As immigration supporters urge Republicans such as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., left, to get immigration reform done, the special status of Cuban émigrés, like those on the right applying for visas in Havana, Cuba, is being called into question by critics who say the law allowing them to do so is outdated. (Photo : Reuters)
With immigration reform seemingly closer than ever before, supporters of a deal fixing the U.S. immigration system are pushing for Republicans to get a deal done soon--one that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
With the backing of the White House, immigrant lobbying groups are starting a nationwide campaign aimed at getting Republicans to the table on the immigration reform debate. So far, the campaign involves efforts from Hispanic, Asian and African American groups as well as faith groups, labor unions and law enforcement and business reps.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who was one of several labor union leaders who met with President Obama Tuesday to discuss immigration reform, told the Washington Post Thursday that the November election sent the GOP "a strong message" that immigration reform was something their party needs to address soon--or else face dire political consequences.
"Our focus is citizenship, getting people to have the same rights as anybody else," he said.
Despite getting pummeled in the polls among Latino voters in November--and growing public support for allowing undocumented immigrants a chance to apply for permanent U.S. residence--Republicans still remain divided on the issue of how to address immigration reform, with some GOP House legislators opposed to granting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
Those feelings were reiterated by Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho, during an immigration hearing in the House Judiciary Committee this week.
"If we can find a solution that is short of pathway to citizenship but better than just kicking 12 million people out, why is that not a good solution?" Labrador said this week.
However, advocates for immigration such as Clarissa Martinez de Castro, an official with the National Council of La Raza, argue that certain GOP members are creating a misconception that reforming immigration is a choice between mass deportation and immediate citizenship.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, one of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" who released an immigration compromise bill recently that featured a conditional pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that goes with securing the U.S. border, once more reiterated that fixing the immigration system was imperative, not just for the GOP, but for the country at large.
"You can't leave 11 million people in the shadows forever," McCain told the Atlantic in reference to the estimated number of undocumented immigrants living on U.S. soil. "The people that wash our dishes, cut our lawns, take care of our children -- is it right to leave them in the shadows forever? I don't think so."
Meanwhile, as the debate on immigration rages on, an old provision that grants Cuban refugees special status on receiving expedited citizenship is being called into question on Capitol Hill.
Critics say that the Adjustment Act, which allows Cuban immigrants to apply for permanent U.S. citizenship after at least one year in the U.S., say the law is outdated and should be adjusted.
According to Reuters, every year, roughly 36,000 to 40,000 Cubans arrive on U.S. shores, many of them selected via a lottery or a family reunification program. Of those numbers, around 10,000 Cuban refugees come without visas, coming in illegally by boat or through the U.S.-Mexico border.
Even U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a son of Cuban immigrants who has defended the law in the past, said the law will likely be talked about in regards to tweaking it.
"I'm not sure we're going to be able to avoid, as part of any comprehensive approach to immigration, a conversation about the Cuban Adjustment Act," Rubio told reporters last month.