McALLEN, April 23 - The chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus says the House version of immigration reform legislation will be strikingly different to the Senate version unveiled by the so-called Gang of Eight.
U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa said the House proposals will be unveiled within the next two weeks.
He said they include two or three times more visas than the Senate version. He also said that pathway to citizenship for the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants in the United States will take a lot longer.
“They want to go 15 to 20 years before you get citizenship, compared to ten to 13 years in the Senate version,” Hinojosa told the Guardian.
The Mercedes, Texas, Democrat also said the House version will include language that says the U.S.-Mexico border has to be “100 percent secure” before undocumented immigrants in the U.S. can obtain citizenship.
“Republicans want to have 100 percent of the border secure but nobody knows what that means. That is the way to permanently delay immigration reform,” Hinojosa told the Guardian. The Senate version mentions a 90 percent effectiveness rate for apprehensions and returns in high risk border sectors.
The House plan is being developed by three Democratic members of Congress and three Republican members of Congress.
“The House is more demanding,” Hinojosa said. “They want to double or triple the number of visas. They want to extend the number of years it takes to become a citizen. They want 15 to 20 years. The Senate side is only like ten to 13 years at the most. Those are some of the very glaring differences.”
Hinojosa gave his comments to the Guardian after speaking at a Hidalgo County Democratic Party dinner at the Embassy Suites Hotel in McAllen last Friday. In his speech at the event, Hinojosa announced that two of the House members involved in the immigration reform proposals would be visiting the Rio Grande Valley in the coming weeks.
“Xavier Becerra and Luis Gutierrez are two of the highest ranking members in Congress when it comes to immigration,” Hinojosa said. “They are national leaders.”
Hinojosa said Gutierrez, D-Illinois, will be in Brownsville, McAllen and Edinburg on April 30. Gutierrez chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ immigration task force. He will join Hinojosa and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela for a Question and Answer Forum on Immigration Reform at the University of Texas at Brownsville from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on April 30. From Brownsville, Gutierrez will travel to McAllen for a private meeting before participating in an Immigration Reform Rally with DREAM Act students at the University of Texas-Pan American. This will start at 3 p.m. on April 30, Hinojosa said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you are talking about national Latino leaders that are unbelievable when it comes to immigration,” Hinojosa told the audience at the Hidalgo County Democratic Party dinner.
“I am hoping you will tell your friends in Cameron County that Congressman Gutierrez and his wife, Grace Gutierrez, are coming first to Brownsville, then to McAllen and then to UTPA where they will meet with 650 DREAMers. We need to show them support and how much we appreciate the courage that they have had to be able to give us the legislation that we hope will eventually become federal law and that we will reform immigration. I need your support.”
Hinojosa said Congressman Xavier Becerra, a Democrat from California, will likely visit the Valley at the end of May. Becerra is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
Hinojosa said the reason immigration reform is being taken up now in Congress is due in no small part to the increased turnout of Latinos in the presidential election last November. He said the increased turnout is mirrored in the growth of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which now boasts 33 members. He said these members represent 19 million constituents. ““This is the time (for immigration reform),” Hinojosa said.
Hinojosa also spoke about how President Obama gave the Congressional Hispanic Caucus his blessing in crafting comprehensive immigration reform. He said the White House called his office the day after the State of the Union speech in February. Hinojosa said he met with Obama later that week. “I want to talk to you about comprehensive immigration. I believe it is the right policy at the right time and we can get it passed. Work fast and bring me some legislation I can speak to and support,” Hinojosa reported Obama as saying.