by Moses Apsan, Esq.
Washington D.C. March 20 - It seems that the entire nation is preparing for Sunday's immigration reform march and rally at the Washington Mall. Buses from the four corners of the country, are already leaving by the hundreds. People of every race religion and creed have one thought in mind: "comprehensive immigration reform."
Yesterday, after a Machiavellian move on the part of Illinois representative Luis Gutierrez, President Obama promised to help push bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation forward and faster than you can say "Si Se Puede" Sens. Lindsey Graham and Charles Schumer released their blueprint for immigration reform. Followed closely by Senator Leahy , promising support and Senator Reid who pledged to make room this year for the legislation on the floor.
It was just this past Thursday when Obama met at the White House with Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Solomon Ortiz, the sponsors of a House immigration bill. Gutierrez made a statement later that he agreed to vote for Obama's signature domestic bill, health care reform, only if a comprehensive immigration reform bill advanced quickly and with a presidential imprimatur. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus joined the endorsement of the health care bill.
Reid Cherlin, White House spokesman, announced that there was no quid pro quo involved in the White House's discussions with Gutierrez. "Congressman Gutierrez is a longtime leader of the reform effort on the Hill, so of course they've had many conversations about it, and they'll continue to," Cherlin said.
Obama's proclamation and the senators' blueprint were strategically aligned to reach the media before Sunday's rally. A rally that is expecting to attract tens of thousands of people to Washington to convince the administration and Congress that time is ripe for comprehensive immigration reform.
Immigrants and citizens alike have become disillusioned by Obama's inaction after his campaign promise to make immigration reform of primary importance in his first year of office. So far he has done little in the way of immigration reform and instead, because of federal inaction, local vigilantes, like Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio who recently announced plans to launch his 14th raid in the last two years, have attacked undocumented immigrants as if all 11 million were deranged terrorists.
Hoping to steer clear of an impending catastrophe, Obama conceded to Gutierrez's threats to vote no on health reform and instead of hearing unflattering epithets this Sunday, he will hear once again "Si se puede."
The outline of the immigration bill Schumer and Graham presented to the president calls for illegal immigrants to admit they broke the law, pass background check, pay a fine and back taxes, learn English and perform community service if they want to get on a pathway to legal status.
The Schumer/Graham immigration bill is not yet fully developed and needs a lot of tweaking before it becomes a final bill on the president’s desk. Still, (yesterday’s turn of events provides hope in deperate times to millions of families).
In the words of the sponsors of the bill: “Our plan has four pillars: requiring biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.”
Few of its provisions such as biometric Social Security cards and “zero tolerance” for those who enter illegally are going to be wildly contested. Other aspects, like the failure to include plans for reducing backlogs and helping to keep families together, has advocates anxiously waiting to see what the actual legislation will resemble.
What seems perfectly clear is an honest commitment for legalization from all involved. Both the President and Senators decidedly acknowledged that the immigration system is broken and that America needs to fix it. Any new system created must regulate future legal immigration in a way that is responsive to the economy, ensuring that the flow of workers match closely the demand of our business community.
Sunday is around the corner. Let's see what develops.