Meeting with law enforcement officials on Friday, Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly emphasized that immigration reform is a "public safety issue," saying the Senate's immigration bill would greatly strengthen border security and empower law enforcement officials. He called on the House of Representatives to "step up" and pass its own bill.
"This is a public safety issue," he said, pounding the table in front of him with each word to emphasize his point. "Immigration reform is going to make our communities safer and make these guys' job much easier," he added, nodding at the law enforcement officials assembled in the room.
The vice president emphasized the "unprecedented $46 billion dollars" the Senate, including more manpower, new technology, and new infrastructure, including an expanded border fence.
But "it extends beyond just dealing with border security," he continued, "by requiring all undocumented immigrants to come forward and register, submit to fingerprints, pass criminal background checks and a national security check."
By bringing those people out of the shadows, Biden said, law enforcement officials will finally be able to address problems among undocumented communities that too often go unreported due to a suspicion of authorities.
"They're worried about domestic abuse taking place in the immigrant community...it's never reported," he said. "We're given examples of pickers in the field, agricultural workers, being afraid to put money in the bank....and they're getting victimized and robbed - no way to report that."
"Fixing a broken immigration system is going to allow law enforcement to focus on catching criminals and keeping neighborhoods safe," he said. "When this passes, God willing, those who don't come out of the shadows, they have a reason not to come out of the shadows."
The Republican-controlled House has said it will not pass the Senate bill, moving forward instead with a piecemeal immigration reform approach that addresses some elements of the system in lieu of a comprehensive reform package.
Biden called on the House to "step up" and pass a bill.
"I don't know how many more chances we have to get this right," he warned. "The House has to step up to the ball and address this issue. Stand up, every member, yay or nay. They should be able to vote individually - that's a decision for the House to make."
If "people are able to vote," Biden predicted, "this passes."