From our guest blogger, Robert Gittelson.
Over the years, I have been a huge supporter of Representative Luis Gutierrez’s efforts to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Therefore, I was neither surprised nor disappointed by the extremely worthy legislation, The Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity, (CIR ASAP), that he and his fellow House members delivered on 12/15/09. In my opinion, the bill lays out the groundwork for a very intelligent, cogent, and realistic pathway that will enable our nation to achieve a fair and just immigration policy.
However, as someone who is deeply involved in the intricacies of this issue on a daily basis, I have to look at this legislation from within the context of the honest and realistic environment that this CIR bill will need to navigate, as it works its way through the Congress and to President Obama’s desk. Last week, I spoke at a press conference in Los Angeles. During my speech, I attempted to highlight the following points, as I explained my reasoning as to why I now felt that the time had indeed arrived for supporters of CIR to publicly demonstrate their support for CIR.
I explained that while the CIR ASAP bill was an important step in the pathway toward achieving CIR, the fact of the matter was that House Speaker Polosi has already stated publicly that she has no intention of allowing this bill anywhere near the floor of the House, unless and until CIR has already passed in the Senate. On a positive note, there are indications that the Senate will start work on this as early as mid-January, or February at the latest. However, we all have to bear in mind that we have a rather small window of opportunity to get this legislation passed, or the politics of the mid-term elections will negate any possibility of legislative action for realistically another two years or more.
New York Senator Charles Schumer has indicated that significant progress has been made in seeking to achieve comprehensive immigration reform early next year. Schumer gave a lengthy interview to El Diario this week in which he made some very telling points about his strategy, as immigration reform becomes an issue on the agenda for the early months of 2010. Clearly he is trying to achieve a fait accompli before the bill ever gets to the House or Senate floor. He is working closely with Senator Lindsey Graham to try and achieve that. (The following quotes are a Google translation form the original Spanish version that appeared in El Diario).
“The only way I can make this happen, is that when we announce the law, we are all together, immigrants, employers, trade unions, religious groups, evangelical, Democrats and Republicans, “Schumer said stating that negotiations between these groups have made considerable progress.”
I went on to discuss my opinion that now it is incumbent upon all supporters of a fair and just CIR to hold our government’s feet to the fire, and to flex our newly organized political and public muscle. We collectively need to take to the streets in substantial numbers, so that the politicians realize that this is an issue that cannot be shoved into a drawer for a later date. The time and opportunity to pass a bill is now, and we cannot rest until that dream becomes a reality. One of my fellow Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition members put it this way:
“Now that Congressman Gutierrez has presented his immigration reform bill, and that Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have indicated they will be doing the same soon, perhaps we can get on with the urgent business of fixing our broken immigration system”, stated LIUNA/Change to Win’s labor organizer Magdalena Gomez. “Undocumented immigrants need to be brought out of the underground economy and into the light of mainstream America. Affording immigrants the opportunity to legalize their immigration status will represent a net gain to the U.S. economy. Thus, immigrants could become part and parcel of the ongoing financial recovery package our country so urgently needs”, concluded Ms. Gomez.
In support of the just introduced Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation in the United States House of Representatives, and in anticipation of the soon to be introduced CIR legislation in the United States Senate, we are inviting the greater San Fernando Valley / Los Angeles community to join together in the following advocacy events on Saturday 1/23/10:
First, an uplifting and motivational outdoor rally at the Van Nuys Civic Center at 11:00 am, as we unite in our joy and optimism that CIR will finally be enacted early in 2010.
Next, we will march to express our commitment and our solidarity in advocating for the swift passage of CIR. Together we will march from the Van Nuys Civic Center to the Church on the Way at 14800 Sherman Way Blvd., Van Nuys, California., (a close and very large suburb of Los Angeles).
Finally, we will have an important and serious panel discussion of national experts at the church, moderated by Pastor Jim Tolle of the Church on the Way, followed by a comprehensive question and answer session, where members of the community can ask experts in the field of immigration reform any questions that they have about the proposed CIR legislation, or to express their concerns about what CIR will mean to the community, the state, and the country. Our coalition feels that the San Fernando Valley has been somewhat underserved on this issue. However, we have faith that these important events planned for Saturday 1/23/10 will unite the community behind a national effort to pass this legislation, for the greater good of our society.
In my speech, I discussed that while intellectually I understood and believed that CIR is and should be legally recognized as a national and federal issue, emotionally I had to acknowledge that fundamentally and personally, CIR was a community issue. The greater San Fernando Valley is home to over 1,000,000 immigrants. I explained that it was truly a tragedy that as many as several hundred thousand of our friends, neighbors, and co-workers in our community were undocumented, and were therefore relegated to the shadows of our society. The rights and privileges that the rest of us often take for granted will not be available to our undocumented residents, unless and until a fair, just, and comprehensive CIR bill is signed by our President.
One of the local San Fernando Valley newspapers mentioned,
“…various organizations have announced a discussion to take place Saturday January 23 in the San Fernando Valley to promote support for comprehensive and just immigration reform.”
The numerous organizations supporting the January 23rd events include:
The Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, The Church On The Way, CHIRLA, Vamos Unidos USA, Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, Laborers International Union of North America(LUNA AFL-CIO) Latino Movement USA, the ANSWER Coalition,Alianza Bi-nacional BraceroProa, Alianza Hondureña de Los Angeles, la Federación de Clubes y Organizaciones de Zacatecas, Frente Amplio Zacatecano, Casa Nicaragua, Comité de Lucha del Poblado El Papalote, A.C., Federación de Clubes y Organizaciones de Chihuahua, National Alliance of Senior Citizens, Movimiento de Lucha Magisterial, A.C., A. J., The United Teachers of Los Angeles, UTLA Chicano-Latino Education Committee, UTLA East Area, Coalición de Emigrantes Guatemaltecos, and others.
One of my fellow advocates speaking at the press conference was the nationally known Pastor Jim Tolle. He called on area residents of all faiths to join him and our coalition in supporting CIR, and to participate in the events of 1/23/10. Pastor Tolle was recently honored to have been invited to participate in Senator Schumer’s Senate Immigration Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C.. As part of his written testimony, he wrote:
As a faith leader, I have responded to the instructions of Scripture. They have formed my worldview on this subject. My pursuit of comprehensive immigration reform comes from Leviticus 19:34, which states, “The stranger who dwells with you shall be unto you just as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” The Prophet Malachi further admonishes every believer to not “turn away the alien”, while Jesus, in Matthew 25:35, calls upon all who follow him to invite the stranger to come in. Jesus ultimately adds his confirmation to that of Isaiah’s . . . that he was to “proclaim liberty” to all.
Although every generation has had its own set of challenges, those who have joined the great American journey have always sought to fulfill the spirit of the above beliefs with immigrants of their generation. It is my hope that our generation will make the hard moral decisions. Comprehensive immigration reform is the right moral decision. Our country has assimilated millions upon millions of immigrants over the centuries. We are a nation of immigrants. Why should we stop now?”