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IMMIGRATION REFORM CLEARS THE SENATE

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Senator Chuck Schumer

New York, NY ---  On Thursday, June 27, after decades of advocacy for a fair, just, and workable immigration system, S.744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” cleared the Senate with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. The bill’s passage brings the country one step closer to a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The final bill reflected a heavily-negotiated bipartisan compromise. Throughout the negotiation process, a diverse alliance of immigrant advocates, labor, business and faith leaders beat back provisions that would have gutted the bill --  e.g., provisions obstructing or eliminating the path to citizenship, and denying hard-working families who pay payroll taxes of the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit.  Onerous requirements around English proficiency and back taxes were defeated, as was a proposal to deny health care to pregnant women and children in states like New York that currently provide such access.

Major victories included the strongest DREAM provisions ever; the right to reunite for certain deported family members; access to counsel for unaccompanied minor children, immigrants with serious mental disabilities, and other particularly vulnerable individuals; and an expansion of the use of alternatives to detention.

New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform, a campaign coordinated by the New York Immigration Coalition with more than 150 member organizations, is pleased that the Senate embraced these significant reforms, but we cannot endorse several aspects of the legislation passed by the Senate this week. We were deeply concerned that Senator Hirono’s amendments to restore family visas were not included in the bill and that young people known as “little DREAMers” will be required to wait the full 13 years to achieve citizenship simply because they are too young to qualify for DREAM provisions in the bill, which would accelerate the path to citizenship for many young people. We are also concerned that bi-national same-sex couples were left out of the legislation, although since the Supreme Court’s invalidating of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act will allow all couples to be treated equally within our country’s immigration system.

Lastly, the massive build-up at the Southern border, without corresponding oversight and accountability mechanisms, will have serious ramifications for border communities and American taxpayers. This comes at a time when unlawful crossings are at historic lows and border cities in the U.S. are some of the safest in the nation, and yet as a result of closed-door negotiations, provisions were added to the bill at the 11th hour, doubling the number of border patrol agents at the southern border, adding 350 miles of border fencing and expanding the use of drones, Black Hawk helicopters, and other surveillance equipment in border communities. New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform strongly objected to this deal as it was being developed in the Senate and we will work vigorously to change these provisions before this bill becomes law.

As momentum for reform builds, Republicans in the House under Speaker Boehner’s leadership must realize that the American people are on the side of reform and will not tolerate another session going by without a resolution to our broken immigration system. The House must find a way forward to protect a pathway to citizenship for millions, provide for future flows of newcomers, and reunite families.

The following are remarks from leaders from the New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform:

"With the Gang of Eight and Senator Schumer's tenacity and determination, the Senate has finally moved reform forward after years of inaction," said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "As the legislative process unfolds in the House in the weeks to come, we will continue to fight to protect the path to citizenship and re-unite families, and to push back against policies that sacrifice the safety of our nation's border residents, block family reunification, or compromise the fundamental freedoms of both native- and foreign-born Americans alike."

“NMCIR is supportive of an immigration reform bill that is fair, just and moral.  As the bill moves to the house NMCIR will be advocating to ensure that the bill becomes more inclusive and protects our communities’ civil and human rights,” said Angela Fernandez, Esq. Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

“With today’s passage of an immigration bill in the Senate, we are now calling on New York’s Congressional delegation to seize this historic opportunity to achieve meaningful reform,”  said Milan Bhatt, co-executive director, Worker Justice Center of NY. “The devil has never been more in the detail—our elected officials must act now to fix our broken immigration system in a way that substitutes core American values of economic fairness and humanity for the failed “enforcement only” approach that has ripped apart family units across the nation. New York must lead the way.”

“On behalf of our 125,000 members and their families, I want recognize the Senate for passing this historic piece of legislation, and Senator Schumer for his leadership, which will allow 11 million people to come out of the shadows,” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU. “While we object to the unnecessary border security spending, we believe that this bill keeps intact the crucial elements of commonsense immigration reform. We now turn our attention to the House where we will continue the struggle to give people the ability to work with dignity and keep their families together.”

“While the Senate vote represents a step forward for comprehensive immigration reform, the MinKwon Center for Community Action is deeply disappointed and concerned that this bill eliminates important family immigration categories,” said S.J Jung, board president of the MinKwon Center for Community Action. “An immigration system that promotes family unity is key to stronger families, a stronger economy, and the social well-being of the United States.  Our nation needs real immigration reform that protects and strengthens our family-based immigration system.

“Nowhere are the contributions of immigrants to the economic and cultural fabric of America more apparent than right here in New York,” said Mario Cilento, President of the New York State AFL-CIO. “That’s why  our state’s Labor Movement views the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate, although imperfect, as a monumental and laudable step in finally giving millions of hardworking men and women the chance to experience the full American dream, which includes a path to citizenship and all the rights, privileges and pride that accompanies it. We thank Senator Schumer for his leadership throughout this process.  There is still a long way to go, but we remain committed to working with our unions, our allies, and elected officials to ensure that comprehensive immigration reform becomes a reality in 2013 with no further rollbacks from the Gang of Eight Compromise.”

“The New Sanctuary Coalition continues to support immigration reform and now that the Senate has approved a bill our leaders, ministers, rabbis, priests,  imams and people of faith insist the House put aside their differences and pass a bill that is even better that the Senate,” said Ravi Ragbir, organizer with the New Sanctuary Coalition. “We encourage a bipartisan working relationship to create an immigration policy so that everyone can live in dignity.”

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