Sign the Discharge Petition on H.R. 15, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act”

Media 03.26,14

Recipient: U.S. House of Representatives

Dear Representative:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 210 national advocacy organizations, we urge you to sign the discharge petition on

H.R. 15, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” The time is long overdue for a comprehensive, bipartisan solution for the many problems that have long plagued our immigration system.

We applauded Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for releasing, earlier this year, a set of principles to guide the House’s consideration of immigration reform legislation. Yet we are dismayed that no legislative activity whatsoever has taken place since then – despite the fact that President Obama has fully and aggressively enforced the laws as they currently exist.

To address any real or perceived concerns about President Obama’s record on enforcement, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) went so far as to propose delaying the effective dates of immigration reform until 2017, after the end of President Obama’s second term. The fact that the House leadership rejected this reasonable offer, after repeatedly blaming President Obama for legislative inaction, suggests to us that the House leadership may be as motivated by election-year politics as it is by the merits of this issue.

We realize that a discharge petition is a potentially divisive measure in an already badly-divided House. We wish that it was not necessary. Yet the House leadership has left us with no choice but to support it, and to call upon you to do the same. Our nation can ill afford to continue waiting for major policy reforms with such tremendous implications for the economy, society, law enforcement, and human rights – and certainly not on the basis of the explanations that the House leadership has provided to date.

H.R. 15, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” is modeled closely after S. 744, the similarly-named Senate bill that was approved by a solid bipartisan majority earlier this year. It currently has 199 cosponsors, and many additional

Representatives have spoken out in favor of its provisions. If it were brought up for a vote, we are confident that it could pass the House and allow reform to move forward.

The ultimate goal of The Leadership Conference and the communities we represent is an immigration bill that includes the following key features:

· A Path to Citizenship: Hard-working immigrants who are contributing to this country must be encouraged to come out of the shadows and regularize their status. Forcing millions of workers to hide in an underground economy has hurt the health, safety, and welfare of all Americans. Our goal should be to integrate as many unauthorized immigrants into the United States as possible, once they meet reasonable requirements like background checks and payment of back taxes.

· Firm and Fair Enforcement: It is clear that our nation’s immigration enforcement policies are in need of significant improvement. At the same time, these policies must be consistent with humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect and dignity. Any proposal that would criminalize immigrants, encourage state or local police to enforce immigration laws, permit the use of racial profiling, or penalize anyone for giving humanitarian assistance will not deter unauthorized immigration. Instead, it will only drive immigrants further underground, defeating the ultimate purpose of reform.

· Protection of Civil and Human Rights: Since 1996, including after 9/11, our immigration policies have drastically weakened the rights of immigrants. Many immigrants – including long-term legal residents – are torn away from their families under extremely harsh mandatory detention and deportation policies, or rushed through expedited proceedings that result in widespread mistakes and raise significant human rights concerns. In addition, the use of private, for-profit detention corporations has boomed in recent years. Immigration reform should minimize the use of detention, and provide access to fair, humane, and common-sense enforcement proceedings.

· Family Reunification and Legal Immigration: Under our current family-based immigration system, it can often take years – or even more than a decade – for close relatives of U.S. citizens or permanent residents to obtain immigrant visas. This only encourages people to overstay temporary visas or find some other way to enter the country. Reform legislation should reunite families, eliminate unconscionable family-based backlogs, eradicate discrimination against LGBT people, and ensure adequate numbers of visas in all categories. It should also continue to advance the international diversity that has made our nation so unique, either by preserving the diversity visa program or providing an adequate replacement.

· Future Flow of Workers into the U.S.: Any immigration proposal designed to meet the needs of employers for new labor must fully protect the rights of both new immigrant workers as well as those already here. Any proposal that forces established workers to leave the U.S. after a short period of time, with no path to citizenship, will make the workers vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Reform must also protect wages and promote economic advancement for native-born workers, including low-income African-American workers whose high rate of unemployment is often exploited by restrictionist groups.

The time for the House to act is now. We urge you to sign the discharge petition on H.R. 15. We are confident that H.R. 15 has the votes to pass, if given a chance. If you have any questions, please contact either of us, or Senior Counsel Rob Randhava, at (202) 466-3311.


Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President