Polis urges Senate to move forward on immigration reform

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, fresh off appointment to the House Judiciary Committee, took to the U.S. House floor Wednesday to urge the U.S. Senate to introduce comprehensive federal immigration reform legislation. Senators will draw heat on any immigration proposal and some have suggested that to bring such a hot-button issue to the table in the wake of the bitterly partisan debate over the health reform legislation passed last month would stall Washington altogether.

As a member of the Judiciary Committee, which is likely to lead on immigration legislation, Polis is reflecting sentiment that now is exactly the right time for immigration reform, as state lawmakers feel increasing pressure to take up local legislative solutions, as did Arizona famously last week. Analysts across the country see the new Arizona law as unduly harsh and sweeping, an overreaction to borderland crime that puts the onus on local police to enforce immigration laws and seems bound to strain community relations, exacerbate racial profiling and violate constitutional rights.

“I rise today to encourage my colleagues to live up to a challenge that has been put before us by the people of our country, by the people of Arizona, by the people of my state, and that is the challenge to replace our broken immigration system with one that works,” said the 2nd District Democrat.

As I travel across my district, I haven’t found a single constituent on the left or right that’s happy with the state of immigration today in this country. There are over 10 million immigrants in this country who are working illegally, frequently undermining wages from working families, taking jobs away from Americans. We need to pass comprehensive immigration reform to ensure that this number doesn’t grow to 15 million or 20 million, [to ensure that] we have no one that resides in this country illegally, requiring registration and making sure that people follow the law and restore the rule of law.

I’m a proud cosponsor of the House comprehensive immigration reform bill , which will accomplish that, and I call upon my colleagues in the Senate to introduce a bill, based on the 25-page outline they released last week, that would ensure once and for all that we hear the voice of the American people, come together, and solve our immigration system. Thank you.

Polis has argued for immigration reform since he was elected to the House in 2008. He has visited Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities in the state and decried their lack of transparency and cost effectiveness. He underlined the fact that people held in the facilities are often treated like criminals even though their only crime may be not having their working or residency papers in order or readily available. Often immigration applications are being reviewed when people are apprehended. fathers and mothers, family breadwinners, are then locked up, effectively disappearing and leaving dependents without resources.

It would be cheaper and maybe better to put these people up in hotels, Polis said on a visit to the state’s main detention center in Aurora last year.

In October, he railed against a federal program known as 287(g), which granted broad immigration enforcement powers to local law enforcement agencies. He said the program had resulted in “sweeps of terror” and he effectively previewed much of the complaints about the law passed this month in Arizona.

“287(g) scares victims and witnesses of crimes to avoid contacting police for fear of being mistreated. It invites exploitation by [criminals] who know that they won’t be reported [by Latino victims] to police, because the law combines contradictory duties into the same police force,” he said.

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