What Is The Southwest's Role In The Senate Immigration Blueprint?
January 29, 2013

PHOENIX -- As highlighted by Fronteras Desk yesterday, the Southwest region got a special mention in the blueprint the so-called Gang of Eight bipartisan senators released Monday. The statement says "Americans living along the Southwest border are key to recognizing and understanding when the border is truly secure."

It goes on:

Our legislation will create a commission comprised of governors, attorneys general, and community leaders living along the Southwest border to monitor the progress of securing our border and to make a recommendation regarding when the bill's security measures outlined in the legislation are completed.

Since the blueprint makes a path to citizenship contingent on a secure border, that had some observers wondering if that meant it would be up to this Southwestern commission to decide when and if the pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants could be triggered.

That prospect didn't sit well with immigrant rights advocates and Democrats in Arizona.

Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva said he was skeptical of that provision of the plan at a press conference with immigrant rights advocates on Monday.

"The trigger being a commission composed of Governors from the Southwest, I think that will require some work down the road, to say the least," Grijalva said.

The sentiment was echoed by other local legislators.

"The selection of governors that could sit on this panel, I think can actually hold up the process in them feeling in their opinion that the border is never going to be secured," said Arizona State Senator Anna Tovar in an interview with Arizona Public Radio.

The Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent reported there seems to be differing answers within the Gang of Eight over the commission's role-- namely whether it would be the definitive decider on whether the border is secure, or would merely play an advisory role.

"This could still be a sticking point going forward," Sargent concluded.

While some confusion remains over the long path to citizenship in the blueprint, a "pending" status for undocumented immigrants that would allow them to work legally would happen quickly.

That much was clarified at the tail end of Monday's press conference with five of the senators.

"Immediately, when the bill passes, people who are here living in the shadows would get a legal right to stay here and work," Sen. Chuck Schumer told reporters. "They would no longer be deported, provided they don’t have a criminal record. They would no longer be harassed. They would be working."

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