Democrats, faith groups make last push for immigration reform this year

Immigration reform supporters give their blessing Tuesday to people who are fasting in tents on the National Mall near the Capitol. Five volunteers have committed to fasting for an immigration reform bill that includes to citizenship. (SHFWire photo by Andrés Rodríguez)

Immigration reform supporters give their blessing Tuesday to people who are fasting in tents on the National Mall near the Capitol. Five volunteers have committed to fasting for an immigration reform bill that includes to citizenship. (SHFWire photo by Andrés Rodríguez)

There’s still time, reform proponents say

Andres Rodriguez | Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

WASHINGTON – Members of Congress, along with faith and labor groups, are making one last push to pass comprehensive immigration reform by the end of the year, despite warnings that the House leadership has no plans to cooperate.

At a Wednesday press conference, 12 freshmen Democratic representatives and Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said they haven’t given up on passing comprehensive immigration reform this year. The House is scheduled to be in session for 12 more days.

Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., says Wednesday that the House would pass an immigration reform bill if it came to the floor. Two freshman Democratic House members from California joined Hoyer at the press conference, Scott Peters, left, and Tony Cardenas. (SHFWire photo by Andrés Rodríguez)

Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., says Wednesday that the House would pass an immigration reform bill if it came to the floor. Two freshman Democratic House members from California joined Hoyer at the press conference, Scott Peters, left, and Tony Cardenas. (SHFWire photo by Andrés Rodríguez)

“We’re not done. We do have time,” Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., said. “We can see a bill get the full debate and a vote of the entire House, and we should take that opportunity to do so.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he does not intend to create a conference committee to craft a bill from the proposed House bill and the Senate bill that passed in June.

Hoyer said he is disappointed with remarks Boehner made Wednesday. Boehner told reporters, “We have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”

Hoyer said, “John Boehner and Eric Cantor ought to bring either the bill that we have introduced, the Senate bill or, for that matter, a bill that they introduce to the floor of the United States Congress and let the House work its will on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform.”

Faith organizations are also hoping to pressure Congress to pass reform through prayer and fasting. Five people have been fasting since Tuesday in tents set up on the National Mall near the Capitol.

The Rev. Noel Anderson, the immigrant rights coordinator with the Church World Service, said Tuesday the five men and women are fasting as a way of giving up sustenance and putting in spiritual energy and prayer to show that immigrants have dignity.

“Faith leaders have joined with immigrant rights leaders and labor leaders as a way to show that this is a moral crisis that we’re in and that we have to give a prophetic witness to show solidarity with the suffering, with the mass deportations that are happening and are terrorizing our communities,” Anderson said.

The five, who say they will fast for as long as they are medically able to do so, received the community’s blessing Tuesday, followed by prayer and a song by Ruben Antonio Quiroz Lagos.

Quiroz Lagos, 48, of Springfield, Va., is a musician and a member of the band Sin Control. He hasn’t seen his children in the 15 years since he left Honduras. His song, he said, reflects the injustices that immigrants in this country face.

“This country is a country of hope and of love and of opportunity,” Quiroz Lagos said, “but it’s turned into a nightmare with all these people suffering from these deportations.”

Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., one of the co-sponsors ofH.R. 15, the proposed House bill on immigration reform, called for more Republican representatives to sign on to the bill. Three Republicans have backed the bill so far.

His bill is similar to the Senate bill, except it replaces the mandatory requirements for spending, infrastructure, technology and personnel at the border with a focus on accountability and establishing metrics for border security.

“It really will only take about 15 minutes to bring up H.R. 15,” Horsford said, adding that more than 180 representatives have signed on as cosponsors.

Reach reporter Andrés Rodríguez at andres.rodriguez@shns.com or 202-326 9871. 

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