Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, Democratic Vice Chairman Joe Crowley, Congressman Joe Garcia, and House Democratic Members held a press conference today announcing the introduction of their bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill. Below are the Leader’s opening remarks, followed by the question and answer session:
Leader Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for your leadership on this very important matter for our country. It’s not an issue, it’s a value, [and] it’s an ethic. It’s about restoring confidence in who we are as a people – by and large, a nation of immigrants with all respect and love for our Native American brothers and sisters.
So, I’m very pleased to salute you for the work that has been done to put together legislation that is 100 percent bipartisan – most of the Senate bill, subtract the Corker put in the McCaul-Thompson and go forward. Every piece of this legislation has had bipartisan support. And that is important to us. We want bipartisan support. We want unity in our Caucus. The time is not now to make a difference.
We believe that every newcomer to our country, who brings his or her hopes, aspirations, dreams, [and] determination for a better future for his or her family, makes America more American by subscribing to that spirit of optimism that is our country.
So, I’m pleased to be here with the leadership: Mr. Hoyer, Mr. Clyburn, Mr. Becerra, Mr. Crowley, and so many Members of our Caucus. But we are all here to listen to the co-sponsors of the legislation, the original co-sponsors: [Congresswoman] Suzan DelBene, [Congressman] Jared Polis, [Congressman] Steven Horsford, [Congresswoman] Judy Chu, and who I’m going to introduce now, [Congressman] Joe Garcia, a Member of the Judiciary Committee, who will talk to us from that perspective as to why the time is now. And let’s get a vote on a bipartisan bill for comprehensive immigration reform that is bipartisan, that is bipartisan.
Chairman Becerra. Yes?
Q: Why are you doing this now when the Speaker has been incredibly clear that he will not accept and did not plan to put on the floor anything that resembles the Senate bill?
Chairman Becerra. What we’re putting forward is a bill that has received Republican votes. We could’ve, as several of my colleagues have said, put on a bill that would’ve gotten 200 Democrats on it. But what we chose to do is show that we want to get this done now.
So, we’re putting together a bill that works, that has worked in the Senate getting bipartisan votes, and that has worked in the House getting bipartisan votes. And we know that there are Republicans in the House who are ready to vote for a comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system. We want to give them a chance to see that Democrats are serious in reaching out to them. And to the leadership in the Republican Conference to say: “Let’s get this done now, there is no reason to wait.” And I would like to add now, this is a product and work of – you see the Members here. Many other Members have worked on this, but I want to tip my hat to Leader Nancy Pelosi, our Whip, Mr. Hoyer, our Assistant Leader, Jim Clyburn, our Vice-Chairman, Joe Crowley, [Congressman] Steve Israel…
Leader Pelosi. Our Chairman, John Conyers.
Chairman Becerra. Our Ranking Member from the Judiciary Committee is here. We have several Members from our various caucuses; the New Democrats have been champions on this issue. And so, what we’re saying is that on the Democratic side, we’re ready. And we hope that our Republican [colleagues], many of whom, over two dozen who have said they would vote for a comprehensive fix, can be rallied to know that we can get this done. There is no reason to have dysfunction rule the day.
Q: Congressman, on that note, you’re the only Member of the so-called “Group of 8” who’s here. What does that mean for that bill? Is this basically an alternative that would totally replace what was, did not succeed, apparently?
Chairman Becerra. That legislation, which we have not introduced, is there. Many of us, I believe on a bipartisan basis, believe it could become the vehicle that we use in the House to get this done. I think there is still great anticipation and that work that was done by House Members can still produce a fix to our broken immigration system.
Q: Yes. And the Republicans are saying, I guess over the worker and guest worker immigration forces, which would basically bring in two million people to compete for jobs against four millions Americans who enter the workforce every year. Is there anyone in the Democratic Caucus who opposes the importation of so many workers to compete for jobs against Americans?
Congressman Jared Polis. This bill creates jobs. It has avenues to attract entrepreneurs who have raised capital to form their companies here every day. Companies are formed overseas and have to hire foreigners in other countries because they simply cannot set up shop here because they cannot get a visa. We also improve the E-B5 Program to help attract capital to grow American jobs. Every single company that participates in E-B5 has to create five jobs for Americans; we’re not talking about the jobs for immigrants as part of raising that capital. Again, the way this bill has been scored and with the reductions in deficit, this bill is an enormous job creation for the American people.
Q: So there is no opposition then?
Chairman Becerra. Let me ask the Whip to respond because [Congressman] Steny Hoyer probably has the best sense where Democrats are on just about any issue.
The Whip would like to respond.
Whip Hoyer. I think Democrats are overwhelmingly for this for the reasons that [Congressman] Jared Polis said. This is going to create jobs, grow our economy, be a more vibrant economy than it otherwise would be. And as you know, our friends in organized labor and in the business, have both come together. Our farm workers and farm managers have come together. This is a bipartisan search. This is going to grow the economy, not take jobs away.
Q: [Inaudible] right now there are two fights in the field: health care and immigration reform. Which one is the weakest link?
Chairman Becerra. Which is what?
Q: Which one is the weakest link in between health care and immigration reform?
Leader Pelosi. It’s not a question of which is which. Health care is done. It began yesterday – life, a healthier life, liberty, the freedom to pursue your happiness, whether it is to be a cameraman, start a business, be self-employed, [and] change jobs. We are very proud of that, what happened yesterday.
Now, we’ve been doing immigration for a long time. I just want to make one comment that relates to a question that you asked. We were very hopeful that the “Gang of 8” would produce legislation that we could all get behind and waited for months for that to get the blessing of the Republican leadership. When it appeared when we came back in August and into September that that might not happen, Members got together and said: “Ok, what can we put together that contains the bipartisanship that we must have and does the job?” It doesn’t do everything that we would want to do, but it does achieve bipartisanship, which is essential to passing it.
So, we waited for the “Gang of 8” to be accepted. We graciously deferred to the Speaker as to the timing, as to the method, whether it was one [or] two bills at a time, singly, jointly, whatever it is comprehensive, and we’re prepared to do whatever it takes to go to conference with a good bill that stops the deportations and [provides] a path to citizenship. So, the timing really, really relates to what hasn’t happened. And now, we want to rally around comprehensive immigration reform. We think this is the best vehicle.
Vice-Chairman Crowley. We beautifully heard our colleague from Colorado speak – spoke in Spanish and in English. I detected by your accent, it was an Irish accent, so let me interpret from my colleagues.
I know there was a reason why I was here. At the end of the day, Democrats are saying: “We are more than prepared to move forward.” And we are asking our Republicans colleagues to do the same thing here, get down with those nitty-gritty, meaty issues. We are prepared to do that. We are prepared to talk about those issues, but move forward in a comprehensive way and deliver for the American people. They’ve waited too long.
The time is now to act, not to push this forward into the next year.
Chairman Becerra. If I can ask Congressman Joaquin Castro to say a couple of words because it was principally the work of the New Democrats, quite some time ago through the task force they had in charge with this, that we were able to move together as Democrats to try to come up with a bill that we thought not only would unify Democrats, but also be able to attract Republican support as well. So, if I could ask Mr. Castro to say a couple words.
Congressman Joaquin Castro. Thank you Chairman. And thank you to the hard work of all of my colleagues who have been working on this issue for quite some time, including some folks who aren’t here. It is time that the Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform. The American people have spoken, they want this Congress to take on this issue. I believe that the Congress is still up to taking on big challenges. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that people from all across the political spectrum have come forward to support comprehensive reform with a path to citizenship. On the right, you have the Evangelical community who is preaching about it on Sundays in their churches. The Chamber of Commerce, which reached a historic agreement with labor. That, you know, a few months ago the President had a press conference where he had the head of the Chamber of Commerce and the head of the AFL-CIO standing next to each other. On how many issues would you find that? So that was very special.
So, on the right and on the left with the immigration advocacy groups, people from across the political spectrum want us to do this. So, if this doesn’t happen, it really is a failure of the House Republicans to listen to the American people and take action. So, I’m excited about the prospect of the bill and excited to move forward. We’re looking forward to the rallies on October 5th and then here on October 8th in Washington.
Chairman Becerra. Go ahead.
Q: I was very interested in your trying to put pressure on House Republicans to bring up immigration reform. But you know we’re looking at, even with a government shutdown, the two-sides are moving close to each other. What makes Democrats think that it could happen on an issue like immigration reform, which has no deadline, which has, you know, it’s not like a shutdown or a debt ceiling. I’m just wondering…
Whip Hoyer. Well. Let me just say that this is an issue that has strong support of the American public. That’s why we think it can move forward. We think that there are 435 Members in the House, 100 Members in the Senate who represent the American people. Represent their interests and their desires and their visions. And this bill, we think, enjoys overwhelming support among the American public. That’s why we think it has a probability moving forward. The Speaker himself has said that he wants to do something with immigration. I know he said he doesn’t want the Senate bill on the floor, or anything like the Senate bill on the floor. But he’s got his committee, who has reported out some bills. We may not like those bills, but we think, when the Senate has 68 Members of the Senate, which has otherwise been very deeply divided on partisan lines, over two-thirds of the United States Senate, representing the American public says: “We need a comprehensive immigration bill with a path to citizenship.” We believe that’s a strong indication the American people want this done and we hope the House acts.
Chairman Becerra. And we know that the votes are there. We know the votes are there. So, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t get this done and we’ve – if everyone keeps talking in here, in Congress, about paying attention to the American people – we would do this.
Leader Pelosi. Well, let me also say: this is not a challenge to the Speaker. This is a suggestion.
Whip Hoyer. Right.
Leader Pelosi. And that’s why we, one of the criteria, criterion that we established was that it be bipartisan. Everything we’ve passed out of the committee of jurisdiction, in a bipartisan way in the House, passed in a bipartisan way in the Senate. So, this is by no means a challenge. The Speaker says he’s going to bring something to the floor, we’d like to see it have these characteristics of comprehensive immigration reform which secures our borders, protects our workers, has a path to citizenship among the principles, which had been the principles of the House Democratic Caucus, but which are shared – and let me tip my hat to President George W. Bush, nobody was better on this issue than he was. He understood it as a former Governor of Texas. He knew the issue. He believes in the value of everyone in our country. Unfortunately some in his party did not follow his lead. But we think, with the results of the last election and the action taken by the Senate, that we can work cooperatively to do this. Not in a challenging way, but in a proposal.
Chairman Becerra. This is the last question.
Q: One of the, one of the key issues of the comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate was the citizenship for 11 million, or path to citizenship for 11 million. There has been a lot of speculation and talk about what the Republicans willing to give and that it would be some sort of legalization. Where do you stand in your bill and would you be ready to compromise in order to, to, Madam Speaker, in order to advance the…
Leader Pelosi. No, no. This is about a path to citizenship. Whatever passes in the House and goes to the table is, the conference table, we would hope would have comprehensive immigration reform in it. Doesn’t mean we wouldn’t vote for a bill that doesn’t, but it does mean that when we leave the table, it will have comprehensive immigration reform that leads to a path to citizenship.
Chairman Becerra. We are not for a second class of Americans in this country.
Leader Pelosi. And that’s really important to America.
Chairman Becerra. Thank you all very much.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you.