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Slowly But Surely: Immigration Reform is Still on Track

August 11, 2009 - Posted by Shuya Ohno


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:

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