The U.S. Senate sounded off on immigration reform, passing a measure in late June that creates a potential pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Some Elkhart County immigration advocates are also raising their voices, calling for additional action on the issue, namely from the U.S. House of Representatives. Several groups pushing for legislation containing a means to citizenship are to meet Saturday in Goshen while several local religious leaders meet Sunday in Elkhart to push for a “just outcome” in reform talks.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski, Elkhart County’s representative to the nation’s capital, remains restrained, circumspect on the issue. There are plenty of issues in Washington, and the debate on immigration reform — focus of a meeting Wednesday of House GOPers — remains, seemingly, in the preliminary stages.
“Moving forward, it is my hope this chamber will engage in an open and honest discussion on this complex issue,” she said in a short, emailed statement Thursday, July 11, in response to a series of questions from The Elkhart Truth.
She made an apparent reference to a 1986 immigration reform measure, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants.
“As the House works through the process of constructing our own bill, we must recognize this attempt at immigration reform is an opportunity to learn from our past mistakes,” she said. U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, for one, pointed to what he sees as the shortcomings of the 1986 measure in the lead up to last month’s vote on the Senate immigration bill, which the Indiana Republican opposed.
Walorski also made note of the import of addressing border issues. House immigration debate, she said, should serve to “ensure the enforcement of certain provisions, like border security.”
Left out was any mention of the notion of creating a means for the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants here to attain legal migratory status, residency or citizenship. That’s one of the thorny issues in the debate.
To this point, Walorski, a Republican from Elkhart serving her first term in the U.S. House, hasn’t said much on the immigration issue and it didn’t emerge as an issue in her election last year.
EDUCATION, PATHWAY TO CITIZENSHIP
Saturday’s meeting in Goshen, promoted by the Northern Indiana Community Coalition for Immigration Reform and the North Central Indiana AFL-CIO, has two aims. The gathering is set for 2 p.m. and will be held at the Goshen Public Library, 601 S. Fifth St.
Sponsors aim to education the public on the Senate bill, they said in a statement. They also plan to push for support from Walorski on legislation that “brings the 11 million undocumented workers in the United States out of the shadows and works towards a pathway to citizenship.”
Speakers will include an immigration attorney, an advocate for an initiative granting younger undocumented immigrants a means to stay in the country legally, a Walorski rep and Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman, among others. Among the members of the coalition sponsoring the gathering are Americans for Democratic Action, the Indiana DREAM Initiative and several media outlets that cater to the Hispanic market.
Sunday’s gathering in Elkhart starts at 1 p.m. and will be held at the Prairie Street Mennonite Church, 1316 Prairie St.
Indiana’s two U.S. senators split on the Senate immigration bill, which passed 68-32. While Coats voted against it, Democrat Joe Donnelly voted for it.
Most observers have said immigration reform faces a much tougher fight in the GOP-led U.S. House than the U.S. Senate, controlled by Democrats. Media reports indicate that House Republicans taking part in the meeting Wednesday expressed division on the matter.