EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The mayor of El Paso is thanking two members of Congress for collaborating on bipartisan immigration reform and said their bill addresses “critical deficiencies” in the current system.
Oscar Leeser on Wednesday said the nation’s immigration system is “broken” and that now is the time for a compromise.
The Dignity Act of 2023 co-sponsored by U.S. Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Florida, and Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, would give 10 million undocumented immigrants a chance to legalize their stay. It also calls for the U.S. to issue more work visas, requires businesses to verify their employees’ eligibility and provides for more border agents and security technology.
The proposal creates “legal asylum, citizenship and worth pathways, while providing much-needed funding and workforce for our ports of entry in a manner palatable to both sides of the (political) aisle,” Leeser said in a statement.
Salazar on Tuesday unveiled the 2023 version of the bill flanked by Republican U.S. Reps. Mike Lawler of New York, Lore Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon and Jenniffer Gonzalez of Puerto Rico (a non-voting delegate in the House).
Her 2022 bill of the same name – which called for border wall construction to resume and the National Guard to be allowed on the border – had six Republican co-sponsors, including Texan Pete Sessions, of Waco. Sessions withdrew as a cosponsor last November. Border Report reached out to other co-sponsors of the 2022 bill to see if they will back the 2023 bipartisan version and is awaiting a response.
U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, who represents parts of Northeast and Far East El Paso and 820 miles of the U.S-Mexico border, on Wednesday said through a spokesperson he has not had a chance to review the 2023 version. However, he lauded Salazar for her passion to improve the nation’s immigration laws.
“I support any of my colleagues who are making good faith attempts to solve our immigration problem. I haven’t read the bill in its entirety, but my main focus in the 118th Congress is to push for legislation that can get ultimately signed into law,” Gonzales said in a statement.
Richard Pineda, associate professor of communication and director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso, said the partisan divide remains strong in Congress.
“Getting closer to the presidential election, both sides are going to be hard-pressed to give concessions on immigration,” Pineda said. “The President (Joe Biden) would certainly push for some version of what was introduced, but I don’t think it would get very far with the Republicans.”
The closer the 2024 election gets, the less likely GOP members are to go against the views of their potential presidential nominee, which could be former President Trump.
“No one is likely to want to come out because they don’t want to be ahead of their candidate on that issue. At this point, I think the two (congresspeople) have spent a lot of time trying to get co-sponsors and if they don’t get them right now, I don’t think you’re going to find a lot of open support beyond what they’ve built up,” Pineda said.
Immigration remains a hot-button issue in America, but absent a quick compromise, both parties are likely to go back to lines they’ve drawn in the sand: Republicans saying Democrats want open borders and not willing to follow the rule of law; and Democrats labeling the GOP racist and resistant to change.
Pineda said the headwinds in no way minimize the efforts of Salazar and Escobar nor the need to improve the nation’s immigration laws.
“It’s good that this is coming from a border community. Any congressman in a border district has the most to gain or lose from this issue and Veronica Escobar deserves credit for trying to advance the issue,” he said. “But at this particular moment, I don’t think it’ll go very far.”