Senate Immigration Hearing Will Feature Jose Antonio Vargas

By Seth Freed Wessler Feb 11, 2013

After months of back room immigration reform talks on the Hill and declarations of broad principles for legislative overhaul from elected officials and the president, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its opening hearing on immigration this week. The hearing marks the year’s first official business on reform from the committee likely to craft an immigration bill.

We’ll report the details on Wednesday, but for now we can get a sense of the tone from the list of people giving testimony. Arguably the most notable speaker of the day will be Jose Antonio Vargas, the high profile immigrant rights activist and founder of Define American who made headlines last year when he came out publicly as an undocumented immigrant. Last week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing included the voices of several documented immigrants, but rarely do unauthorized immigrants get slated in such official spaces.

Anti-immigration activists’ briefs are already in a bunch. On Friday, leading immigration restrictionist Mark Krikorian, whose colleague from the Center for Immigration Studies will speak after Vargas on Wednesday, suggested on Twitter that Vargas should be deported.

"Illegal-alien journalist Jose Antonio Vargas will testify next week before Senate Judiciary. Will anyone arrest him?," Krikorian tweeted.

"I look forward to seeing you there, Mark," Vargas responded. "If you want to get me arrested, go ahead. Nothing to fear but fear itself."

Vargas will be joined on the panel by Vaughan, National Council of La Raza head Janet Murguía, high-skilled immigration advocate Steve Case of the group Revolution, and Chris Crane, the head of the ICE employees union. Crane and Vaughan appeared at the House hearing last week to argue for more enforcement of immigration laws.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will testify alone on an earlier panel and is likely to speak against Republican calls for added border enforcement before passing immigration reform. In recent comments she’s said that the broader enforcement infrastructure has never been so vast.

Advocates will watch the panel for signs of where Senators stand on key components of comprehensive immigration reform.