Earlier this summer, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill. The House hasn't voted on any immigration bill and that chamber's bipartisan "Gang of Seven" has yet to introduce a comprehensive plan.
But as Congress prepares to adjourn for the rest of August, a freshman Democrat and a sophomore Republican — both Congressmen from California — sat down in a public forum Thursday to talk about the economic benefits of immigration.
It wasn't a formal hearing. But it was the only public discussion of immigration in a Capitol Hill hearing room all week. Turlock Republican Jeff Denham, whose father-in-law is a legal Mexican immigrant, indirectly criticized fellow House GOP members who only want to talk about border security. "If we could just shut down the border completely," he said, "what does that do to our economy?"
One witness, Fred Treyz, a regional policy analyist with the think tank Regional Economic Models, Inc., told lawmakers visas for both high-tech and lower skilled workers not only benefits the recipients, but the U.S. economy as a whole.
Denham and L.A. Democrat Tony Cardenas — a son of farm workers — invited experts to talk about visas for agricultural and high-tech workers. Cardenas poked at GOP members who oppose granting legal status to low wage immigrants. "My mother and father's income never exceeded what now every single one of their children's households pays in taxes every single year."
Denham says a series of individual bills addressing border security, worker verification and visas for agricultural and high-tech workers are likely to come to the floor for debate and vote this fall – likely in October.
He's pushing a measure that would give a path to citizenship to undocumented young people who serve in the U.S. military. But Denham predicts at least one measure offering legal status or citizenship for the rest of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country will come to the floor for a vote.