Today, President Obama heard our cries for immigration reform, and he has responded to our calls for action! An article appeared in the New York Times breaking the story of Obama’s intention of moving on comprehensive immigration reform this year. All I have to say is – it’s about time!
According to the article Obama “plans to begin addressing the country’s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.” The President will speak publicly about his intentions in May and will begin rounding up a team of experts and advocates this summer, in order to begin crafting the legislation.
This news is an affirmation that Obama will make good on his campaign promises of immigration reform.
He said then that comprehensive immigration legislation, including a plan to make legal status possible for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, would be a priority in his first year in office.
This is a politically savvy move – Latino and New American voters turned out in record numbers for Obama this past November. But the bottomline may not be political, it may be that this is the right move for the economy. Immigration reform is a crucial part of any plan to get our economy back on track. Not only will bringing workers out of the shadows increase wages across the board, it will increase our tax base, reward responsible employers and ensure fairness in the labor market. If we want a level playing field where both American and immigrant workers are treated fairly and if we want to make sure everyone pays their share of taxes, we need comprehensive immigration reform.
The article goes on, unfortunately, to cite too of the most infamous anti-immigrant groups in the country, FAIR and Numbers USA. Both groups are quoted giving reasons for why moving on immigration reform would be “politically disastrous” for Obama. But, they seem to have underestimated both the President and the groundswell of support for reform that we have been witnessing across the country.
Just last month, Mr. Obama openly recognized that immigration is a potential minefield.
“I know this is an emotional issue; I know it’s a controversial issue,” he told an audience at a town meeting on March 18 in Costa Mesa, Calif. “I know that the people get real riled up politically about this.”
But, he said, immigrants who are long-time residents but lack legal status “have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows.”
Immigrants need a way out of the shadows in order to help fix our economy. Fair and NumbersUSA clearly have no understanding about economic policy and no sense of what it will take to mend our communities and bring prosperity back to our families. They are driven by their ant-immigrant agenda, no matter the cost.
Across the country, advocates are gearing up for May 1st, a day typically used to celebrate immigrant rights and remembered for the massive immigrants marches in 2006. Advocates, immigrants, faith leaders, community leaders and elected officials are all ready to stand with the President and make sure that immigration reform is passed in 2009.
Anticipating opposition, Mr. Obama has sought to shift some of the political burden to advocates for immigrants, by encouraging them to build support among voters for when his proposal goes to Congress.
Marissa Graciosa of FIRM made this statement earlier today:
We endorse President Obama’s call for immigration reform and admire his courage to fight for something we all know must get done. This is the kind of bold and visionary action we expect from our political leaders. Climbing our way out of this economic crisis means forward thinking policies that include fixing a broken immigration system that has created a servant class in our midst. America’s economy cannot recover if we allow 12 million immigrants to continue to live and work in the margins of our society.
Obstructionists will throw everything at this Administration’s attempts to create a society which recognizes the inherent value and worth in us all. For too long we have shrunk in the face of key decisions that must be made to get our country back on track. We will not allow this to happen.
We’ve seen first hand the pain of immigrant families ripped apart by unjust raids. Our communities and our nation have suffered long enough.
You know what that means? That means that our time is NOW. We must not only continue to fight for reform, but we have to bring our efforts to the next level.
Mr. President, you can count on us to make just and humane immigration reform happen this year. Game on!