Rep. Capuano (D-MA) writes:
The First of Two Very Bad Immigration Bills
The House spent most of Thursday debating two immigration bills. Neither one comes close to comprehensive immigration reform. The first, H.R. 4760, the Securing America’s Future Act, is essentially an anti-immigration bill. The legislation does not include a permanent path to citizenship for the Dreamers. Instead, it allows some Dreamers to apply for three year temporary legal status which cannot be used to apply for a green card. They can apply for renewal at the end of the three year period but approval is not guaranteed. Moreover, this provision does not cover all Dreamers. In fact, about 2 million of these individuals will still be left with no avenue to stabilize their status in this country.
H.R. 4760 takes a hammer to the existing family-based reunification program. Under current law, U.S. citizens can sponsor their parents, children, spouses and siblings for a green card. The bill narrows eligibility to only spouses and minor children. The legislation eliminates the Diversity Visa Lottery program. This initiative is open to nationals of countries whose citizens have not previously come to the United States in large numbers. Under this program, roughly 50,000 green cards are distributed annually after careful review of applicants who must meet certain educational standards. This program has been a success and the only reason to end it is to close off a legal avenue for immigrants, many from sub-Saharan Africa, to come to our country.
H.R. 4760 also makes the family separation crisis worse by clearing the way for an undocumented individual to be criminally prosecuted if they are simply discovered living in the country. Previously, these circumstances were treated essentially as misdemeanors. Given what we are seeing play out at the border, does anyone doubt that this administration would fully embrace this provision – arresting and prosecuting every illegal immigrant they can find – without regard for any minor children, most of them U.S. citizens, they may leave behind? And of course, H.R. 4760 contains $30 billion for Trump’s border wall. I voted NO. Republicans couldn’t round up the votes for this bad bill. H.R. 4760 failed and the entire vote is recorded below:
Tom Reed to his credit voted NO.
The House also considered H.R. 6136, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act. Republican leaders pulled it from consideration because they didn’t think they had the votes to pass this bill either. This legislation is being laughably described as the Speaker Ryan “compromise” bill. It doesn’t even come close. H.R. 6136 also fails to provide a tenable solution for Dreamers. This bill establishes a “contingent non-immigration status” which would require Dreamers to apply for six year renewable status while they wait in a long line for green cards. Under this proposal it could take up to 23 years before all Dreamers get green cards and years more before they become citizens.
H.R. 6136 also abolishes the Diversity Visa Lottery Program and rescinds more than 3 million immigrant visa petitions that have already been approved. Tearing children from the arms of their parents as a matter of deliberate policy must be one of the cruelest actions that this Administration has undertaken. And this proposal is surely one of the most hypocritical. The legislation revokes already approved applications made by U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents for their relatives abroad. They are already facing a long wait for immigrant visas. These families followed the rules. Although persons dear to them, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could not join them, they trusted in the rule of law and did nothing illegal to get their loved ones here. Yet none of that matters.
This bill makes family reunification even more difficult by eliminating two family-based immigration programs. It reduces some important protections for asylum seekers by raising the bar for those fleeing persecution and other dangerous circumstances. The legislation also requires the Department of Homeland Security to essentially imprison families if a parent is caught attempting illegal entry. It does nothing to alleviate the crisis at the border. In fact, it makes the situation measurably worse. H.R. 6136 also contains $25 billion for Trump’s border wall. I spoke on the floor about this bill which the House is expected to continue considering next week.
While the House considers these bills, child abuse by our Federal Government continues.