As millions of undocumented immigrants await the decision of the U.S. House of Representatives on immigration reform, some Democrats are wary of the bill's security provisions while a few Republicans appear to be changing their minds in support of immigration reform. (Photo : Reuters)
With the immigration reform proposal due for a potentially earth-shaking debate this summer, another major Republican has announced his support for immigration reform, but some Democrats are becoming hesitant because of the bill's tough border provisions.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker recently gave a strong endorsement for the the creation of a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
In an interview with the Wausau Daily Herald Tuesday, Walker said that the federal government needed to streamline the process for immigrants to become legal citizens, and that they should "fix things for people already here."
The paper notes that Gov. Walker changed his previous position on comprehensive immigration reform while not offering a specific position on the current immigration bill being debated by Congress.
Gov. Walker positioned himself as an immigration hawk during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
"You hear some people talk about border security or a wall or all that," Walker said on Tuesday. "To me, I don't know that you need any of that if you had a better, saner way to let people into the country in the first place."
As the Huffington Post notes, Walker also pointed to his own home state's reliance on labor from immigrants, not all of which may have been documented U.S. residents.
"If people want to come here and work hard and benefit, I don't care whether they come from Mexico or Ireland or Germany or Canada or South Africa or anywhere else," Walker said. "I want them here."
Gov. Walker's about-face on immigration reform is something that Democrats are hoping to see more of when the immigration proposal, passed in the Senate, hits the U.S. House of Representatives, where the GOP has control.
However, not all Democrats and immigration advocates are necessarily happy with the bill, particularly its focus on border security—something that conservatives have cited as a prerequisite for their support of the bill.
U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) resigned from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in order to protest the strong support behind the bill, which he criticized for putting up more barriers and being symbolically divisive.
"Historically, our country has criticized the construction of barriers of all kinds," Vela said on the House floor on last week, as CBS News reports. "Erecting more border fence drives a wedge between border communities which are culturally united... The current border fence has come to symbolize divisiveness and serves as a daily reminder of a flawed immigration system."
Under the provisions of the proposed bill, if passed, the amount of U.S. border patrol agents would double from 20,000 to 40,000 while security would be beefed up thanks to billions of dollars invested into surveillance equipment and additional border fencing.
The measures have been criticized by U.S. Reps. Pete Gallego (D-Texas), Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), among others. A few immigrant advocacy groups, such as Presente.org and the Border Network for Human Rights, have also opposed the bill.
In a statement late last month, Presente said the provisions involved on border security would "further endangers our communities."
"In its current form, S. 744 also promises to continue mass racial profiling and deportations, institute controversial guest worker programs and do nothing to ameliorate the very causes that brought about our demands for immigration reform in the first place," the statement read.
However, Democrats still pushing for the bill are urging compromise, as U.S. rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), has.
"They said they wanted 20,000 more border patrol agents," Rep. Gutierrez told the Las Vegas Sun this week during a rally for immigration reform in Las Vegas.
"And what did we say, Democrats? Yes, because we want comprehensive immigration reform. It's not a Republican solution; it's not a Democratic solution. It's an American solution," he added.