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Letter to the Senate on Immigration Reform Bill and Amendments

June 21, 2013

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association, we urge your support for commonsense immigration reform as the Senate considers the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744). NEA applauds the Gang of Eight’s bipartisan effort to bring this historic bill to the Senate floor, and we continue to encourage an efficient, timely, and transparent process leading up to the final vote on the bill. Please note that votes associated with this bill may be included in NEA’s Legislative Report Card for the 113th Congress.  

Immigration policy profoundly impacts NEA members and their students. Educators have witnessed for far too long the impact that the current immigration system has had on students, their families, and communities. The time is now to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Educators applaud S. 744 for addressing key priorities critical to their students and families—including a pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million aspiring Americans, ensuring and promoting family unity, and inclusion of the DREAM Act

As the bill continues to be debated on the Senate floor, we anticipate that several key amendments related to NEA’s priorities will be offered.  

Specifically, we strongly urge you to vote YES on the following amendment:

  • Blumenthal-Murkowski 1327: The “Little DREAMers” amendment ensures that the youngest DREAMers will have access to the same five-year path to citizenship as older DREAMers if they are under the age of 18 after completing five years of Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status. This important amendment puts our youngest aspiring Americans on a par with their older brothers or sisters, who may be eligible for the DREAM Act and its five-year path to citizenship.

 Several additional amendments have been offered that support NEA priorities, and we urge you to vote as follows:

  • Vote YES on Leahy 1182: To recognize, for the purposes of the Immigration and Nationality Act, any marriage entered into in full compliance with the laws of the state or foreign country within which such marriage was performed. The amendment recognizes all families, promoting and ensuring family unity.
  • Vote YES on Hirono 1317: Provides individuals who are lawfully present, employed, and paying their share of federal taxes that fund federal programs shall not be denied access to those programs on the basis of their immigration status. This amendment is fair, prevents discrimination based on immigration status, and supports families’ well-being.
  • Vote YES on Schatz 1337: Restores family-sponsored immigrant categories for older married sons and daughters and siblings of U.S. citizens 10 years after enactment of S. 744, which is in line with ensuring and promoting family unity.
  • Vote YES on Hirono-Murray 1403: Establishes a category in the merit-based point system that would provide a fair opportunity for women to compete for merit-based green cards—in turn, promoting family unity and success.
  • Vote YES on Murray 1460: Provides funding to supplement state need-based student aid for states that have expanded in-state tuition or state financial aid for DREAM Act students, thus making the pursuit of higher education more accessible.
  • Vote YES on any amendment that expedites the pathway to citizenship, especially for children.
  • Vote YES on any amendment that promotes or strengthens family unity.
  • Vote YES on any amendment that enhances and promotes DREAM Act provisions. 

There have also been several amendments offered that derail or go against NEA priorities. For those, we urge you to:

  • Vote NO on Paul 1202: Restricts refugees, asylees, individuals in RPI status, and other noncitizens from receiving a number of public benefits, including:
    • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
    • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF) and programs, including child care under Part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act 
    • Medical assistance provided under a state Medicaid plan or under a waiver of such plan, other than emergency medical assistance 
    • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits 
    • Federal Pell Grants 
    • Housing vouchers under Section 8 
    • Federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OSAI and SSDI)
    • Health insurance benefits for aged and disabled under Medicare 
    • Social Services Block Grant services and related funding under Subtitle A of Title XX of the Social Security Act
  • Vote NO on Lee 1210: Prohibits individuals who have left or attempted to reenter the U.S. following a deportation order from being eligible for RPI status, threatening family unity and the ability of previously removed parents and DREAMers from obtaining RPI status.
  • Vote NO on Lee 1215:  Requires an annual report on the amounts of federal means-tested benefits provided in each state for households with RPIs, creating a chilling effect to accessing benefits for mixed-legal status families, which include U.S. citizen children.
  • Vote NO on Manchin 1219: Requires a degree from an institution of higher learning (vs. two years of higher education) to be eligible for the DREAM Act, delaying the pathway to citizenship for DREAMers.
  • Vote NO on Rubio 1225: Requires those who adjust to RPI who are 16 years or older to read, write, and speak the English language, creating an additional barrier to accessing RPI status and further delaying access to the path to citizenship. Without additional resources needed by the existing adult education system, immigrants will not be able to fulfill this English language requirement.
  • Vote NO on Wicker 1232: Doubles penalties on both RPI applicants and adjustment to LPR status from $1,000 to $2,000 each, increasing the burden for low-income parents to access the path to citizenship.
  • Vote NO on Hatch 1246: Limits the government’s ability to waive restrictions on federal means-tested benefits for those in RPI status, lawfully present immigrants (LPRs), and to provide nonimmigrants with any benefits. It also prohibits the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) from providing states with waivers for safety net programs.
  • Vote NO on Hatch 1247: Prohibits application for RPI status, or adjustment to LPR status, unless new tax payment documentation requirements requiring RPI applicants to provide proof to the Department of Treasury that they have no owed federal tax liability from an individual’s original date of entry into the United States are satisfied. This requirement would be unworkable for families, employers, and the IRS, with the overall effect of creating a barrier against immigrant parents adjusting to and maintaining RPI status.
  • Vote NO on Vitter 1292: Denies citizenship to babies born in the United States unless at least one of the child’s parents is a citizen, an LPR, or an immigrant in active service in the armed forces. This amendment is extremely harmful for children, likely unconstitutional, and represents a major step backwards on civil rights.
  • Vote NO on Fischer 1348: Requires applicants for RPI status to be English language proficient, limiting the number of eligible applicants with an unreasonable requirement. This has potential negative impacts for all applicants for RPI status, including children.
  • Vote NO on Coburn 1349: Eliminates the provision that allows individuals who have been deported or removed from the United States to apply for RPI status. This would prevent previously removed DREAM-eligible youth and the parents of U.S. citizens and LPR children from being able to return to the United States to apply for citizenship and reunite with their families.
  • Vote NO on Enzi 1398: Denies the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to families filing with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), rather than a Social Security number. This would take an important anti-poverty tax credit away from many low-income children.
  • Vote NO on any amendment that places unduly burdensome restrictions on pathways to citizenship.
  • Vote NO on any amendment that hampers or makes it difficult for families to stay together or reunite.
  • Vote NO on any amendment that threatens the DREAM Act’s accelerated pathway, especially for children. 

Educators welcome the most serious plan to fix our nation’s broken immigration system in years. We strongly support the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744), and urge you to pass this landmark bill. 

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations