House Immigration 'Gang of Eight' Finalizing Own Overhaul

As the Gang of Eight in the U.S. Senate prepares to introduce its proposal for comprehensive immigration overhaul Tuesday, Rep. Xavier Becerra, a key player in the House's own select group of lawmakers working to fix the country's immigration system, says lawmakers in the lower chamber are finalizing their proposal as well.

"If the Senate does announce tomorrow, that'll be great because it'll give everyone a chance to see what a bipartisan immigration reform can look like," Becerra, D-Calif., said during a news conference outside the Capitol today. "I don't think the House will be too far behind. I think, in fact, both the House negotiators and the Senate negotiators are trying to iron out for the most part smaller issues now."

Becerra, 55, one of four House Democrats at the center of the negotiations, would not specify how soon the House Gang's plan could be finalized, but he predicted that the plan will be similar to the Senate group's proposal.

"Progress is being made," he said. "You're not hearing a lot of talk about amnesty and self-deportation any more. You're hearing talk about how we get this done.

"I hope the Senate is able to produce a product tomorrow. The House, we believe, will be very close and I don't think you're going to see too much space between what the Senate and what the House produce for comprehensive immigration reform."

Becerra was joined at a Capitol news conference by dozens of activists, including labor leader and civil rights-activist Dolores Huerta, and the co-chairs of Voto Latino, actors America Ferrera, who played Betty Suarez on ABC's "Ugly Betty," and Wilmer Valderrama, best known for his role as Fez on "That '70s Show."

"It's time to pay tribute to the roots and, most importantly, to the building team that was responsible for making this country what it is today," Valderrama, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Colombia and Venezuela, said.

"You know, I think the first thing we need to do is re-educate everyone on what immigration really means so that we can have a proper conversation about what really is fair. We are ready for fairness."

"We can do this, but we can only do it together," actress Ferrera said. "Today, let's move forward and let's let them know that we're ready."

Huerta, who co-founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez in the 1960s, said supporters must point out to the masses that a pathway to citizenship "has always been the policy" of America in order to win the battle on immigration reform.

"We want this to be a just bill and not make it so onerous so that people will have to wait forever to become citizens," Huerta said. "Everybody knows that we want people to be protected in our country. They don't have to fear deportation."

Asked whether he believes House Speaker John Boehner will allow a comprehensive immigration plan to come to the floor for a vote, Becerra praised Boehner for working to educate his colleagues before a debate on the House floor.

"I believe Speaker Boehner wants to have a vote," Becerra, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said. "If the speaker's willing to let the will of the House work its way, the way the will of the American people are telling America and Americans in Congress to get this vote done, I think we're going to have a - for the first time in 30 years, close to 30 years - a vote on a bill to fix our broken immigration system. ¡ Si se puede!" [Yes, we can.]

While the Gangs of Eight in the House and Senate have been the focus of efforts to overhaul immigration laws, Becerra acknowledged it will take cooperation of the full Congress and the entire country to succeed.

"This may be the year, but it won't happen without our help and our work and so everyone has to redouble their efforts in this united front," Becerra said. "We have to do this as Americans together. Estamos listos. We are ready."

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