Immigration Reform Is Top Priority in 2014

The House of Representatives wrapped up its affairs for 2013 without passing an immigration reform bill. This despite the continued and intensified protests of immigration advocates to pressure the House to vote on an immigration bill before it closed its 2013 legislative calendar.

More than 1,000 advocates showed up at the House last December 12 and occupied for about an hour the offices of more than 200 Republican lawmakers. Advocacy groups held marches, prayer vigils, and completed a week-long fast with several members of Congress joining the fast for 24 hours, to show their support.

Advocates were hoping to pressure Speaker John A. Boehner to bring to a vote a democratic bill in the House which mirrors the Senate’s and offers a path to citizenship to the 12 million undocumented in the country. The bill has 190 sponsors including three Republicans. The chairman of the Democratic caucus Congressman Becerra of California said that 26 Republicans had expressed support for that bill which would be enough to pass it if Speaker Boehner allowed a vote.

Although immigration reform did not materialize in 2013, many remain confident that a compromise will be reached in 2014. Democratic and Republican House leaders promised that they will address the issue early next year. According to Republican Congressman Robert W. Goodlatte (VA), chair of the Judiciary Committee, immigration would be top priority in 2014.

Speaker Boehner also deems immigration as a priority legislation in the new year. Michael Needham, chief executive of the conservative advocacy group Heritage Action said in an interview that the speaker wants to clear the way for immigration reform next year and he has been very clear of that. Speaker Boehner even hired immigration policy expert Rebecca Tallent to lead his team.

The budget deal that was struck between House Republicans and Senate Democrats is also seen as a positive sign for immigration reform in 2014. The bipartisan budget deal rids threats of fiscal crises such as government shutdown for the next two years and will allow lawmakers to address major issues in the agenda including immigration reform.

The staunch opposition of the majority of House Republicans to the proposed pathway to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, however, remains the biggest challenge.

Republican Congressman David Valadao (R-Cal.) and Jeff Denham, (R-Cal.) are pushing their Republican colleagues to sign a letter supporting immigration reform. They are looking to present the letter to Speaker Boehner in January. It is hoped that Boehner’s passing the bipartisan budget deal is evidence that he might also be willing to support an immigration bill that is not supported by the majority of the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, immigration advocates indicated that their protests will intensify next year. Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s voice said that “Reform is a matter of when, not if.” With House leaders signifying that immigration legislation is top priority next year, the growing support from the American people and the unwavering determination of advocates, 2014 looks to be a promising year for immigration reform.