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Citizenship: The First "Piece" in Piecemeal Immigration Reform

Jan 14, 2014

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) pushes Congress to first pass a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants before considering other piecemeal immigration reform measures. 

Below is a video and transcript of the speech.

Seven months ago, the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill. And for seven months, we’ve waited. We’ve taken over 600 votes in the House of Representatives this Congress, finding the time to vote 46 times to overturn Obamacare; 9 times to pass bills that harm our environment; Twice to pass bills that weaken our education system; 40 times to rename post offices; and countless times to strike down critical regulations.

But we haven’t taken one vote, NOT ONE VOTE, to advance immigration reform. This despite the support of an overwhelming majority of Americans. This despite the support of interests as varied as labor unions and the Chamber of Commerce, law enforcement and civil liberties groups, high tech companies and faith leaders. This despite the CBO reporting that immigration reform will provide a much needed jolt to the American economy.

With over half of the 113th Congress behind us, we’ve ignored one of the signature issues the American people sent us to here to solve. Sure, we’ve talked about immigration reform. We even had our own gang of eight on this side of the Capitol. But as the old saying goes, talk is cheap. Months of discussions this Congress on one of the most important and complex issues in a generation have yielded one point and one point only.

The only thing we’ve decided so far is that IF we take on this issue, IF we pass immigration reform, we will do it piece by piece. That’s it. That’s the only progress this body has made on this issue.

We’ve made no substantive decisions about the fate of the over 11 million people currently living their lives in legal limbo in this country. No substantive decisions about whether their children, many of whom know no other country than this, will be sent thousands of miles away--to live in a foreign country, separated from their families, denied the American dream they’ve fought so hard for.

The only progress we can point to at this time is that instead of one large bill, we’ve decided on several small bills. If that’s not definitive of a do-nothing Congress, I don’t know what is.

But ok, Mr. Speaker, you’ve convinced me. You’ve even convinced the President. If piecemeal is the only way we’re going to pass immigration reform, then piecemeal it is. But here’s the more important point, Mr. Speaker, WHERE ARE THE PIECES?

See the problem with a piecemeal approach is that you run the risk of cherry-picking. Pushing through the easy stuff like increased border security and more high tech visas, while ignoring the harder decisions like providing a path to citizenship for the millions living in the shadows.

My friends on the other side of the aisle have introduced several immigration bills this Congress with a few of them even passing out of committee, but not one bill has been offered that comes close to offering a pathway to citizenship.While we may accept a piecemeal approach for the sake of getting something done, what we cannot accept; what we will not accept is an approach that leaves a pathway to citizenship on the sidelines.

Because the pathway to citizenship remains the cornerstone of any serious immigration reform plan. The rest of the immigration reform structure is built around that piece. Without it, immigration reform will not stand. Without it, our system will remain broken.

The American people have called on us to fix our broken immigration system. At the very least, we owe it to them to give it a try. The window is still open, the opportunity is still there. We simply need to find the courage to complete the task.