Congress is consumed with the troublesome government shutdown, but House Democrats are trying to kick-start the stalled debate over immigration reform.
"The American people have spoken," Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia of Florida said this week. "They want Congress to take on this issue."
Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., said he's sure there are enough House votes to pass a bill that "fixes our broken immigration system, including provide a path to legal residency and ultimately to citizenship to millions of people who work hard everyday in this country."
Democrats say a bill they're introducing in the House is similar to a measure passed by the Senate in June — with one big difference: the new version doesn't include the plan to build more border fencing and step up security with thousands more border patrol agents, CNN reported.
No Republican backers have signed onto the proposed House bill yet.
GOP aides quickly dismissed the proposal and said it was unlikely to get a vote in the chamber, reducing the bill to a symbolic attempt to keep immigration reform alive while Washington remains focused on the government shutdown, The Washington Post reported
Critics say the bill strategy is for business-backed Republicans to allow at least 10 million illegal immigrants to win citizenship by 2025 in exchange for Democrats’ agreement to double the annual 1 million inflow of immigrant workers and guest-workers used by companies, The Daily Caller noted.
“Many Democrats, myself included, would also be willing to separate out a pathway to citizenship for the 10 million and pass it tomorrow,” without allowing in some of the extra workers, said one of the House bill’s sponsors, Colorado Democrat Jared Polis told The Daily Caller
“But in the interest of forging a bipartisan coalition, we’re taking the work of the Senate and moving forward with it in the House."
Democrats say the bill would be good for the economy.
“This bill creates jobs… this bill is an enormous job engine,” insisted Polis, who did not say how many of those new jobs are well-paid and would go to Americans.
“Having a large illegal workforce, like we’ve had for the last several decades, undermines wages for American workers, and the most important thing we can do to prevent the deterioration of wages and salaries for American workers is to make sure that we don’t have a population that’s working here illegally,” he told The Daily Caller.
Some Republicans, such as Sen. Jeff Sessions, however, criticized Democrats’ support for foreigners during a period of high unemployment.
“Democrats are pushing for legislation that would legalize millions of illegal immigrants, increasing competition for scarce jobs and making it harder for U.S. citizens and legal immigrants to find work,” said a statement from Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas.
“Democrats are putting the interests of illegal immigrants ahead of American workers… We [Republicans] want to make sure that our nation’s immigration policies put the interests of Americans first,” he said.
Advocates, however, praised the Democrats for their attempts to propel the issue forward.
“The deportation crisis doesn’t take a break just because we now have a budget crisis,” Jeff Hauser, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO, told The Washington Post.
“Each day, more than 1,000 aspiring Americans are being deported. It’s constructive that pro-immigration forces in the House are taking action because it reflects the fact that the issue remains at the forefront of the conversation among communities across the country.”
GOP's Goodlatte, McCaul Working on Immigration Bill Behind Scenes