YAKIMA — As the U.S. House gears up for debate on immigration reform, one of its leading advocates will be in Yakima on Saturday to drum up support for a bill passed by the Senate in June.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., will speak to supporters at what organizers expect to be a capacity crowd of 300 at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 5 p.m.
“(Gutierrez) is a national leader on immigration reform and a hero on this and other issues in the Latino community,” Charlie McAteer, a spokesman for the Seattle-based immigrant advocacy group OneAmerica, wrote in an email to the Yakima Herald-Republic.
“We want to rally our members as we begin the fight for reform in the House,” he said.
Gutierrez became the first Latino from the Midwest to be elected to Congress in 1992. Since then, he has become one of the Democratic Party’s leading strategists and advocates on immigration issues.
He currently serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.
House Republican leadership has already said it doesn’t intend to address the Senate bill directly but rather through piecemeal legislation, with an emphasis on improving border security and no promises of providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The bipartisan bill passed by the Senate provides a 13-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, but certain security-related provisions in the bill would have to be met before that process could go into effect. The bill devotes $46 billion to border security improvements, including calling for a doubling of the patrol on the U.S.-Mexico border and the completion of 700 miles of fencing — changes added to gain Republican support.
The bill also makes it mandatory for employers to check their workers’ legal status, sets up new visa programs to allow workers into the country and establishes new tracking systems at seaports and airports to keep better tabs on people entering and leaving the country.