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What’s Next For Immigration Reform?

Immigration reform advocates here in Houston are cautiously optimistic after the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill Thursday. Failure or success of reform now depends on the House of Representatives.



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“In the past, we hadn’t even been able to get it past one of the houses, so it’s obviously something to celebrate about.”

Cesar Espinosa is the executive director of FIEL, a local immigrant advocacy group. He says members of his organization were “ecstatic” when they heard the news that the Senate passed the bill.

“But it’s a celebration and a call to action at the same time. We now need for folks to once again start the whole process but now with the House of Representatives.”

And it looks like the bill will be a much harder sell in the House. House majority leader John Boehner has already indicated that the Republican-led House will not vote on the Senate bill unless a majority of Republicans support it.

Congressman John Culberson represents the seventh district of Texas, which encompasses parts of west Houston, Katy and Cypress.

“The Senate ‘amnesty bill’ will never pass the House. I strenuously oppose it, as do the majority of my Republican colleagues.”

Culberson says his main issue with the bill is that it would grant what he calls “amnesty” and government benefits to millions of unauthorized immigrants.

“This problem is not complicated. All that’s necessary is to enforce existing law and to create a guest worker program, and finally, to make sure that the visa system works properly.”

He says those that broke the law by entering the United States illegally or overstaying their visas should never be able to obtain citizenship. Instead, he would like them to be eligible for a guest worker program at the end of which they would have to return to their country of origin.

He says there are several House bills in the making that address illegal immigration including efforts to streamline the visa system and focusing on the enforcement of existing immigration laws.

Professor Geoff Hoffman heads the Immigration Clinic at the University of Houston’s law school. He says there are several different ways an immigration reform bill could move forward, including one proposed by the so-called House “Gang of Seven.”

“The Gang of Seven could come up with their own separate bill, which would include a path to citizenship, it would include border security measures, but some things would be significantly different.”

Whatever bill comes out of the House, it will then go to a committee to reconcile it with the senate version and then again be voted on in the Senate.

Although much is still ahead for immigration reform, Hoffman says the Senate’s passing the bill should be considered a significant step, considering the chamber hadn’t passed a bill of this magnitude in the recent past.