This was the Senate’s first hearing on immigration reform this year, effectively lifting the curtain on what promises to be a roller coaster of a legislative debate that will begin in the upper chamber. Many important aspects of the immigration reform debate became clearer from the hearing: the Democrats are united and leaning into it big time; the Republicans are divided between the pro-reform dealmakers (Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and maybe Mike Lee (R-UT)) and the anti-immigrant bomb throwers (Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and John Cornyn (R-TX)); there are enough votes in committee to move reform to the Senate floor with bipartisan momentum; the bipartisan Gang of 8 are optimistic they will deliver a bill in March; and the anti-immigrant movement got no game.
But the most important part of the hearing for us was the testimony of Jose Antonio Vargas, the journalist who came out as undocumented over a year ago. Watch:
Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, who was at the hearing:
Many of us in the room were moved to tears by Jose’s presence on the panel, his love and appreciation for family and mentors who gave him the opportunity to pursue and live the American Dream and his evident love of a country that opened the doors of opportunity but closed the doors of citizenship. As the first openly undocumented journalist to testify in a Congressional hearing, he spoke of and for the millions of Americans-in-waiting who desperately want to be fully recognized as the Americans they already are. Thank you, Jose, for representin’.
Vargas’ also wrote an op-ed, “My Family’s Papers,” which appeared in the New York Times today.