House Democrats introduce separate immigration bill

House Democrats released their own comprehensive immigration proposal Wednesday, hoping to keep pressure on Republicans to move forward on stalled plans to overhaul the nation's border control laws.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and several other Democrats announced the plans at a news conference on Capitol Hill on a day when nearly all the focus was on the budget fight and government shutdown. The lawmakers emphasized that immigration remains an imperative issue and hoped that the House's GOP leadership would put legislation forward for a vote before the end of the year.

The Democrats' plan amends the comprehensive bill approved by the Senate in June by striking a controversial border security measure that would add 700 hundred of miles of fencing and 20,000 border control agents along the U.S.-Mexico border. That provision was added to the Senate bill to help win votes from conservative Republicans.

In its place, the Democratic lawmakers substituted a border control plan that was passed unanimously by the House Homeland Security Committee last spring. That plan instructs the Department of Homeland Security to write a plan that could ensure the apprehension of 90 percent of illegal border-crossers in high-traffic areas within two years and across the entire southern border within five years. But it does not set an exact price or timeline or mandate a certain number of hires.

Immigration proponents have acknowledged that the Democratic proposal stands little chance of being voted on but said it could pressure Republicans, who have rejected the Senate plan and are working on a series of smaller-scale proposals.

"The deportation crisis doesn't take a break just because we now have a budget crisis," said Jeff Hauser, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO, which supports comprehensive immigration reform. "Each day, more than 1,000 aspiring Americans are being deported. That crisis must end. 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."

 

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Sean Sullivan | October 2, 2013