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Immigration Reform Bill Introduced By House Progressives

Luis Gutierrez and a host of House members from the Congressional Tri-Caucus (Hispanic, Black and Asian/Pacific Islander) and Progressive Caucus are holding an event at this hour, introducing the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009.

The release of the bill is designed to push the Congressional leadership and the White House to actually work on comprehensive immigration reform in 2010. Advocates say they have waited too long already for a solution to the immigration crisis, and that their communities need to be removed from the shadows.

While the President has committed on multiple occasions to passing comprehensive immigration reform in 2010, tackling a divisive issue like immigration in an election year could give heartburn to risk-averse Democrats. But such divisiveness never seemed to be a problem in the Bush years where extremely controversial issues like the Iraq war, military commissions, FISA and several others all passed during election years.

Gutierrez explained the need for the bill at the Huffington Post yesterday:

Every single day in America, families are being divided. Over the past year, I’ve traveled across the country with my colleagues conducting something called the United Families (“Familias Unidas”) tour. In twenty-four cities across the country, we heard from families who were being ripped apart by the current system. We’ve heard stories from a father dying from cancer whose wife faced deportation. We’ve heard from American citizen children who are faced with choosing between their parents and a college education.

This is a crisis. It’s a crisis of human and civil rights, it’s a crisis of our economy and our workforce, and it’s a crisis of national security. This is why we cannot wait any longer. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009 is a solution that we, as a nation of immigrants, can be proud of.

He added, “Our bill will be presented before Congress heads home for the holidays so that there is no excuse for inaction in the New Year.”

The Gutierrez bill was praised by Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva, who said that it “recognizes our nation’s immigrant roots and provides workable solutions to the broken immigration system.”

Details on the bill are not yet forthcoming, but it would reportedly provide a path to citizenship for the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country, provided they have no criminal record, pay back taxes and commit to the same citizenship preparedness training as everyone else. Grijalva emphasized the economic benefits of legalization, saying that “Adding millions of qualifying taxpayers to the rolls, rather than allowing them to continue to be exploited by unscrupulous employers, is a good investment in the country’s economic future.”

The bill also includes the DREAM Act, a longtime concern of immigration reform advocates, which would allow non-citizen students who were brought to America at a young age to qualify for in-state school tuition and grants, and become citizens as well. This is a crucial measure for a group of potentially productive individuals excelling in the education system, who wish to remain in America but find it difficult by virtue of their immigration status.

White House officials had no comment on the introduction of the bill.

…Kyle de Beausset has more at the main FDL.

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David Dayen

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