By Tammy Alexander
U.S. Congress: For the first time in six years, the U.S. Congress debated a comprehensive immigration reform bill. In June, the Senate passed a bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for millions (albeit a 13-year pathway), provisions to keep families together and worker protections. Unfortunately, a “border surge” amendment added in the last week of debate added $38 billion in additional border security, including fences and drones.
In the House, a bipartisan group disbanded without producing a comprehensive bill. Democrats introduced the Senate bill in the House in November (without the onerous “border surge” provisions). Even though the bill has 193 cosponsors, including a handful of Republicans, House leadership has refused to bring the bill up for a vote.
The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) has passed several smaller enforcement-heavy bills, such as the SAFE Act, which would criminalize humanitarian acts, such as driving an undocumented immigrant to the grocery store or church.
With no movement toward passing immigration legislation in the full House, faith-based and other advocacy groups have been stepping up pressure with actions such as fasting and protests at detention centers.
Deportations continue: In fiscal year 2013, the Obama administration deported approximately 360,000 immigrants, most of whom have family in the U.S., long-time ties to their communities and no criminal history. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has helped many young immigrants remain in the U.S., but it is estimated that almost half of those eligible have yet to apply.
In October, MCC U.S. Washington Office staff met with White House officials as part of an Interfaith Immigration Coalition delegation to press the administration to immediately stop deportations. We brought photos and stories of the devastating effects that deportations have had on families.
Workshops and campaigns: Mennonite Church USA organized two regional workshops in early 2013 as part of an effort to discuss immigration issues ahead of their convention in Phoenix in July. MCC U.S. Washington Office staff helped to organize and facilitate the workshop in Wichita, Kansas, in March: “Citizens of God’s Kingdom.” More than 100 participants discussed root causes, law, enforcement, theology, and advocacy, and heard stories from recent migrants in their community.
In May, nine Mennonite leaders from recent immigrant communities gathered in Washington, D.C., to learn more about immigration bills and to visit members of Congress. At the Phoenix convention, staff co-led a 4-hour learning experience on immigration and spoke with many convention-goers at the People on the move exhibit.
Our staff also worked with Mennonite Church USA and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition to promote other campaigns related to immigration reform throughout the year, such as call-in days, letter-writing campaigns, and a prayer and fasting event.
New resources: A new 12-panel exhibit exploring stories of migration is now available for use in churches, colleges, conferences, relief sales and other venues.
The Spring/Summer 2013 edition of the Washington Memo focused on immigration policy and includes a fact sheet and principles that are great for policymaker visits. Additional resources on current legislation, worship resources, book lists, and much more are available at washington.mcc.org/immigration.