MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Joe Garcia stood side by side with advocates at a Hispanic Unity of Florida news conference in Hollywood on Monday and called on Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration bill.
Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, called on House Speaker John Boehner to put a bipartisan immigration reform bill on the floor of the House for a vote.
“The speaker could put it on the floor tonight if he wanted to. We know if this bill was put on the floor of the U.S. house of Representatives it would pass, it has enough votes to pass,” said Wasserman Schultz.
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, which was authored by Garcia, has almost 200 bipartisan co-sponsors. It also has support from some 650 business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, religious leaders, law enforcement and much of the technology industry.
The act provides an earned pathway to citizenship for millions of people, according to Garcia. It also increases in border security, allow 11 million undocumented people living and working here the chance to come out of the shadows, allows nearly two million people who were brought here illegally as children, through no fault of their own, to obtain jobs legally, pay taxes, open bank accounts and not live in fear of deportation.
Democrats say, if passed, the it would reduce the deficit by $900 billion over the next two decades.
“It is tremendously important, not only because it’s the moral thing to do, not just for the millions who have been deported but more importantly the 5000 children in state custody because their parents have been sent home,” said Garcia.
“It is a joke when the speaker talks about it and does nothing,” said Wasserman Schultz. “As a mother, I can’t imagine the concern and pangs of having to worry whether my family will be reunited or torn apart at a moment’s notice.”
Wasserman Schultz had a simple message for Boehner, “Allow the House to vote on comprehensive immigration reform without delay.”
She added that measure was made “common sense and was ready to go.”
Some Republican legislators have refused to move ahead on immigration reform legislation in an election year in which they hope to retake the Senate while retaining the House.
In Miami, Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen said when they return to work on Tuesday its time for the finger pointing to stop and get to work on real reform.
“Well there’s a lot of people who like to play the blame game. Oh it’s Boehner’s fault and Boehner makes fun of Republican ‘Oh this is too hard’ so I am in favor of getting together in a bipartisan manner and seeing how we can work this out. We’re going to be in session April, May, June and July. We’ll be in session. We have time to do it and let’s do it in a rational, calm manner.”
Ros Lehtinen said it will be a lot of hard work but she sees it happening.
“I believe we will have bipartisan reform. It will be a tough bill. For folks who think they are going to get a free ride, that is not happening. It will be a very tough bill. They will have to wait a long time to become residents, to become citizens. We’ll have security at the border, for the first time ever. That’s the piece that was missing from Ronald Reagan’s bill of comprehensive reform in the late 1980s.”
Wasserman Schultz also called on Florida’s Senate to vote on and pass a measure which would grant in-state tuition to college and university students who brought by their parents to the U.S. years ago and are living here illegally.
Two college students who have been granted ‘temporary’ status spoke on the need for immigration reform.
Twenty-year old Anthony DaRosa who attends college in West Palm Beach said he was brought to South Florida by his parents ten years ago. He said he was unaware that he was illegal until he had a serious accident that left him in a coma.
DaRosa, who works two jobs, pays ten-thousand dollars a year to attend college. His tuition bill would be a third less if he was a full legal Florida resident.
“It’s hard on everything when you have bills coming and you want to work. I want to get my nursing degree and work in an ER to give back to the community,” said DaRosa. I’m grateful for everything I’ve received to this day.”
“I have known so many people that can’t sleep at night wondering if today or tomorrow they will be separated from their parents,” said Broward College student Maria Madrinan of Colombia.
Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she is committed to immigration reform but said it won’t happen immediately.
“We have to do it in a rational, calm manner and a press conference that names and shames and says there is stonewalling is not a way to help the immigrant community or the economy of the United States,” said Ros-Lehtinen.
“If Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants to talk about ‘zero leadership,’ she should take a look at Charlie Crist’s record. He opposed in-state tuition for DREAMers and raised tuition for Florida’s students,” said Florida Republican party Communications director Susan Hepworth.
Wasserman Schultz also took a shot a Gov. Rick Scott’s claim that he supports the legislation and said he’s exercised zero leadership in convincing his fellow Republicans to take up and approve the bill.
Some GOP senators have denounced the measure as “pandering” to Hispanics during his re-election campaign.