Millions of immigrants, documented and undocumented, have waited on the sidelines while Congress and The White House battled over healthcare reform this entire year. On Tuesday, December 15, however, their wait seemed to get a little shorter.
Congressmembers Joseph Crowley, Nydia Velazquez, and Anthony Weiner and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Asian and Pacific Americans Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus joined with Illinois Congressmember Luis Gutierrez as he presented to the public Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act (CIR ASAP) of 2009. Though the bill has not yet been introduced in Congress, it already counts on the support of 90 members.
“I think we are off to a great start because this time we were able to mobilize key advocates,” Gutierrez told members of the Queens press during a conference call. “It was introduced to the public today and will be introduced to Congress soon.”
A spokesperson for Weiner told The Queens Courier that the bill could be introduced after the Congress votes on healthcare.
The CIR ASAP addresses effective and accountable border security to combat human trafficking and criminal activity; improves detention procedures and enforcement, protects family unity and creates an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Ombudsmen.
One other key point includes an employer verification system to verify each new hire’s authorization to work.
Eligibility requirements in the legislation include that the undocumented demonstrate their contributions to the United States through employment, education military service and/or volunteer service; undergo criminal and security background checks; pay a $500 fine plus necessary application fees. Individuals who have a serious criminal conviction would be ineligible for a long permanent residency. Special rules would apply for persons brought to the U.S. before the age of 16, which would affect children covered under the formerly introduced DREAM Act.
“My goal is to ensure that no New York City family is forced to live in the shadows because of our nation’s unjust immigration policies. This comprehensive bill takes the steps needed to repair our broken system, strengthen border security and put an end to the policies that tear families apart,” said Congressmember Velázquez.
Immigration groups across New York City praised the efforts of the congressional delegation but reminded them that the legislative process has not yet begun.
“This bill – CIR ASAP – marks a critical first step in that direction,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). “We look forward to reviewing the details of the bill and working with members of the House, with Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, and with President Obama to achieve real reform.”
Make the Road New York, an immigrant and civil rights advocacy organization located in Queens and Brooklyn, said in a statement, “We look forward to working with the President and our allies in Congress to not only start a debate about this very important issue but also to pass immigration reform that will help our country grow economically. We hope that Senator Charles Schumer follows suit and introduces legislation in the Senate in the upcoming months.”
Meanwhile, like most things in Washington, politics is sure to play a part in any immigration proposal.
“It’s important to act soon because if not we enter the midterm elections and after that the presidential election cycle,” Congressmember Crowley had told The Queens Courier soon after Gutierrez first introduced the key points that became the CIR ASAP back in October. “Time is of essence.”