With the nation preoccupied with shutdown of the federal government, U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, and a group of House Democrats on Wednesday attempted to jump-start stalled immigration talks by introducing a bill similar to one the Senate OK’d in June.
But the measure, which at its core would create a winding, 13-year path to citizenship for millions in the country unlawfully, was getting little traction as Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill remained locked in a standoff over the budget.
“The situation we’re in right now is … having a real impact in our state and across the country — on families and the economy,” DelBene said. “It’s the worst way to govern. It’s urgent that we work on multiple things moving forward.”
Immigrant advocates and business groups lauded the bill, which encompasses a bipartisan measure the Senate passed this summer that would revamp immigration policies to allow tens of thousands of high- and low-skilled immigrant workers and create a path to citizenship for those here unlawfully.
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The House version strips a controversial border measure and replaces it with a bipartisan one passed by the House Homeland Security Committee requiring the secretary of Homeland Security to create a strategy for controlling the U.S.-Mexico border.
Before the shutdown, advocates had planned some 130 rallies and marches nationwide, urging Congress into action, including one in Seattle’s Columbia City.
“This is an effort to say, ‘Hey, we’re still here and the need has not gone away,’ ” said Melissa Campos-Castaneda, an immigration attorney and member of La Luz del Mundo, whose members plan to rally at noon Saturday in Seattle’s Rainier Valley.
“And with deportations pulling families apart, every day it’s becoming more and more necessary.”
Leon Donahue, with a group called Washingtonians for Immigration Reform, which favors enforcement of current immigration laws, said this bill, like the Senate version it mimics, is wrongheaded.
“We have 20 million unemployed people in this country and we need to import 30 million more over the next 10 years?” he said, referring to provisions in both bills that would open the doors to tens of thousands of new workers. “I think we need to enforce the laws already on the books; we don’t need new ones.”
Most of the weekend events are east of the Cascades.
Rep. Dave Reichert is the only Washington Republican who has publicly stated his support for a comprehensive immigration bill.
Rich Stolz, executive director of the Seattle-based immigration advocacy group OneAmerica, pointed out that 26 House Republicans have publicly indicated support for a bill.
“The votes appear to be there for a comprehensive immigration bill that includes a road map to citizenship, but will the House leadership create a path forward?” asked Stolz.
As advocates hit the streets this weekend, he said: “We don’t intend to let Congress off the hook for finally addressing this issue.”
Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @turnbullL.