Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, January 14, 2013
Congress needs to make passing comprehensive immigration reforms that include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the United States a priority this legislative session, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Monday.
“Now is the time for real immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform, commonsense immigration reform, humane immigration reform,” Villaraigosa during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Monday afternoon. “Reform that is cemented by our most sacred values. Reform that bolsters our economy and respects those that come here in search of a better life.”
It is estimated that there are currently 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, of which approximately 4.3 million of them are believed to live in the Los Angeles metro area.
Villaraigosa stressed that the U.S. cannot ‘punt’ this issue any longer, regardless of what other issues the nation may be facing, such as the debt and school shootings. ”Washington should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said. He failed, however, to provide a concrete timeline on when Congress should act.
It was reported over the weekend that both the White House and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are working on plans they hope to present in the near future.
The plan that Villaraigosa introduced was multi-faceted. It called for a pathway to legal citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the nation that is “earned but not unobtainable.” In order to be considered for citizenship one must go through a full background check, pay any back taxes owed to the government, and have a comprehensive understanding of the English language.
Villaraigosa said he believes the U.S. should “protect the sanctity of family” so that it doesn’t take decades to reunite families in the United States, and that it should be easier for non-criminal migrant workers to obtain a green card. ”It shouldn’t just be highly skilled immigrants who get fast-tracked,” Villaraigosa stated.
With regards to securing the United States’ southern border, Villaraigosa argued that the country can’t let its only focus be to build a fence, which he said many Republicans want to see happen. He called instead for the nation to protect its borders through ‘smart enforcement’ methods that only remove those illegals who are dangerous.
“It’s time to put an end to the practice of deporting non-serious criminals,” he said.
According to Villaraigosa, three-fourths of those deported annually have no serious felony convictions on their record, and that there has never been a nation in history that has deported 11 million people.
The mayor previewed his speech yesterday on CBS’s ’Face the Nation.” Villaraigosa stressed Sunday that providing illegal immigrants with a pathway to citizenship will boost the American economy by $1.5 trillion annually. ”We can’t do this piecemeal and we can’t have second-class citizenship – this has to be a pathway to full citizenship,” Villaraigosa told ‘Face the Nation’ host Bob Schieffer.
Villaraigosa is one of the Democratic Party’s most vocal advocates of comprehensive immigration reform. During the Democratic National Convention last September, the L.A. mayor went so far as to claim that illegal immigrants would flee the country if former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was elected President.
“Instead of supporting their dream, Governor Romney wants to make their lives so miserable, so oppressive, so intolerable that they would leave behind the life they’ve built and ‘self-deport’,” Villaraigosa said. “But we believe we’re a better country than that. And thanks to President Obama, as we keep on fighting for the DREAM Act, they can remain in the country they love.”
He did backtrack slightly on the partisan nature of his previous comments during Monday’s press conference, however, noting that as a mayor he needs to be more bipartisan and hopes that the two sides can work together on the issue.
Villaraigosa also addressed the federal government’s upcoming upcoming debt ceiling deadline. He said he supports the President invoking the 14th Amendment and raising the debt ceiling himself next month if Congress fails to act. He also applauded New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, and the New York State Legislature for their progress toward passing an assault weapons ban, noting that his own city has had a similar ban in place for some time. “When the Second Amendment was created we didn’t have assault weapons,” he said in his defense.
Sadly the mayor did was not asked about his recent rendezvous with actor Charlie Sheen in Cabo during the press conference, nor did he voluntarily bring it up.
He was, however, asked about rumors that he had been approached by the Obama administration to serve in the President’s Cabinet after his term as mayor is up. He predictably refused to confirm or deny the chatter, saying that he’d give the President his answer when the President asked him the question.