House Members Consider Immigration Reform
by: Shomial Ahmad, March 13, 2013 3:03:00 pm
Congressman Al Green's district includes parts of Harris and Fort Bend counties. It's a diverse district, with immigrants from many countries. At a recent press conference, the Democratic Congressman said his main motivation for comprehensive immigration reform is not the economics.
"But here's why I think it ought to be done. It's just the right thing to do for people who came to this country, who have served us well, who have done us no harm."
Some estimates cite more than 400,000 illegal immigrants live in the Houston area. And what that 'right thing to do' with those immigrants was further outlined by Luis Gutierrez, a congressman from Chicago, who was at the same press conference.
"We want them to get a work permit. We want to put them to work. We want to put them to pay their taxes. We want them to learn English. And one day, we want to integrate themselves as citizens of the United States."
Gutierrez would not go into the details on whether or not there was a secret bipartisan group drafting legislation. And here in Houston, none of the Republican House members contacted responded by deadline.
But Charles Foster, the chair of the Greater Houston Partnership's task force on immigration reform, says they have been speaking to Republican lawmakers.
"We try to work with them and try to let them know of our concerns."
Some of those concerns, Foster says, include temporary visas for certain undocumented immigrants that could eventually lead to citizenship, a reformed guest worker program, more permanent visa numbers for college graduate here in the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects. Foster, who has advised former President George W. Bush, says he's cautiously optimistic that reform will pass through.
"Prior to November, it was very difficult to get any member to focus on this issue, or to say anything beyond border enforcement. And there's been a remarkable change."
Just this week, Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee, who sits on the House immigration subcommittee, convened a meeting with various advocates on the issue, from diverse immigrant rights groups to the Greater Houston Partnership.
"This meeting was really an emergency meeting to show the depth of need that is in our community. The room was standing-room only."
Jackson-Lee says there's no crystal ball in front of her, but she hopes there'll be a house draft of legislation in the next couple of weeks.