Immigration Reform 2013: Amid Government Shutdown, Nancy Pelosi Unveils Comprehensive Bill

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington in March.
Image Reuters


A group of House Democrats led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi unveiled a comprehensive immigration bill on Wednesday as the standoff over the debt ceiling between the Senate's Democratic majority and the House's Republican majority saw much of the government shuttered for a second straight day.  The plan consists in large part of the comprehensive Senate reform passed by that chamber in June before House Republicans refused to consider it.  But the newly presented House Democrat plan strips out the Senate bill's "border surge" amendment - which had been a last-minute addition designed to rally further support for it among conservative senators - and replaces it with the Border Security Results Act, a bipartisan border-enforcement bill  introduced back in April.   

The Pelosi-sponsored bill would, just like the Senate's earlier bill, put about 8 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States on a 13-year path to citizenship after they paid fees and back taxes in addition to greatly expanding the number of visas granted to high- and low-skilled workers.  But in contrast to the "border surge", which called for $46 billion to be allotted toward militarized enforcement measures along the US-Mexico border (including an additional 700 miles of fences and 20,000 Border Patrol agents as well as new Afghanistan- and Iraq-tested surveillance equipment), the Border Security Results Act calls for little in the way of specific measures, instead leaving it up to the Department of Homeland Security to determine how to put 100 percent of the nation's borders under constant real-time surveillance and apprehend 90 percent of would-be unauthorized border crossers.   To achieve these metrics, the Act calls for biometric technologies at ports of entry as well as manned and unmanned aircraft equipped with cameras and sensors, though it doesn't say how much money should be spent on them.

Conservative critics panned the new plan, telling USA Today it had "no chance" of passing in the Republican-led House for its similarity to the Senate bill, which Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has refused to introduce for debate.  Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) told the paper on Wednesday that the Pelosi plan was "basically the Senate bill" and said, "I strongly oppose the Senate bill".  Democrats, however, continued to point to the broad coalition of interests behind a comprehensive reform with a path to citizenship for the undocumented.  Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), told the Associated Press, "If it doesn't happen, it's really a failure of House Republicans to listen to the American people to take action,"

America's Voice, the nation's largest immigrant-advocacy group, added its vote to it in a statement which praised the House Democrat's bill for "[addressing] all aspects of the immigration system", adding, "It is not a perfect bill.  But we get it: Democrats decided to include only language that was approved on a bipartisan basis in both the Senate and House as a way to encourage bipartisanship in the House."

RELATED: Nancy Pelosi Immigration Reform Plan To Drop 'Border Surge' Amendment From Bill

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David Iaconangelo is a Brooklyn-based writer and translator.  Formerly editor of ZafraLit, a blog of new short fiction from Cuba.  He has lived in and reported from various Latin American countries.