Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said Friday that if House Republicans dont move on immigration reform by July 4, nothing will get done on the issue this year.
Were here to say to our Republican friends many of whom have expressed publicly a willingness to work and solve our broken immigration system the clock is ticking. Time is running out, the Illinois congressman said holding a large hourglass at a press conference held Friday outside the U.S. Capitol.
He added, We need to see action and progress on legislation by the 4th of July and if that doesnt happen, then I think we all know that nothing will happen in this Congress.
Gutierrez, who was joined by a number of House Democrats, insisted that he and his Democratic colleagues prefer a legislative solution to fix the nations broken immigration system.
However, he warned that if House Republicans dont take action on the issue by the July 4 recess, President Barack Obama will take his pen and begin signing executive orders that will bring justice, compassion and fairness to our community that has been denied here at the legislative front.
Dozens of Republicans have joined about 200 Democrats to say they support immigration reform and want to address the issue this year. But immigration reform has been put on the backburner over the last few months, with GOP House leaders saying they cant move on the issue because they dont trust Obama to enforce the law.
The only immigration-related bills the House has approved are those proposed by immigration hardliner Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). One of Kings approved legislations seeks to defund the deferred action program that allows undocumented youth to stay and work in the United States.
Immigration reform advocates see Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) as a key person who can move immigration reform forward in the House. As majority leader, Cantor controls what goes on the legislative agenda. Advocate criticized him in April when it was revealed that the spring legislative agenda did not include immigration reform.
On Friday, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) joined Gutierrez to call on Cantor to include in the upcoming legislative agenda a vote on the immigration reform bill, H.R. 15, that Democrats introduced last October.
Eric Cantor, put this on the floor, she said. Time is running out for you to do the right thing.
Democrats: Immigration reform is needed to stop family separation
Other House Democrats spoke at Fridays press conference about the urgency to pass immigration reform in order to prevent more families from being separated because of deportations.
Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) told the story of a woman named Thelma whose husband abused her and turned her over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be deported. She had spent nearly a month in detention when her son attended an immigration forum that Horsford and Gutierrez recently hosted in Nevada.
The son told the story of what happened to his mother. Staff members from the offices of Gutierrez and Horsford quickly stepped in to help and were able to get the mother released within a day. They also helped her petition for a U-visa under the Violence Against Women Act.
What Thelma and other women who are undocumented need most is for the Republicans in Congress to give us a vote on comprehensive immigration reform so that their families can remain together, Horsford said.
Fridays press conference came a few days after Obama directed Homeland Security Secretary Jonhson to hold off on completing a review of the administrations deportation policies until the end of the summer. The move infuriated many advocates, including Gutierrez, whove been calling on Obama to provide relief from deportations as the Republican-controlled House stalls on immigration reform.
Gutierrez said undocumented immigrants who are in deportation proceedings, like a woman he met in Virginia who faces deportation on June 6, dont have any time for delay.
We should have that review, Gutierrez added. The president promised one in 90 days, and it should go forward in 90 days.
Other Democrats who joined Gutierrez at Fridays press conference include Rep. Joe Crowley of New York along with California Reps. Anna Eshoo, Mike Honda, Juan Vargas and Tony Cardenas. Several leaders from several pro-immigration groups were also there.