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Immigration Reform - The Debate Continues

May 30, 2013 12:49 p.m.

GUESTS:

Rep. Susan Davis, (CA-53rd)

Carl Luna, Mesa College political science professor

Rhoda Quate, Organizing for Action

Related Story: Immigration Reform - The Debate Continues

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition, there's a rally tonight in San Diego in support of the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate judiciary committee next week. Even if it passes in the Senate, there are new doubts about its chances in the house. It provides a lengthy but definite pathway to citizenship for many people in the U.S. illegally is running up against resistance from conservative members of Congress who say the bill offers amnesty. Susan Davis, congresswoman, represents San Diego's 53rd district.

DAVIS: Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, hi! Thank you for being here. You'll be attending the rally tonight along Harbor Drive. Why is it important for to you go to this rally tonight?

DAVIS: Well, as someone who has been part of an immigrant family as most of us have been, I think it's important that we're very proud of that, and that we have a chance to tell those stories and to listen to those stories and have them connect back to the work that's being done in Congress right now.

CAVANAUGH: What is the climate in Washington when is it comes to immigration reform?

DAVIS: I think in many way, there's a greater bipartisan thrust when it comes to this issue than a number of issues that we've seen. The Senate has come together. They had a group of eight working as well as in the house. The Senate of course has moved their bill out of the judiciary committee and still have to bring it to the floor. And there are still a number of issues that are being discussed in the House side, but there's a sense that they're actually pretty close to an agreement, at least within the group of eight that's been meeting.

CAVANAUGH: House speaker Boehner spoke this week and said that there's not going to be a rubber stamp that if the bill passes in the Senate, the house is going to have its own version.

DAVIS: Well, like everything else, it's difficult to predict that. There is the sense that they were able to hammer out a number of these issues on the Senate side. And even John McCain has said it would be good if the House started working with that and moved to some of the other issues or compromises that they felt were important. As the speaker has said, I think more than likely they will try and come up with a bill on the House side. I think it'll be more difficult. Some of the issues they have have to do with a path to citizenship, and a number of other issue, but I'm hopeful. For all the issues that we've dealt with lately, everybody knows that the system just doesn't work. It's not helpful, it's not helpful to businesses, it's tragic for our families, and we can do better. That's what I'm hopeful this rally sends that message, and certainly that we all really hunker down and work very, very hard to resolve the issues and bring forward a bill in the next few months.

CAVANAUGH: And as this bill finds its new manifestation in whatever the House of Representatives comes up with, are there any deal breakers for you, areas where you or other supporters will not compromise?

DAVIS: I think at this point, what we'd like to see is language represents our values and the best ideas that people can bring forward. I'd like to stay open to those issues. There are some that I would love to see in the bill. Yet I know that looking at the Senate, I just there were certain things that would not get the kind of support that was necessary. And having a bill that begins to address these issues is so critical that in fact it's not going to be a bill that everybody feels great about everything. And in fact, I don't think there are any bills that come forward that are so important that deal with such critical issues that we can always feel great about everything. That's not going to happen. So the best thing is to have language that we can see, deal with, and understand, even unintended consequences, but maybe given the opportunity to do something that is so critical to the country right now. I think people might be willing to make some compromises and hope some of that might change in the future.

CAVANAUGH: Thanks so much for your time.

DAVIS: Thank you, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: I'd like to welcome Carl Luna, professor of political science at Mesa College.

LUNA: Nice to be here.

CAVANAUGH: And Rhoda Quate, a team leader for the group sponsoring the rally tonight,

QUATE: Thank you, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: We know that congresswoman Davis is going to be in the rally tonight. What other notables will be at the rally?

QUATE: We have an exciting lineup of speakers tonight at the rally. We have the mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner is going to be attending. And he will be joined by Juan Vargas, the U.S. Congressman for the 51st district here in San Diego. And additionally, we have Nathan Fletcher, and several additional speakers that are going to be speaking. Enrique moRonnes is one as well they would like to mention.

CAVANAUGH: The democratic members of San Diego's congressional delegation support the immigration reform legislation. We put out calls to Congressman Darryl Issa and Duncan Hunter but did not hear back from their offices. There's been a lot of interest in the business community here in San Diego to see immigration reform legislation pass. Why is that?

QUATE: Well, one thing people may not realize is that the people that actually migrate from Mexico are the select few that are incredibly dedicated and very, very motivated, and very hardworking. And those are the types of people that are lined up for being entrepreneurs, for starting new businesses which will actually create new jobs for the U.S. born residents here.

CAVANAUGH: What provisions in this bill are most important to immigration activists? The pathway to citizenship?

QUATE: Yes. The most important for the advocates is just to really bring the 11 million people that are in this country out of the shadows. We have just a very large population of people that are living in constant stress of deportation and that have established their lives here in a permanent way. And they're not going anywhere. And that is what we would like to fix, keep those people from the stress of the constant deportation.

CAVANAUGH: Here we have an advocate speaking about the bill that is working its way through the Senate. Carl Luna, the chances for this bill, it merged from the Senate judiciary committee almost unscathed this week. It seems to have bipartisan support in the Senate. How deep do you think that support is, Carl?

LUNA: When it goes to the full Senate in June, that's when various interest groups for and against are going to start weighing in heavily on it. This bill has a better chance than any you've seen since the Regan years of getting through the Senate and going to the house. I've downloaded the 883 pages and studied each and every page!

[ LAUGHTER ]

CAVANAUGH: That's what you do with your spare time.

[ LAUGHTER ]

LUNA: You still have the possibility, five or six Republicans really pressured Mitch McConnell to bottle this up in the Senate. He's up for reelection. If he's seen on soft on immigration, he's going to face a conservative challenge in Kentucky.

CAVANAUGH: This bill was formulated by a so-called gang of 8, made up of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. They were working on it for quite sometime, and they really struggled to make this palatable to both Republicans and Democrats.

LUNA: Yeah, the components you need to put into a successful bill for Republicans in particular border security. And this ties all immigration reform to securing the southern border, more fence construction and all. That's good. It addresses business interests by bringing in more skilled workers and keeping foreign workers who are being trained here in our schools, giving them access to be here, and as entrepreneurs it provides pathways to citizenship and legal status for 11 million people that are here. So it has something for everybody. There are tradeoffs. The security provisions on the southern border may not be as rigorous as some Republicans want it. And a number of Democrats wanted a provision that others could bring in their foreign-born partners, and that was lost on the cutting room floor. Now the question, will they shoot it down in the house?

CAVANAUGH: The house speaker made a point of saying is that the house does not even if it gets through the Senate does not plan to rubber stamp this immigration bill that they are working on their own version. Do we have any idea of what that version is emerging to look like?

LUNA: What's currently coming out is heavier on immigration protection, the border security. It provides weaker means by which you can become a legalized resident, and it does not include the pathway to citizenship. The issue, do you reward what you consider illegal behavior or do you recognize that since you never kept these people out in the first place, you have a moral obligation to make them part of American society?

CAVANAUGH: Rhoda, you were nodding. The information that's coming out about a revised immigration reform bill that may be taking shape in the house, is what you're hearing the kind of thing that you could support?

QUATE: Well, we would just like to have a bill. We are trying to be very realistic about what comes out. We totally recognize that there will be compromise on both sides. Neither side of this issue is going to be completely happy with what comes out. As far as the house bill is concerned, the details of it have not been exposed. But what we've been hearing is some things about the citizenship and that perhaps the wait to get the citizenship will perhaps be longer than the Senate bill. But I would like to make the point that these are details of the bill that can be batted around back and forth. But the idea that these immigrants get documented right away with legal, provisional status is what really is of value to them. So if it's 13 or 15 years, it's a very very long wait, but right now, there is no way to get legal. There is no line that people keep talking about as far as getting in line to get legal because it doesn't exist. Furthermore, very few people understand that the laws changed in 1996. What happened is that ever since that time, if you're in the country more than 365 days without documentation, you are banned from -- you are subject to a 10-year bar. That means you must leave for the country for ten years if you have eligibility to apply and get in via legal methods, via marriage or family members or employer sponsorship.

CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you this. You bring up how the law has changed, and there was an effort just recently under the George W. Bush administration to get some sort of immigration reform package passed, and that failed. It stalled in Congress. If it stalls again in Congress, what will be the next move for supporters of reform?

QUATE: Well, if it stalls too long, we're in extreme danger of the kids, the childhood arrivals that just received temporary status, it makes me service to even think about a bill not passing because of the fact that very recently they were given a very temporary 2-year provisional status to and -- it's called the DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. And two years is a very short amount of time when you think about Congress and how they move. So that's why it's critical that we need an immigration bill the very, very least, the dream act piece of the immigration bill because those kids are going to be thrown back into undocumented status as soon as that runs out.

CAVANAUGH: Carl, what might be the political consequences if indeed this immigration bill does stall or break apart as they threaten in the house to break it apart and perhaps do it piecemeal?

LUNA: Short term for a number of conservative members of the Congress, Republicans who would face stiff opposition if they're seen as being pro immigration in their reelections, it might work out it their short term advantage. But the Republicans in the Congress who want to kill immigration reform don't want their fingerprints on it. They'd like to see it get so caught up in trying to work out all the nitty-gritty that it just dies and nobody has to take responsibility for having killed it. If Republicans are seen as killing this bill, it's going to hurt them in 2014 because Hispanic voters who won 70% plus for the democratic candidates in 2012 are going to show up in large numbers in the midterm for the first time, and that could have an impact. Mitt Romney talked about self-deportation as a route to immigration reform. If Republicans can't figure out a way to work this, they're going to self-deport themselves out of Washington in a couple of election cycles.

CAVANAUGH: Nice turn of phrase there, Carl. I'm almost out of time. But I have to ask you one off-topic question. It has to do with the 2014 elections. We just heard that former mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio will be running as a Republican candidate for the 52nd congressional seat next year. He will challenge first-time Democrat Scott Peters. What do you think about that match-up?

LUNA: Well, it's interesting for Carl DeMaio. It keeps him in the public eye, and now he has options. He can run in 2014, if that doesn't work, go for mayor. It's also a sign of the permanent campaign, even if people don't like government, they seem awfully anxious to get their seats back in government. It's too early to tell how it's going to play out. But in that district who is turning more and more purple, heading toward blue, if Carl DeMaio comes out on the wrong side of immigration reform it could have a backlash against him in 2014. It could really hurt Republicans by 2016, 2018. This county is changing.

CAVANAUGH: I want to let everyone know tonight's rally for immigration reform takes place at 7:00 PM in front of the west side of the San Diego County administration building. Thank you both very much.

QUATE: Thank you.

LUNA: Thank you.