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House Dems Introduce Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation

December 21, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

While Congress continues to plow full steam ahead on health care, Democrats in the House recently took a big step forward on another huge and contentious issue, immigration. On Tuesday, Rep. Solomon Ortiz [D, TX-27] and Rep. Luis Gutierez [D, IL-4] introduced comprehensive immigration reform legislation that will serve as the starting point for Congress’ work on the issue this session.

“We have waited patiently for a workable solution to our immigration crisis to be taken up by this Congress and our President,” Gutierrez said upon introducing the bill. "The time for waiting is over. This bill will be presented before Congress recesses for the holidays so that there is no excuse for inaction in the New Year.

View the bill details, read the text, find news and blog coverage and more here:

H.R. 4132 – Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Prosperity and Security Act of 2009

As a first step on immigration reform for the 111th session of Congress, it’s pretty aggressive. The bill touches on just about all elements of immigration reform, from border security to foreign worker visas to employment eligibility verification. It generally follows the same framework of the comprehensive immigration bills that were attempted by the 110th Congress under President Bush and failed mainly because of public opposition to providing a process for immigrants who are currently undocumented to eventually become legal residents.

Like the bills proposed under Bush, the new bill would require undocumented immigrants to show that they have contributed to the U.S. through work, military service, education or other such service and do not have any felony convictions and no more than three misdemeanors before they can apply for citizenship. They would also have to prove that they were in the U.S. before December 15, 2009 (the date of the bill’s introduction to Congress), wait 6 years from the date of their application before gaining citizens status and pay a fine of $500.

In a number of areas, the bill is more generous to undocumented immigrants than the bills that were attempted under Bush. The new bill, for example, provides DHS broad authority to decide and define which “vulnerable populations” would be exempt from detainment and deportation. It also includes a long list of places, like colleges, cemeteries and churches, that ICE would not be allowed to detain undocumented immigrants in or near.

During the last session of Congress while Republican President Bush was supporting immigration reform, similar immigration legislation was able to attract Republican support and co-sponsorship. Now that Democratic President Barack Obama is in office supporting immigration reform, this year’s bill has not attracted any Republican support.

Pictured above is Rep. Gutierrez speaking about immigration reform at a rally in October on the grounds of the Capitol.

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