Local advocates happy with immigration bill

Although proponents of immigration reform are elated that the Senate passed a bill containing a pathway to citizenship Thursday, they are unhappy with some of the bill’s provisions.

The government estimates that roughly 11 million immigrants will now have a pathway to citizenship because of the bill’s specifications after the bill passed 68 to 32, receiving support from every Democrat and 14 Republicans.

Still, a provision in the bill that bolsters border security has left a bad taste in the mouth of many.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to think you would get everything you want,” said Joa LaVille, chair of Immigrant Allies. “The amendment was not positive as far as I was concerned, but it was crucial to getting it passed.”

LaVille said the passing of the Senate bill sets the stage for a similar bill to pass in the House. However, she said a similar bill passing in the House is likely to be a larger hurdle. While many people greatly differ on the methodology to achieve it, she said she believes most people are in favor of a path to citizenship.

She compared the bill’s passing to the Supreme Court’s decision that made same-sex couples eligible for federal marriage benefits, overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. Some of the provisions that made it into the bill, such as eliminating the age cap, were better than provisions in the Dream Act, she said.

It was a great leap for civil rights, she added.

“It has been a good week,” LaVille said. “I feel really good today about our country I am really proud of the people I know that stuck their neck out to tell their story when it was really scary. Those stories being told went a long way to accomplishing (the bill passing) Those are the people I am celebrating.”

Maria Garcia-Morceno, local immigration reform proponent who worked as a fellow on President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, said the bill is a step in the right direction. However, she said she has some trepidation about the border security amendment, saying it hinders the effort by mandating border security before allowing citizenship to get underway.

Although the bill greatly increases border militarization, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who has been a strong supporter of such action, voted “no.” The bill approved in the Senate doubles the number of border patrol agents to 40,000. And although those increases will cost taxpayers money, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will shrink the deficit by nearly $900 billion, minus expenses, over the next 10 years.

Vanessa Marcano, community organizer for the Latino organizing project with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said she was disappointed in Grassley’s vote.

“That was a pretty big concession we had to give,” she said. “This is pretty big on border control and he still voted ‘no.'”

Grassley and others claim the bill is a form of amnesty since it allows undocumented immigrants to stay in the county, giving them provisional legal status, before the border is fully secure. The bill also provides no assurance that the border security provisions will be met, they say.

Marcano said there is “no excuse” not to pass a House version of the bill.

A release from Rep. Bruce Braley’s office urges the House to vote on a similar bill as soon as possible, but gives no indication as to how he intends to vote on the issue.