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Activists outside Capitol Hill push for immigration reform

Congresswoman Judy Chu talks about immigration reform
Congresswoman Judy Chu talks about immigration reform
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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The immigration debate seems to be heating up everywhere but Capitol Hill.

Lots of politicians away from Capitol Hill – from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the left to Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul on the right – want Congress to start work on immigration.

Villaraigosa has joined with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the heads of several major corporations to push for legalization for the undocumented living in the U.S., combined with tough fines for companies that hire those without papers.

Rand Paul says he'd support a constitutional amendment that would deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. of undocumented parents.

Now more than a dozen House Democrats, including Judy Chu of El Monte, are trying to jumpstart action on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. They say they’ve got more than 100 co-sponsors. Chu says, "What a difference from the last time this bill was introduced a few years ago when we had 27 co-sponsors!"

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says immigration reform must start in the Senate. That’s unlikely anytime soon. Senate majority leader Harry Reid is in a tough re-election battle. So’s John McCain, the GOP senator who co-wrote the last major immigration reform bill.

Meanwhile, states aren't waiting for Congress. Several are writing their own immigration laws. Besides Arizona, the National Conference of State Legislatures says five other states are debating laws to let police ask people they stop about immigration status.

The five states looking at adopting Arizona-style immigration laws are Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Rhode Island.

Earlier this week, a town in Nebraska passed an ordinance to keep landlords from renting homes or apartments to undocumented immigrants.