “the time for waiting is over,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D.-Ill.) announced that on Tuesday he will introduce his comprehensive immigration reform bill, “the product of months of collaboration with civil rights advocates, labor organizations, and members of Congress.”

Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez will introduce his own immigration reform bill. (Photo: Rep. Gutierrez website)

Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez will introduce his immigration reform bill. (Photo: Rep. Gutierrez website)

The move by Gutierrez means that a plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration system is being introduced in a forum where no one has dared take it since 2007, when the last reform proposal died on Capitol Hill.

“We have waited patiently for a workable solution to our immigration crisis to be taken up by this Congress and our President,” Gutierrez said in a press release. “…This bill will be presented before Congress recesses for the holidays so that there is no excuse for inaction in the New Year.

“It is an answer to too many years of pain –mothers separated from their children, workers exploited and undermined security at the border– all caused at the hands of a broken immigration system. This bill says ‘enough,’ and presents a solution to our broken system that we as a nation of immigrants can be proud of.”

The bill is called the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009, or CIR ASAP, stressing the urgency for reform, a message Gutierrez has emphasized all year.

After introducing the bill, Gutierrez will be joined at a Capitol Hill news conference by several Congress members, including some who represent immigrant-heavy districts. New Yorkers Nydia Velázquez, Yvette Clarke, José Serrano and Joseph Crowley and Californians Mike Honda, Judy Chu and Lyn Woolsey will be there, according to the press release.

As to what will be in the bill, Gutierrez outlined his principles for reform in a press release two months ago. According to that document, his initiative will include:

  • A pathway to legalization for undocumented workers
  • Professional and effective border enforcement
  • Smart and humane interior enforcement
  • Protective measures for the labor rights of immigrants and non-immigrants
  • An employment eligibility verification system
  • The principle of family unity “as a cornerstone” of the immigration system
  • An employment-based visa system and a commission to “align visa numbers with actual labor market demands”
  • Provisions for an agreement between labor and agribusiness
  • The DREAM Act.
  • Measures for the promotion of immigrant integration

Those priorities differ considerably from the ones described by Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.), who is crafting an immigration reform bill on behalf of the Obama administration. Schumer, who chairs the Senate Immigration Subcommittee, put a stronger focus on enforcement measures in his own outline, and said “the first priority in crafting legislation is making a serious stand against illegal immigration.”

Gutierrez’s effort could be considered a means of pressuring other Democrats toward a more progressive position.

Gutierrez was to hold an Illinois-wide conference call with supporters Monday night, according to Progress Illinois. Also on Monday, the congressman published a column in The Huffington Post where he said President Obama reaffirmed his campaign promise of immigration reform to him personally. He also said he was “encouraged by the support” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Gutierrez wrote,

“This is a crisis. It’s a crisis of human and civil rights, it’s a crisis of our economy and our workforce, and it’s a crisis of national security. This is why we cannot wait any longer.

“We’ve waited a long time for this — a workable solution to our immigration crisis.”

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