Gutierrez, Ortiz introduce progressive immigration reform bill

On Tuesday December 15, Reps. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., and Solomon Ortiz, D-Tex., announced a new comprehensive immigration reform bill in the House of Representatives.

HR 4321, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of 2009, or "CIR ASAP" for short, has Congressman Ortiz as its main sponsor, though Gutierrez has done most of the legwork. It has 91 original cosponsors, including members of the Hispanic, Black, Asian-Pacific Caucuses, and representing 26 states plus all the nonvoting representatives of U.S. "territories" and the District of Columbia. To pass, a House bill must get 217 votes.

CIR ASAP differs from comprehensive immigration reform bills introduced in 2003-2004, 2005-2006, and 2007-2008 in that it contains no new guest or temporary worker program. In the former bills, large increases of guest worker visas were authorized as a concession to get the support of business interests, "moderate" Republicans and the Bush White House. But this meant that none of these bills were supported by the AFL-CIO and most of organized labor, with the exception of unions like SEIU, UNITE HERE and the two farmworker unions, UFW and FLOC, who would have benefited from the legalization of the undocumented to an exceptional degree.

In the first half of 2009, AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions worked out an agreement whereby in this year's bill, the guest worker aspect would be dropped. Instead, there would be a new labor force commission, with union participation, which would monitor labor needs and make recommendations to Congress on the number of new visas to be authorized. This agreement was the centerpiece of a new united front effort for comprehensive immigration reform, called "Reform Immigration for America" (, which includes not only most of organized labor but also the majority of other organizations and coalitions interested in immigration reform. This labor force commission has been incorporated in HR 4321, along with the bulk of the principles agreed on by Reform Immigration for America.

If enacted, the bill would legalize the vast majority of the 12 million or so undocumented immigrants believed to be in this country, excepting only people convicted of serious crimes. Persons caught working under false Social Security numbers could be legalized.

The first step would be a provisional visa, allowing the person to work and travel back and forth, which could be turned into permanent residence (a green card) after six years, and after having fulfilled certain requirements. There would be a $500 fee for legalization, much less than in recent bills. The bill also returns to immigration judges the right to stop deportation proceedings against people with minor U.S. citizen children if the interests of the children would be harmed. This would take care of situations like that of Elvira Arellano and her U.S. born son. Many immigrants' rights advocates applaud the bill's elimination of the 287 g program under which local and state police are allowed to do immigration enforcement work, and which has been grossly abused by people like Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, to profile and persecute Latino residents of the Phoenix area. The bill reasserts a federal monopoly on immigration law and its enforcement, which would put a stop to the demagogic practice of small town politicians hustling votes by going after the immigrants with special local ordinances.

The bill also greatly increases the number of permanent legal resident visas. There are new border and internal control mechanisms in the bill, including a modified E-verify program, but these do not go beyond what is already being done by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and in many causes soften their impact and create new rights safeguards.

Opposition to the bill arose immediately. On the ultra-right, the usual crowd of anti-immigrant organizations and right-wing Republican politicians such as Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tenn., yowled about "giveaways to lawbreakers" and "treason". On a somewhat different note, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and "moderate" Republicans such as Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who had supported earlier bills, denounced this one as a "disappointment" and "not comprehensive" because it does not have a guest worker component. Some on the left also denounced the bill, but it has the eager support of the AFL-CIO and most of labor, plus the majority of immigrants' rights organizations.

Next week, Sen. Charles Shumer, D-N.Y., is going to introduce a Senate bill which is likely to be quite a bit more conservative. Immigrants' rights organizations figure that they have a "window" of opportunity to get something done February or March of 2010. After that, the dynamics of the 2010 congressional elections will scare many congresspersons away from the issue. So mass lobbying campaigns are already getting under way.


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  • travel back and forth is good for mexico and canada and both of them can use "TRADE CARD" entry.... It takes $$$$$$ to travel to europe, asia, africa, south america..

    WHY CHANGE THE LAW? The LAWS that are, are NOT ENFORCED...

    i could go on....increase the # of H1B and pay them what american born are paid ...and the list goes on...

    thanx for your time and info

    PS this land was stolen from the people that were originally here....

    Posted by j. h, 12/19/2009 8:45am (6 years ago)

  • To John Case: Yes, there will be all kinds of phone banking. The best is to hook into local organizations. In Chicago, there will probably be coordination via the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants' and Refugees rights ( But we will keep people posted on all the actions.

    To W.R.: Thanks

    To dt: You should stop watching Fox News and reading anti-immigrant diatribes on the internet, and study up a bit on the whole immigration question, including the actual contents of the Ortiz-Gutierrez bill. If you do, you may come to the conclusion that legalizing undocumented immigrants will help, not hurt, U.S. born and documented workers. To stop massive labor migrations, which affect by no means only the United States, we need a radical change in patterns international trade and development, which currently benefit only the rich in the countries involved. Why don't you do something constructive by working on that project? Hint: Look up wat NAFTA, CAFTA etc. are doing to the internal situations in the poorer countries, and a little light bulb may go on in your brain.

    Posted by Emile Schepers, 12/18/2009 9:16pm (6 years ago)

  • dt, I'm surprised your xenophobic rant doesn't contain "and they will steal our jobs!". Amnesty in 1986 didn't cause a disaster, and the idea that ending the present regime of terror against undocumented workers would be catastrophic is a filthy lie. The workers who are here are here because the ruling class of the US wants a workforce that is more readily controllable and cheaper than the working class made itself during the victories of the labor movement, and increasing penalties only feeds that vicious circle. Immigration reform that doesn't acknowledge and accept the 12 million workers already here is simply not going to solve any problems.

    And as far as hating this country - it's a country built by immigrants. Hating immigrants is hating America.

    Posted by W.R., 12/18/2009 1:35pm (6 years ago)

  • You must really hate this country.

    Why else would you think that rewarding 12-20 million (or may millions more) illegal immigrants is a good idea?

    This bill would:
    1. Cost taxpayers billions in just verification and processing. Paying $500 processing fee, with lots of loopholes for most to pay nothing, is a joke. It will mean taxpayers will pick up the over $1500 cost for that alone - then we have all of the other costs.
    2. Millions who are not currently here will flood over the border declaring they were here. No verification is needed, just their word.
    3. Millions will flood here looking for the next amnesty and all the freebies that come with it.
    4. Millions of illegals will loose their jobs since they now can demand better money and benefits.
    5. We will have 12-20 million (or millions more) competing with our own poor for VERY limited social services money. There just isn't any more funds.
    6. Increase legal immigration and thus place us in a position of rationing water countrywide that much sooner.
    7. Gut any checks on immigration status so we will never know who is really here.

    Essentially this bill opens our borders wide for anyone who can get here. Personally I think we need to think about that and know it will mean every person, but the very wealthy, will suffer a serious decline in standard of living.

    If you want to use YOUR money to help someone, fine. However if you want to use MY money or ruin THIS country in the process then you are picking a battle you are going to loose.

    Posted by dt, 12/18/2009 11:27am (6 years ago)

  • This bill is good news. Is there an easy way to hook into phone banking on this. It sounds like calls right now could strengthen support of a stronger bill, before Schumer et al get started.

    John Case

    Posted by , 12/18/2009 11:07am (6 years ago)

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