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Managing Expectations About the Immigration Debate

August 31, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger


Clock


It is the end of August, and soon Congress will be returning to resume the debate on health care.  After a month of attacks by opponents, the only thing that has become more clear is that it is unclear when this debate will end.  For the issue of immigration reform and the other pressing issues in line behind health care, the line doesn’t seem to be moving.


 


In the August 28th North (San Diego) County Times, Edward Schumacher-Matos argues that comprehensive immigration reform should be put off. He understands that immigration reform is an urgent matter, and I liked his summary of the rationale for reform:


 


Comprehensive reform is needed because the many pieces of the system are linked. Previous reform attempts over the last 50 years failed because they didn't include a sufficiently flexible system of work visas to meet labor demand, didn't punish employers who needed and hired the resulting surge of illegal immigrants, cut off return flows by militarizing the border, and left the nation's legal system frozen in the headlights of confronting so many people not supposed to be here.


 


Neverthless, he argues that it is just too difficult to accomplish immigration reform right now:


 


Obama's plate already has far too much on it…. Obama himself acknowledged in Mexico that "it's very important for us to sequence these big initiatives in a way where they don't all just crash at the same time."


 


Given the Republican opposition to broad immigration and health care reform, a weakened Obama is not in the interest of most Hispanics or progressives.


 


We do not agree that immigration reform must wait for some unspecified time in the future after debate on other issues has been completed, or that we need to wait and give Congress time to lay low before an election because they are scared to tell voters they are working to solve tough problems.


 


Having said that, however, immigration reform advocates must be prepared to face more delays.  Why?  Because no matter how pressing a problem is, and regardless of whether it is an Administration priority, a solution to the immigration problem and every other major challenge facing the nation must be forged in a Congress that has become so dysfunctional with partisan bickering that it is a miracle when something does get done.


 


Expectations for immigration reform are sky-high in immigrant, union, faith, business, and other communities.  There has been a lot of momentum for reform.  New communities are being organized.  New voices are speaking out.  Still, opponents of immigration reform will look for every opportunity to slow our momentum. 


 


In the Senate, particularly, the rules favor those who want to slow down or block something.  Today, almost everything that is moving through the Senate—whether it is health care, climate change, or the naming of some post office—faces a filibuster by a minority that is intent on seeing that the President’s and the Congressional leadership’s agenda fails.  In the last Congress, Republicans forced a record 112 cloture votes to end potential filibuster.  So far this year alone, there have been 22.  Cloture involves a procedure that, in sum, eats up time.  Cloture—a vote to stop a filibuster—requires 60 votes.  (That’s why we say that for immigration reform, we need 60 votes in the Senate.)  A cloture vote has to be won before there is a vote on the actual bill.  All these filibusters slow down the workings of the Senate.


 


Delay is part of the political game.  By slowing down our momentum, opponents of immigration reform are counting on advocates to become discouraged—or even to turn on the Administration in frustration.  With our momentum slowed, anti-immigrant groups and their allies in radio and cable media will have more time to mobilize their supporters to shout against reform. 


 


Any slowdown in progress toward reform will be magnified by the media, because there is drama in the sky-high expectations of the President’s Latino and New American supporters bumping into the reality of a political system that resists change.


 


Just look at the stories that came out of the press conference the President had recently in Mexico with North American leaders.  Responding to a question about the timeline for immigration reform, the President said he anticipated that there will be draft legislation by the end of the year, and that “we should be in a position to start acting” next year.


 


There were two types of stories written about his answer.  There were stories about the President dealing with the political realities of the Congressional timeline, and there were stories that implied the President is putting immigration on the back burner.  Reading the transcript of the President’s remarks, however, makes the first interpretation look like the more reasonable one.


 


There will be more setbacks, but to be discouraged only reinforces the strategy of those opposed to reform.  So, how should we respond to delay?


 


Actually, Schumacher-Matos put it well in the conclusion of his column, saying that our


 


…highest priority should be to keep building coalitions, especially between labor and business, and construct grass-roots support for comprehensive legislation that, when it is addressed, comes packaged for approval and will work.


 


We can be disappointed, but we can’t be discouraged.  We have to keep our eye on the prize.  It’s going to be a long tough slog.  But we will win.


 



Photo by ckaiserca

 


 



America’s Newcomers Lose a Champion

August 27, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

Senator Kennedy



In 1965, Congress had a lot on its plate.  A hotly-debated major overhaul of our health care system resulted in the Social Security Act of 1965, creating two government-run health insurance programs for the elderly and the poor (Medicare and Medicaid).  The Voting Rights Act was passed to keep jurisdictions (mainly in the South) from preventing their citizens from voting. 


 


Our immigration system was broken, and fixing it was a priority for the Johnson Administration.  Democrats were in the majority, but the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, James Eastland, was opposed to the immigration reforms being proposed.  He turned over the task of championing this Administration priority to the junior Senator from Massachusetts, Edward Kennedy.


 


The Immigration Act of 1965 re-configured the immigration system to place greater emphasis on family unity, getting rid of national origins quotas that were based on the composition of the U.S. population recorded in 1920.  Instead of preferences for certain nationalities, hemispheric ceilings were established (later set globally), and per-country ceilings were meant to keep any one nationality from monopolizing available visas.  It is the basis of our immigration system today, and it was the beginning of Senator Kennedy’s long association with U.S. immigration policy.


 


The Senator’s name was on the first effort to regularize our refugee admissions in the Refugee Act of 1980.  In 1990, he again was behind the last overhaul of our immigration system, the 1990 Immigration Act that, among other things, raised the overall level of family- and employment-based immigration, increased temporary business-related immigration levels, and created Temporary Protected Status.


 


In between and since, the Senator has been in the middle of countless battles over immigration policy—making smaller positive changes when it was possible to do so, and defending immigrants against the attacks of those who are always trying to close the door on America’s newcomers, or scapegoat and exclude them on any number of issues.


 


The Senator got things done—on immigration and many other issues—by reaching across party lines to build coalitions.  While he is vilified by the right as the symbol of liberalism, the reality is that he was a master of the art of political pragmatism.


 


That pragmatism was put to the test most recently in his drive to shepherd comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate.  It was Senator Kennedy, and his extraordinarily dedicated staff, who navigated the political landmines and pieced together legislation that did not give him everything he would have liked, but had at its core the legalization of 12 million people who now live in our country fearing that, after years of making a better life for themselves and their families, it all could end early some morning with a knock on the door. 


 


The Senator kept at it, and urged us all to keep at it, because he could not predict—none of us could—how many more months—or years—the undocumented would be condemned to the shadows.


 


They are still in the shadows, and our immigration system is still broken.  Congress must get back to work.  Senator Kennedy’s colleagues would do well to honor him by passing legislation to fix our broken immigration system. 


 


Photo by Maurice Belanger

New ICFJ Guide for Journalists Covering Immigration

August 25, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas





The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), a non-profit organization promoting independent, quality journalism worldwide   recently published a guide that can serve as a useful resource for journalists seeking to cover immigration in a fair and meaningful way.


 


The guide is titled "Covering Immigration". Here’s a short introduction on their guide as featured on their website:


 


 


Tackling this sensitive issue is not easy. It often requires an understanding of public policy and immigration law, an appreciation of U.S. history and our social dynamics, and an ability to convey in a compelling, even-handed way the everyday stories of immigrants. It is important not to stereotype, sensationalize or oversimplify the issues and the lives of the people you interview. 


 


The guide focuses on avoiding and breaking stereotypes, cultivating sources, and ethics in immigration coverage. It also offers an analysis of the roots of immigration and a list of sources and resources for journalists on all sides of the issue.




Journalists interested in downloading this resource can do so at: http://www.icfj.org/OurWork/LatinAmericaCaribbean/ScrippsImmigrationProgram/WhyImmigrationMatters/tabid/1379/Default.aspx


 



 

Immigration Reform Moves a Notch

August 25, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

On August 20, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and staff from the White House, DHS, and the Justice Department met with stakeholders from immigration advocacy organizations, faith groups, businesses, labor organizations and law enforcement agencies to discuss immigration reform. 


 


Napolitano has been tasked by the President with leading the team from the administration working with Congress on immigration reform.  This was a chance for her and her team to listen to key reform proponents. 


 


After opening remarks from the Secretary, attendees broke into smaller groups and were asked to give their thoughts on specific topics.  As Secretary Napolitano went around the room to sit in on the group discussions, she heard from reform advocates that they are growing impatient with the continued emphasis on enforcement of our broken laws and that we have not been hearing her speak out on the need for reform.  According to those in the meeting, she acknowledged she needs to do a better job speaking out about the need to reform the immigration laws.


 


Before the meeting broke up, President Obama walked in and reiterated his support for immigration reform.


 


Prior to the meeting, the Immigration Reform FOR America Campaign had asked its supporters to submit questions for Secretary Napolitano.  In less than 24 hours, more than 4,000 questions were submitted.  A few were chosen to be asked at the meeting; the rest have been delivered to the Secretary’s office.


 


While nothing particularly new came out of the meeting, the Secretary—and the President—heard the concerns of advocates.  We expect that, going forward, she (and the President) will show more leadership in selling immigration reform with Congress and the American public.  In Congress, we expect to see a detailed proposal for reform by sometime early in the fall.  In the meantime, we expect that the DHS review of 287(g) programs that is currently underway will be taken seriously, and that agencies that are abusing their power under this or any other program will be held accountable. 


 


For a list of those who attended the meeting see this DHS press release.


 


You can read the Forum’s reaction to the meeting here.


 


The Forum conducted a telephonic press briefing on behalf of the Campaign to Reform Immigration FOR America following the meeting with Secretary Napolitano.  Featured speakers were Monte Lake, Representing the American Nursery and Landscape Association; EunSook Lee, National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC); Arturo Rodriguez, United Farm Workers (UFW); and Frank Sharry, America’s Voice.  The Forum’s Executive Director Ali Noorani moderated.  You can listen to a recording of that press conference, and obtain recordings of our other press conferences, on this page of our Web site.

Editorial Roundup: Immigration Reform: Turning Words into Concrete Actions

August 24, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas



Last Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met with 130 advocates and leaders from faith, business, law enforcement, labor and pro-immigrant advocacy groups to discuss moving forward on immigration reform. Advocates have been pressuring the Administration to be more assertive in its support of reform as communities are impacted by the stepped-up enforcement of a dysfunctional immigration system. Many editorial boards welcomed this initial dialogue between the Administration and advocates who are at the frontlines of the national immigration debate, but are reserving judgment to see whether concrete actions follow the words. Here are some examples:


 


LOS ANGELES TIMES: White House moves to placate immigration reform advocates


Immigrant rights activists said Friday that a White House meeting this week to reaffirm support for immigration reform -- featuring a surprise appearance by President Obama -- had helped mollify growing frustration over what some perceived as backpedaling on reform promises.


 


But many said that action will be needed to keep the faith among immigrants and their supporters, particularly Latinos who turned out in record numbers to help elect Obama last year.


 


"We've heard all of the beautiful oratory about immigration reform, but we have yet to see concrete actions to stop the suffering," said Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.


—August 22, 2009


 


ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Quit squabbling, achieve reform


But there is widespread agreement that the status quo [of our immigration system] serves no one. There is also agreement that the current undocumented population needs a chance to gain legal status.


 


Napolitano has been criticized for her hard line, but she is demonstrating that this administration is serious about law and order. That's essential to reform.(…) For decades, much of this nation's immigration has been illegal, and that has to stop. But illegal immigration does not occur because of some pernicious deficit in the character of the migrants. The patterns of illegal immigration and the deaths along our southern border are a result of U.S. immigration policies.


 


Congress and the president control the solution.


 


    August 24, 2009


 


LA OPINION: Damage control


In short, there was much talk and even a surprise visit by Obama —proof that the immigration issue is on the president’s agenda— all of which was sufficient to defuse, at least publicly, many of the concerns.


 


Meanwhile, things on the street remain the same. Excessive force by local police under the 287 (g) program and a lack of adequate federal oversight continue. So too, do the arrests of hard-working people with the excuse of searching for dangerous criminals, the ongoing use of E-Verify, which confuses people's identities, and the situation of millions living in the shadow of deportation.


 


As we commented a few days ago about Immigration Customs [and] Enforcement, these feel like empty words especially when they fail to redress but only reinforce the most punitive aspects of the immigration issue.


August 24, 2009


 


PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: A path to citizenship


 Immigration reform is something worth fighting for. It's been supported by Republicans and Democrats. It has links to other important issues, including education, employment, and, yes, health care.


 


Because midterm elections occur next year, Congress may want to delay immigration reform even further. Obama should not let that happen. National security depends not only on making it harder to breach our borders; it also requires a rational program that allows entry to those we want to enter and sets up a better process to help those we want to stay.


August 23, 2009


 


 


DENVER DAILY NEWS: Obama makes gains with immigrant rights groups


The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition called Obama’s appearance a “welcome surprise.” The group agreed that the Obama administration is committed to comprehensive immigration reform.


 


But the group is holding their applause until they see actual action.


 


“While the president continues with his commitment to immigration reform, we’re looking for public advocacy from Secretary Napolitano and a concrete proposal from Congress,” said Julien Ross, director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition. “In the meantime, we’re asking for more accountability on enforcement measures, especially in detention centers and 287(g) programs.”


….


“The President is clear that he wants immigration reform to move forward this year so that we can pass a bill early next year,” said Noorani [Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum]. “To do that, we need to see more motion from Congress and more push from Secretary Napolitano.”


August 24, 2009


 


NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano going nowhere on immigration reform


“What we are looking for going forward is public advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform from Secretary Napolitano, a concrete proposal presented in Congress early this fall, and continued promotion of this urgent issue by the President," [America’s Voice Frank] Sharry said.


 


Fine, but let's not be deceived: As long as the repression and abuse of immigrants go on unabated, promises and reassurances are just words.


August 23, 2009


 


President Obama and Secretary Napolitano have voiced their commitment on immigration reform, but they still need to communicate the urgency of fixing our broken immigration system to the broad American public


 


In preparation for the meeting, the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign asked supporters to submit questions on immigration reform to Secretary Napolitano. 4,018 questions were submitted from people all around the country in less than 24 hours, many concerning the timing of immigration reform and the urgency for its enactment, while others questioned Secretary Napolitano’s emphasis on border security without concrete movement towards reform.


 


You can read the rest of the questions here: http://www.reformimmigrationforamerica.org/blog/today-secretary-napolitano-answers-your-questions/


 


We are counting on the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Napolitano to build support in Congress so that immigration reform becomes a legislative reality soon. The pain felt by immigrant communities across the country because of the failures of our immigration system is real and promises of reform without concrete action will not deliver a real solution to our immigration mess.

New Report: More Deaths in Detention, More Urgent Need for Reform

August 19, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas

detention


In a post last month, we wrote about the indignation of immigrant advocates towards DHS’s management of the immigration detention system and stepped up enforcement (in the absence of real immigration reform). Today, we hear again about deteriorating detention conditions with new reports of immigrant detainees falling through the cracks of the system. The New York Times reports,


 


More than one in 10 deaths in immigration detention in the last six years have been overlooked and were omitted from an official list of detainee fatalities issued to Congress in March, the Obama administration said Monday.


 


The omission was discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request field by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which discovered that one of the detainee deaths had gone unreported by ICE. The findings were particularly disturbing for advocates who have raised concerns about the inadequate or sometimes non-existent monitoring and accountability of the immigration detention system.


 


"Today's announcement confirms our very worst fears," said David Shapiro, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the original request for a comprehensive list of the deaths. He criticized the government for running a system "devoid of transparency and accountability," adding that Monday's announcement raised questions about whether other deaths occurred.


 


"I think this is a case study on why they need to revamp their detention system," said Donald M. Kerwin Jr., vice president for programs at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, an independent think tank. "We don't really know whether their database actually even tracks this information."


Officials Say Detainee Fatalities Were Missed, August 17, 2009


 


It is clear that an overhaul of detention policy is needed to ensure the elimination of the egregious abuses that we’ve seen. Immigration laws also must be reformed so we can greatly reduce the cost in dollars and human lives we are wasting on detention.


 


We hope that Secretary Napolitano touches upon this important issue during her upcoming immigration meeting with advocates from labor, business, faith and the immigrant advocacy communities. We also hope that she will showcase her much-needed leadership — as the Administration’s point-person on immigration — to build public and legislative support to carry comprehensive immigration reform across the finish line.




Photo by Olmovich

City of Baltimore Passes Unanimous Resolution to Support Immigration Reform

August 15, 2009 - Posted by Shuya Ohno

Workerss





On Monday, the same day that the President announced that America would have to wait until the fall to see draft legislation on immigration reform, and until spring to see a vote on the bill in Congress, the City of Baltimore, just a few miles from the nation’s capital, did not wait to pass its own resolution, and acted unanimously to take a public stance to press Congress and the President to act on immigration reform.


 


In this Resolution, the City of Baltimore, with its diverse constituency with a large African-American population, its rich history of immigration, and its proud hard-working blue collar tradition, recognized two very important aspects of Baltimore’s need for immigration reform.


 


“The positive effects of immigration can best be encouraged by an adaptable immigration policy that meets the demand for jobs available. Such an immigration system must be efficient, effective, and customer friendly.”


 


“…Immigration reform must include a mechanism that will recognize the status of undocumented workers and allow them to earn their legal status so that their positive effects on the economy can be maximized.”


 


What the Resolution underscores is the recognition by local elected officials that immigration reform is in the collective and individual best interest of their communities and constituents.


 


“As a city with a rich immigrant history, we recognize that our city and country will be stronger if we can assist new immigrants in fully assimilating into our community. There’s no doubt that the country has a broken immigration system, and that local municipalities are paying a big price as a result of Washington’s inaction,” said Baltimore City Councilmember Rochelle “Rikki” Spector.  “I am thrilled that Baltimore is taking the leadership in Maryland to support comprehensive immigration reform,” said Spector.


 


According to Casa de Maryland, a statewide organization with an office in Baltimore, plans to raise Immigration Reform as a priority issue at next week’s Maryland Association of Counties conference, to urge other local governments across Maryland to join Baltimore in issuing similar statements.


 


We urge all local governments across the country to join Baltimore in taking similar stands.


 


 

Photo by Fortinbras



 


Throwing Good Money After Bad: DHS Continues to Misspend Taxpayer Dollars

August 14, 2009 - Posted by Grisella Martinez

 Money


 


It has been at least 200 years since Benjamin Franklin spoke the maxim “waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both,” but is clear that in the case of at least one government agency, this lesson has yet to be learned.


 


As Congressional Quarterly reported today, a forum at the Brookings Institution on stimulus spending highlighted the fact that the bulk of stimulus money authorized earlier this year by Congress has yet to be spent and that DHS is one of the leading culprits.


 


Several notable reasons were cited for DHS’s failure to spend its allocated $2.8 billion stimulus dollars, including a general slowness to spend stimulus funds as well as a lack of staff and personnel. This conclusion came on the heels of a recent report by the DHS Inspector General that stated that DHS lacks the ability to accurately track financial spending. Yet despite these findings, DHS is annually given more money than any other federal agency, with FY2010 spending alone anticipated to be at least $42 billion dollars.


 


For immigration advocates, this revelation is hardly surprising. DHS, since its inception, has had a notorious history of failure to timely complete many of its mandates, such as immigrant visa application-processing through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, proper review and evaluation of detention facilities by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The failure by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to adequately address civil rights violations at ports of entry is another sad example. All this- in spite of the billions of dollars at its disposal.


 


Nowhere is this more obvious than in the bureaucratic delays at USCIS, who is tasked with processing family and employment-based visa applications, naturalization applications, and asylee and refugee petitions. It has been estimated that approximately 20,000-40,000 allocated visas go unused every year due to slow processing and excessive backlogs.


 


Our immigration system is broken, as everyone agrees, but it’s not only  our agencies that need reform, but it is also our laws. Comprehensive immigration reform means creating a workable system that encourages people to come here legally, and that helps agencies like USCIS meet their mandates of overseeing lawful immigration to the U.S. We can’t continue to keep wasting time and money on a broken system; we’ve got to reform it now so that we can make the best use of both.


 


 


 

Photo by Steve Wampler



 


The President Has No Magic Wand

August 12, 2009 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

President in Mexico


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza



 


As we noted in yesterday’s post, President Obama was in Mexico, meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  In a press conference with the three leaders, the President was asked about immigration reform. He replied that he now expects an immigration reform bill to be introduced by the end of the year, and for action in Congress to occur next year.


 


The press has been all over the President’s remarks about the immigration reform timeline.  (See, for example, today’s Washington Post lead story.)  It is being presented as a step back in the President’s commitment to support immigration reform.  The press loves drama, and the drama here is the high expectations of immigrants and their family members versus the reality of Washington politics.


 


Let’s not throw up our hands.


 


First, the President is aware of what the American people want regarding immigration reform (as gauged by these many public opinion surveys).


 


But ultimately, I think the American people want fairness. And we can create a system in which you have strong border security, we have an orderly process for people to come in, but we're also giving an opportunity for those who are already in the United States to be able to achieve a pathway to citizenship so that they don't have to live in the shadows, and their children and their grandchildren can have a full participation in the United States. So I'm confident we can get it done.


 


At the same time, he is realistic about the challenges ahead.


 


This is going to be difficult; it's going to require bipartisan cooperation. There are going to be demagogues out there who try to suggest that any form of pathway for legalization for those who are already in the United States is unacceptable. And those are fights that I'd have to have….


 


Speaking to a group of Spanish-language reporters later, he reiterated the point that the timing and the direction of the immigration reform debate, is not something he controls.


 


It's important that people understand that the president can not just snap his fingers to make something happen. I can not do everything alone. It will be very important for the community to organize and mobilize.


 


True.  The direction of the immigration debate went the way it did in the last couple of rounds because those opposed to immigration reform were very organized and focused on pressuring Congress to oppose reform. 


 


Now, we have a Democratic President and Democratic Congress.  But we still have to be the squeakier wheel in this round of the immigration debate.  It should be abundantly clear by now, from watching how the President’s priority issues have been handled in this Congress, that the President has only so much leverage—even with his own party. 


 


Immigration reform is not something that the President is going to get done.  It is something we are going to get done—through very persistent effort by thousands of actors in a unified pro-reform movement, all demanding of their representatives in Congress to fix the broken immigration system.  We need to be very focused and pressure Congress at every opportunity, until they are more afraid of us than they have been of the demagogues on the other side.       


 


The energy is going to have to be sustained.  There will be plenty of little setbacks, and it is much easier to just throw up our hands and say that our leaders just don’t listen.  That is a dangerous response—perhaps not for the hand thrower, but for the millions of people who are here working and living with the daily threat of being separated from their families.


 


Here’s how you can get started: 


 


The Campaign to Reform Immigration FOR America is asking people to visit their Senators and Representative during the month of August while they are in their home districts.  If you can organize a visit, or an event to draw attention to the need for immigration reform, you can register with the Campaign here.


 


Also, sign up for Campaign updates here, and get ready for a busy fall!

Slowly But Surely: Immigration Reform is Still on Track

August 11, 2009 - Posted by Shuya Ohno

Obama/Calderon



Photo by El Enigma




Today – In a speech in Guadalajara, Mexico, President Obama said he expects to have a draft immigration bill in Congress by year’s end and laid out a timeline that we can expect from the administration and Congress.


 


…in the fall when we come back, we're going to complete health care reform. We still have to act on energy legislation that has passed the House, but the Senate, I'm sure, is going to have its own ideas about how it wants to approach it. We still have financial regulatory reform that has to get done because we don't want a situation in which irresponsible actions in the global financial markets can precipitate another crisis.


 


Regarding immigration reform, the President noted that the ball is in motion, it is just moving more slowly than we would like.


 


Fortunately, what we've been able to do is to begin meeting with both Democrats and Republicans from the House and the Senate. Secretary Napolitano is coordinating these discussions, and I would anticipate that before the year is out we will have draft legislation along with sponsors potentially in the House and the Senate who are ready to move this forward, and when we come back next year, that we should be in a position to start acting.


 


The President acknowledged the challenges ahead , “Am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done? No. . . . There are going to be demagogues out there who try to suggest that any form of pathway for legalization for those who are already in the United States is unacceptable.”


 


In this, he pointed out similarities in health and immigration reform, calling both a national imperative, required to fix an unsustainable system. “We have a broken immigration system. Nobody denies it.”


 


Obama placed these political challenges into the context of the inevitability of immigration reform: “Those are fights that I'd have to have if my poll numbers are at 70 or if my poll numbers are at 40. That's just the nature of the U.S. immigration debate. But ultimately I think the American people want fairness.”


 


Meanwhile, in Congress, Senator Charles Schumer, D-NY, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration said last week that he would unveil a set of working principles for a bill around Labor Day, and added, “We’re right on schedule.”


 


What does this mean for all of us who are working everyday to push for reform? It means we have only the next few months to build a movement strong enough to win the kinds of reform our working families, neighborhoods, communities, and society need and want.


 


The urgency is building. With the statements today from the President and from Senator Schumer last week, we are getting a more clear picture of the timeline for immigration reform. We can expect a framework in a month’s time, and we can expect legislation to move through Congress early next year. That likely means a lot of activity in the fall session, once Congress returns, and a vote by spring.


 


The fierce urgency of now is upon us, like a gauntlet being thrown. The time is now to engage, to enlist as many people as one can to help make immigration reform a reality.  The timing and direction of the immigration reform debate will be in part up to us.  We know how focused the other side can be when it comes to letting Congress know what they want.  We will have to keep up the pressure and focus it where it belongs: on Congress, which must act to change the law. 


 


Get started!  Arrange to visit your Representative and Senators during the August break.  Register your visit on the Web site of the Campaign to Reform Immigration For America:


http://www.reformimmigrationforamerica.org/

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