WASHINGTON -- Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said Thursday that politicians who oppose the president's order protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation -- including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- are following the same line of thinking as those who tried to thwart the Civil Rights and women's suffrage movements.
"There are always those that are going to question, 'I got it, why should you get it?'" Gutierrez said at a press conference. "That has happened to African Americans in their fight for civil rights, to women in the suffrage movement, to those with disabilities, to those working for marriage equality. They're always, 'Oh, I have these rights, I wonder why you should get them.'"
"I understand that Senator Rubio questions that," he continued.
It was a far cry from a few months ago when Gutierrez and other Democrats met with Rubio to discuss the senator's plan for a Dream Act-style bill to give temporary reprieve from deportation to young undocumented immigrants who kept a clean criminal record and either joined the military or attended college. Rubio said it would not include any path to legal permanent residency, a key difference from the Dream Act supported by Democrats.
On June 15, before Rubio introduced that legislation, President Barack Obama upped the stakes, announcing a directive to half deportations of the same undocumented immigrants. Rubio then shelved his plan.
Gutierrez has urged the president for years to stop deportations of some undocumented young people, especially after the Dream Act failed in the Senate in 2010. The directive won't grant a path to permanent legal status, as the original Dream Act would have, but it will allow many undocumented young people to apply for deferred action that will keep them from deportation for two years.
Rubio and a number of other Republicans opposed the decision, calling it an overreach of Obama's executive authority that would destroy the chances of any immigration reform legislation.
"There is broad support for the idea that we should figure out a way to help kids who are undocumented through no fault of their own, but there is also broad consensus that it should be done in a way that does not encourage illegal immigration in the future," Rubio said in a June statement. "This is a difficult balance to strike, one that this new policy, imposed by executive order, will make harder to achieve in the long run."
Gutierrez made the remarks at a press conference with fellow House Democrats in support of Obama's decision.
Undocumented young people will be able to apply beginning on Aug. 15 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for deferred action and work authorization under the program, which would protect them from deportation for two years so long as they meet certain conditions and keep a clean record.
About 15 members of Congress appeared at the press conference. Gutierrez pointed to the "broad coalition" and said Rubio and others should join it.
"There were 30 members of Congress, we've been going to church every Sunday, faithfully, and praying for comprehensive immigration reform," Gutierrez said. "I'm happy Senator Rubio recently got religion and is a convert. But for those of us that have been long-standing members of this tradition and of this faith in our immigrant community, we say welcome to him, and get a little more faith."
The Template: California Proposition 187 (1994)
California's Proposition 187 was submitted to the voters with the full support of then Republican governor Pete Wilson. It essentially blamed undocumented immigrants for the poor performance of the state economy in the early 1990s. The law called for cutting off benefits to undocumented immigrants: prohibiting their access to health care, public education, and other social services in California. It also required state authorities to report anyone who they suspected was undocumented. <strong>Status:</strong> The law passed with the support of 55 percent of the voters in 1994 but declared unconstitutional 1997. The law was killed in 1999 when a new governor, Democrat Gray Davis, refused to appeal a judicial decision that struck down most of the law. Even though short-lived, the legislation paved the way for harsher immigration laws to come. On the other hand, the strong reaction from the Hispanic community and immigration advocates propelled a drive for naturalization of legal residents and created as many as one million new voters.
The Worst: Arizona SB 1070
The Arizona Act made it a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to be within the state lines of Arizona without legal documents allowing their presence in the U.S. This law has been widely criticized as xenophobic and for encouraging racial profiling. It requires state authorities to inquire about an individual's immigration status during an arrest when there is "reasonable suspicion" that the individual is undocumented. The law would allow police to detain anyone who they believe was in the country illegally. <strong>Status:</strong> The law was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010. But it has generated a swirl of controversy and questions about its constitutionality. A federal judge issued a ruling that blocked what critics saw as some of the law's harshest provisions. House: 35-31 (4/12/2011)
Following Arizona's Footsteps: Georgia HB 87
The controversy over Arizona's immigration law was followed by heated debate over Georgia's own law. HB 87 required government agencies and private companies to check the immigration status of applicants. This law also limited some government benefits to people who could prove their legal status. <strong>Status:</strong> Although a federal judge temporarily blocked parts of the law considered too extreme, it went into effect on July 1st. 2011. House: 113-56 Senate: 39-17
Verifying Authorized Workers: Pennsylvania HB 1502
This bill, which was approved in 2010, bans contractors and subcontractors employ undocumented workers from having state construction contracts. The bill also protects employees who report construction sites that hire illegal workers. To ensure that contractors hire legal workers, the law requires employers to use the identification verification system E-verify, based on a compilation of legally issued Social Security numbers. <strong>Status:</strong> Approved on June 8th 2010. House: 188-6 (07/08/2010) <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by DonkeyHotey</a>
A Spin Off of Arizona: Utah HB 497
Many states tried to emulate Arizona's SB 1070 law. However, most state legislatures voted against the proposals. Utah's legislature managed to approve an immigration law based on a different argument. Taking into consideration the criticism of racial profiling in Arizona, Utah required ID cards for "guest workers" and their families. In order to get such a card workers must pay a fee and have clean records. The fees go up to $2,500 for immigrants who entered the country illegally and $1,000 for immigrants who entered the country legally but were not complying with federal immigration law, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/06/nation/la-na-illegal-immigration-20110306" target="_hplink">according to the LA Times.</a> <strong>Status: </strong> Law went into effect on 03/15/2011 House: 59-15 (03/04/2011) Senate: 22-5 (03/04/2011)
The Most Comprehensive: Florida HB-1C
Florida's immigration law prohibits any restrictions on the enforcement of federal immigration law. It makes it unlawful for undocumented immigrants within the state to apply for work or work as an independent contractor. It forbids employers from hiring immigrants if they are aware of their illegal status and requires work applicants to go through the E-verify system in order to check their Social Security number. <strong>Status: </strong>effective since October 1st, 2010
The Hot Seat: Alabama HB 56
The new immigration law in Alabama is considered the toughest in the land, even harder than Arizona's SB 1070. It prohibits law enforcement officers from releasing an arrested person before his or her immigration status is determined. It does not allow undocumented immigrants to receive any state benefit, and prohibits them from enrolling in public colleges, applying for work or soliciting work in a public space. The law also prohibits landlords from renting property to undocumented immigrants, and employers from hiring them. It requires residents to prove they are citizens before they become eligible to vote. The law asked every school in the state to submit an annual report with the number of presumed undocumented students, but this part, along with others, were suspended by federal courts. <strong>Status:</strong> Approved June 2nd, 2011 House: 73-28 (04/05/2011) Senate: 23-11 (05/05/2011) <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/longislandwins/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by longislandwins</a>