250 organizations in 40 states call in to Congress for CIR!

New federal bill reignites immigration issueBy CHRISTINA E. SANCHEZ christina.sanchez@heraldtribune.com http://www.heraldtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070329/NEWS/703290344

MANATEE COUNTY -- Disc jockey Ramiro Lerma's phone lines lit up Wednesday when he told listeners about a nationwide phone drive to support newly proposed immigration legislation.

Listeners wanted to know more about the latest federal immigration bill, the STRIVE Act of 2007, and whom to call to give their opinion.

Immigrant rights supporters launched "National Call-in Days" on Wednesday. They planned to continue their effort today to flood federal legislators' offices with calls of support for the bill.

A national hot line was set up to link people to representatives and senators. For Florida, U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Mel Martinez, R-Fla., are listed contacts.

"We want fair immigration reform already," Lerma said in Spanish on his show "Mi Gente" (My People), which airs on 1420 AM La Nueva Radio Lider. Lerma also owns the Palmetto radio station.

The bill -- the latest in a series of proposals to go before Congress in a year -- seeks to find middle ground by enacting laws that address border security and the situation of an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country. The measure is currently being considered in the House.

Filed last week, the STRIVE Act (Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy) focuses on securing the nation's borders before creating guest worker programs or legalizing immigrants. U.S. Reps. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., are cosponsoring it.

More than 250 grassroots organizations in at least 40 states planned to participate in the phone drive, said Juan Pablo Chavez, member of the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

"We want comprehensive immigration reform," Chavez said. "We don't want Congress to postpone this any longer."

This time last year, thousands of immigrants -- both legal and illegal -- rose out of the shadows and descended on streets across the country to rally for changes to immigration law.

The focus this year will be less on rallies and more on contacting legislators and holding citizenship classes and voter registration drives.

Nelson's offices received calls about the immigrant issue from several dozen constituents, said Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for Nelson.

"Immigration continues to be a hot topic, but today there was a spike in the number of calls from people who support the legislation," McLaughlin said.

Nelson voted last year for Martinez's proposed immigration bill, which emphasized border security and provided immigrants with a long-term path toward legal status.

Because several immigration proposals have come and gone, Lerma, the radio DJ, said he is cautiously optimistic that the STRIVE Act will pass.

"I so want to believe that this time it is going to pass," said Lerma.

"But on the other side, every time we all get fired up and then, nothing."