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Congress Adjourns, Tabling Immigration Reform

By: Charlette Sosa - Aug 5, 2013, 11:10 am

The US House of Congress voted Friday to adjourn for vacation, tabling until at least September several key issues, including immigration reform.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), while not committing to any time-schedule, emphasized “border security” importance and told Mike Wallace on Fox News Sunday, “we are not going to be bringing the Senate bill up; we don’t believe that that’s the right path.”

The “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” or S.744 passed the Senate, sixty-eight to thirty-two on June 27. Drafted last spring by the Gang of Eight, the bill provides illegal immigrants a process for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status. However, if it becomes law, S.744 would, among other things, require “operational” the Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy and the E-Verify (employment verification) system before those under RPI would be able to request permanent legal residence, according to a guide published by the Washington D.C. based American Immigration Center.

Sentiment among voters favor the Senate’s S.744 by 64 to 31 percent, according to Quinnipiac University. Support was “strong” throughout “every partisan, gender, racial, religious, income and age group,” their national poll said.

However, a recent survey by the Pew Research Center and USA Today found the divide on “whether border security must be achieved before the process of legalization” differed. Forty-three percent, of the 1,512 polled, believed that “effective border control” should be a prerequisite to those illegally in the United States gaining a path to lawful status; whereas 49 percent said access to “legality” could work concurrently with advances in border security. The study noted that 56 percent of Republicans polled preferred a “secure border” first, while 60 percent of  Democrats said applications for legal status should work simultaneously with border improvements.

Pew found broad harmony in two aspects: 77 percent “agree that deporting all undocumented immigrants would be unrealistic” and 75 percent “agree that it would be better for the economy for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and become legal workers.” However, Pew observed that Republicans were “far more likely than Democrats” to see snags. Almost eight in ten Republicans believed that granting a path for lawful status would bring more illegals to the United States — while Democrats sat at around 40 percent on this perceived drawback.

The November 2014 are “off-year elections,” occurring in an even-numbered year without a presidential election. All 435 seats in Congress and thirty-three of the 100 for the Senate will be on the table. Pew noted that Republicans were split on the effect of immigration reform on national elections. Thirty-nine percent said “supporting legal status would help the party,” while twenty percent said it would “hurt” Republicans, and forty percent saw no affect.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) – as cosponsor on the bipartisan immigration bill that got through the Democratic-controlled Senate – cautioned last week “that if we fail on immigration reform, it won’t matter who our nominee is because of the polarization of the Hispanic vote.” The US Census Bureau’s latest figures show people of “Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or race minority” at 52 million and 16.7 percent of the total population.

Cantor said that the Republican-controlled House would work on immigration “according to our terms.” Congress ends their vacation with the next meeting scheduled for September 9, 2013. However, even then spending and the budget are likely to dominate proceedings, particularly considering that they will have only nine legislative days before a possible government shutdown.

Charlette Sosa Charlette Sosa

A contributor with the PanAm Post, Sosa worked for several years as the editor of the Venezuela News Desk for the Caracas Daily Journal. Follow her on Twitter @cjgsosa.