WASHINGTON -- Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said this week that some Democrats are trying to undermine his and others' work with Republicans on immigration, just so they can keep the issue for a political edge.
"When someone does reach across the aisle to say, 'Hey, let's work on this issue together,' what do we get? 'Hey, why are you helping them?'" he said on the House floor Wednesday, explaining what he hears from other Democrats. "I've heard it. When I stood with [Reps.] David Valadao [R-Calif.] or Paul Ryan [R-Wis.] to say immigration reform is an objective we can reach in a bipartisan manner, I heard from the Democrats, 'Stop working with them, we're trying to defeat them.'"
Gutierrez is one of the most vocal proponents of comprehensive immigration reform, and hasn't minced words in his criticism of House Republicans who want to block the effort. But he has also worked with GOP members for years on an immigration plan and more recently appeared with Republicans, including Valadao and Ryan, to talk about the need for reform. And he has criticized his own party for its previous failures on reform, particularly President Barack Obama, whom he singled out again on Thursday for his administration's deportation rates.
While many argue immigration reform would be politically helpful for Republicans who want to be more competitive with Latino voters, it's considered a political win for Democrats whatever the outcome. If it passes, they have fulfilled a campaign promise and can claim a victory. If it fails, they can lay the blame on Republicans, who in the House have refused to hold a vote on comprehensive immigration reform bills and don't plan to vote on smaller bills this year, either.
But if Democrats want a bill passed -- and they say they do -- they can't do it without support from Republicans, and Gutierrez said he and others are working to ensure they get it. He appeared at a briefing on Wednesday with Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Valadao to discuss young undocumented immigrants who want to join the military, and made the same appeal for bipartisan work on immigration reform.
"In this place bipartisanship is many times lauded, but rarely rewarded, and that's unfortunate," he said at the event. "Unfortunate for the nation and very unfortunate and dangerous as we move forward on comprehensive immigration reform."
"He didn't say, 'It's my way or the highway,'" Gutierrez said.
There are internal tensions on the Republican side as well from members pushing for reform. Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), who has been targeted by immigration advocates because of a high Latino population in his district, issued a statement on Friday expressing disappointment that the "House Republican leadership may punt the issue until 2014 for political reasons."
"It’s extremely frustrating and very disappointing to hear reports that the House does not plan on voting on immigration reform legislation this year," Heck said. "This is yet another example of the leadership vacuum in Washington that rightly has so many people frustrated with this dysfunctional Congress."
Watch Gutierrez's speech:
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Reform Would Help Curb The Deficit
Immigration reform would <a href="http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-04-08/business/38371503_1_previous-immigration-bills-immigration-reform-immigration-laws" target="_blank">reduce the federal deficit by $2.5 trillion</a> over the next 10 years, according to an April analysis by the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank.
Expelling Immigrants Is Expensive
Expelling the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States would cost $2.6 trillion over the next 10 years, <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/100449802" target="_blank">according to CNBC</a>. That's because it costs the government more than $8,000 to deport each person.
Reform Would Help Fix The Social Security Problem
Immigration reform would help bolster Social Security because more legal workers would mean more people contributing payroll taxes to its trust fund, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20130508/us-immigration/?utm_hp_ref=arts&ir=arts" target="_blank">according to an analysis from the Social Security administration</a>. Undocumented workers <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/18/immigration-reform-social-security_n_3103500.html" target="_blank">already contribute $15 billion per year</a> to Social Security.
Immigrants Start Successful Businesses
More than <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/31/worried-about-the-economy-then-pass-immigration-reform/" target="_blank">a quarter of technology and engineering firms</a> started between 1995 and 2005 had a foreign-born owner, according to the Washington Post. One <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/22/american-companies-founded-by-immigrants_n_3116172.html#slide=2357880" target="_blank">of the founders of Yahoo!</a>, Jerry Yang, is an immigrant from Taiwan.
Reform Would Save $410 Billion Over The Next 10 Years
The immigration reform bill proposed by the "gang of eight" senators would save <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/15/immigration-reform-save-billions_n_3280145.html?utm_hp_ref=business" target="_blank"> $410 billion over the next decade</a>, according to an analysis from Gordon Gray, the director of fiscal policy at the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank. The savings would come largely from a boost in GDP resulting from undocumented immigrants gaining citizenship and in turn likely making more money.
High-Tech Companies Say Reform Would Boost Their Bottom Line
Companies like Microsoft and Google have said that immigration reform would help them by <a href="http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2013/01/29/facebook-microsoft-back-senate.html" target="_blank">allowing for more H1B visas</a>, a special kind of visa geared toward highly-skilled immigrants. The tech giants say they can't find enough qualified people in the U.S. to fill their staffing needs.
Reform Would Boost The Wages Of Native-Born Workers
U.S.-born workers see between a 0.1 and 0.6 percent boost in wages on average with an increase in immigration, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/30/immigration-reform-workers_n_2583576.html" target="_blank">according to a January report from the Hamilton Project</a>, an economic policy initiative of the nonpartisan Brookings Institution. That's because immigrant workers bring skills with them that complement those of native-born workers, leading to new jobs.
Immigrants Are Entrepreneurial
Immigrants are <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/03/13/economic-case-commonsense-immigration-reform" target="_blank">more than twice as likely</a> than native-born Americans to start new businesses, according to a White House report on immigration reform.
Reform Would Boost GDP By More Than $1 Trillion Over 10 Years
Immigration reform <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/100449802" target="_blank">would boost GDP by $1.5 trillion</a> -- or about 1 percent -- over 10 years, according to an estimate from UCLA professor Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda cited by CNBC.
Immigrants Create Jobs
Businesses owned by immigrants <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2013/03/13/economic-case-commonsense-immigration-reform" target="_blank">created 4.7 million jobs</a> in the U.S. in 2007, according to a White House report on immigration reform.
Reform Would Bring In More Money Than It Costs In Benefits
Though many critics of immigration reform argue against the cost of providing increased public benefits, analysts say higher spending is not a likely consequence. A Congressional Budget Analysis of George W. Bush's 2007 immigration reform proposal found that it would cost the government $23 billion in more public services, but bring in $48 billion in revenue, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/31/worried-about-the-economy-then-pass-immigration-reform/" target="_blank">according to the Washington Post</a>.