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Immigration Reform in the House

Last week the Senate passed, 68-32, the largest overhaul of U.S. immigration laws in 50 years. It may be a cliché to call it historic, but it’s true.

Now comes the hard part. Immigration reform confronts much more challenging prospects in the House of Representatives. On July 10, the House Republican Conference will meet in the Capitol basement to figure out how to respond to the Senate bill. Although 14 Republican senators supported the Senate bill, many House Republicans have already expressed their low opinion of it.

The Senate bill addresses immigration reform comprehensively – with the key exception of identifying the poverty and lack of economic opportunity that drives immigration. The House Judiciary Committee, on the other hand, has already begun drafting a series of piecemeal bills on immigration policy topics that Republicans are more inclined to support.

Reconciling whatever legislation emerges from the House with the Senate bill will be a major task likely to occupy members of Congress for the rest of 2013. As noted above, the Senate bill does not include an amendment or other text that discusses the root causes of immigration -- something the House could still take up.

In spite of some rank-and-file Republican resistance, prominent voices in Republican leadership are pushing for immigration reform. Last week former Florida Governor Jeb Bush wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for compromise and comprehensive reform:

“The necessary overhaul of the immigration system cannot be achieved piecemeal. The most important changes—reducing family preferences, creating a robust guest-worker program, and increasing border security—cannot be enacted with Republican votes alone. That means compromise and a comprehensive approach—or the perpetuation of the status quo that has all of the detriments of amnesty without any of the economic benefits of reform.”

Bread for the World sees immigration reform as part of a global exodus from hunger, a means of helping a population that suffers disproportionate levels of hunger and poverty. A third of unauthorized immigrant adults and 51 percent of unauthorized children live in poverty. Without reform, 11 million immigrants will continue to face hardship, and the U.S. economy will not fully benefit from their skills and talents. Andrew Wainer

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