Rep. Zoe Lofgren on immigration reform discharge petition: “We need a vote on immigration reform”

March 26, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-19), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks today on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on an effort begun by Democrats to give an up or down vote in the House on bipartisan immigration reform.  With House Republicans continuing to block a vote on H.R. 15, the bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, Democrats have begun a petition under the House rules to force a vote on the legislation:

(remarks as delivered)

What we are engaging on today has the potential of being truly historic. We need a vote on immigration reform. 

You know, several weeks ago I was home in the district I represent—I go home every week—and the Secretary of Commerce was visiting in Silicon Valley.  She gave a good speech; after she finished her speech she invited questions.  The very first question was from a young man, a scientist, who said this:  I started a company, I'm about to hire four Americans, but my visa is up next month. What am I supposed to do?

As I was talking to that young man, another young man came forward—another scientist who has just formed a company and is about to go into a hiring mode—but his visa was just about up. So when you take a look and listen to the people in Silicon Valley about the jobs that we're going to lose in America, because we have a dysfunctional immigration system, shows the problem we have allowed to fester.

Recently I met with farmers and they told me that they are not planting crops this year because they can't identify who is going to pick those crops.  About eighty percent of the migrant farm workers in America are here without their proper documents. 

Now do I think that's a good situation?  No, I do not.  But a number of years ago, when I chaired the Immigration Subcommittee, we had a wonderful witness, Dr. Richard Land—then the head of the Southern Baptist Convention—and this was his testimony: he said we had, for many years, two signs at the southern border. One sign that said ‘no trespassing' and the other sign said ‘help wanted.' And those farm workers who are here picking the vegetables that we will enjoy at our meals responded to that help wanted sign.

Sometimes people say ‘well, you should do it in the legal way—get to the end of the line.'  The truth is—and this is from someone who was a former immigration lawyer, I used to teach immigration law at the University of Santa Clara—there is no line to get into.  We have created a dysfunctional system that does not serve American interests. 

Now H.R. 15 is not a perfect bill, no piece of legislation is.  But it was a bill that attracted broad support in the United States Senate—bipartisan support in the United States Senate—and this discharge petition says just one thing: let's have a vote. Let's have a vote.

Why would the Speaker of the House—why would the Republican Leadership—refuse to allow this body to have an up or down vote on that bill?

A discharge petition is something that has been in the rules of the House for many, many decades.  It has been used, occasionally in the past, to actually un-bottle up bills that the leadership didn't want the body to vote on.  Most recently campaign finance reform came to the floor of the House because of a discharge petition.

A lot of Members of the House say that they favor immigration reform.  Well, here is an opportunity to hold every Member of this House accountable.

If you favor reform of the immigration system, you should favor having an up or down vote on H.R. 15. If you favor an up or down vote, we expect you—no matter what your party registration—to sign this discharge petition so the House of Representatives may have an opportunity to address this question and vote yes or no on this bill.

I hope that members of the public who are aware of the need for immigration reform—to reform a system that is not serving our economic interests, that is breaking up families and leaving children in foster care while their parents are deported—will call their Members of the House of Representatives and say ‘sign this discharge petition, it's in the rules, it's what we expect, we need a vote." 

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Click here for video of Rep. Lofgren's speech.