By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The immigration reform bill sailed through the United States Senate yesterday, offering hope of citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants across the country (see related story). Local advocates are a little nervous as the bill gears up to move into the House.
“It’s a little bit of a bitter sweet pill I think right now,” says Erika Almiron, executive director of Juntos. She says the community is happy the bill is moving forward, but afraid that if it ever passes the United States House it won’t resemble the Gang of 8 proposal originally lauded by immigration reform advocates.
“We see these concessions happening around this bill, so it just raises our concern as we move into the House,” she says.
Concessions like adding tens of billions of dollars for stepped up border security and adding more red tape to the path to citizenship. Natasha Kelemen of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition says the only recourse is to continue to push lawmakers.
“The Senate, the President and the majority of Americans have shown a clear desire to provide a comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system,” she says. “We feel that it is now on the House to follow this mandate.”
A poll released earlier this month shows nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support immigration reform. Yet Pennsylvania’s support for the immigration bill was split in the Senate. US Senator Bob Casey voted for the bill; US Senator Pat Toomey voted against it. The bill passed 68 to 32.
“I’m hoping that the Republicans on the House side have more spine that the Republicans on the Senate side,” says Margaret Adelsberger, founder of Pennsylvanians for Immigration Control and Enforcement. Her group wants more border security and opposes the current bill.
“This is not what our country needs,” says Adelsberger.
If the bill makes it through the House, is signed by the President and becomes law, it will represent the most sweeping change to the country’s immigration laws in decades.