Monday, May 13, 2013

Strong Community Presence During First Day of Senate's Immigration Bill Mark-up

Last week, immigrant families and their allies made sure that their voices were heard as the Senate Judiciary Committee began the first day of discussion on potential amendments to bill S. 744 the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.

Immigrant families made their presence felt in the committee room where they composed a majority of the audience and they took their stories to the White House where a press conference was held for brave, powerful mothers to speak on the consequences of continued deportations. As the Senators debated about amendments to the bill, their presence served as a reminder that immigration is not an abstract issue and that future legislation will have lasting impacts on their families.

A full rundown of amendment votes that happened last week can be found at Some amendments closely followed by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition were:

Amendments the Office of Public Witness supported: 
  • Hirono #23 was approved, which would require the border patrol to determine whether someone traveling with a child is the parent/guardian and whether deportation would raise humanitarian or safety concerns. Senator Hirono removed the requirement that these screenings happen within two hours of apprehension, but the amendment is still strong. 
  • Feinstein #6 was approved. This is another unaccompanied child-related amendment, which improves conditions and will keep children safe when in border patrol custody.  
  • Blumenthal's amendment #10 was also approved. It will help discourage and prevent racial profiling by allowing the Attorney General to refuse to reimburse state and local governments for detentions and prosecutions resulting from a violation of the law by a law enforcement official, such as an act of racial profiling. 
  • Senator Coons withdrew his amendment #2, which would prohibit dangerous practices that place migrants at increased vulnerability when deported at the Southern U.S. border. There will be an opportunity to reconsider this amendment during a Senate floor vote. 
  • Similarly, Feinstein also withdrew her amendment #11 for re-negotiation, so it will likely come up again. This amendment reduces the definition of the Southwest Border Region from the area within 100 miles of the Southern Border Region to a region of 25 miles, significantly reducing the area in which border agents can operate drone and video surveillance.  

Amendments the Office of Public Witness opposed:
  • Grassley #4 was defeated; this amendment could have delayed the pathway to citizenship indefinitely. 
  • Sessions #9 was defeated; it would require the completion of 700 miles of reinforced, double-layered fencing before the status of individuals with RPI status can be adjusted. 
  • Grassley #1 was approved; it will apply border security strategies, but only applied strategies to all border sectors, rather than just "high risk sectors."  

Before the hearing started, immigrant families in the committee room stood and joined their hands in prayer with ally faith leaders. The Senate Judiciary Committee will continue considering amendments this Tuesday, May 14th and Thursday, May 16th, let’s also stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters. A schedule of Tuesday’s mark up is posted here.