A Sobering Wake-up Call: Are we ready for the fight?


Here is another installment by our guest blogger, Robert Gittelson. This time, Robert asks the tough question: Are we ready to fight for immigration reform?

In the ongoing push to achieve legislative passage of a full and well considered CIR bill this year, it seems prudent to pause every once and a while, to get our bearings. Now seems as good a time as any to take stock of what has been achieved, and what exactly are the areas that could use some additional and well targeted effort, if our goal is to be realized.

The “Full Right for Immigrants Coalition” held an important panel discussion on Saturday, July 11, at the Loyola University Law School in Los Angeles, that addressed this issue: “Towards Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Next Steps.” The public forum called on "organized labor, immigration attorneys, elected representatives, and pro-immigrant rights activists to be a part of a serious political conversation about where the movement goes from here, and how to get to the finish line on immigration reform that fixes the broken immigration system.”

There is an underlying consensus among many of the coalition members that to date, action has been long on empty campaign rhetoric, and short on substantive achievement. The event will be a space for airing “concerns” at the event, and offering their ideas about getting this campaign firmly on a track for success. I was asked to participate in one of the panel discussions. In a nutshell, here is what I intend to brought up at the public forum: leadership.

Now, ultimately, President Obama has to assume the ultimate mantel of “Leader” on the issue of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and slowly but surely, he seems to be cautiously sliding into that role. I can’t exactly say that he has taken the bull by the horns, but he has given indications that he will eventually get in the game. I guess that we have to take what we can get. For now, he has “delegated” leadership to others. Therein lay my greatest concerns.

The President has delegated the Executive Branch’s heavy lifting to his very capable Director of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and I think that is appropriate. She has a reputation of being a tireless worker, and for now, I am comfortable with her in this role.

On the other hand, since it appears that the game-plan in Congress calls for the Senate to assume the leadership position on moving this legislation forward, I admit to being somewhat less than entirely comfortable with the leadership in charge of this issue to date. Ultimately, leadership on this issue has to be assumed by Majority Leader Harry Reid, because the “buck” stops on his desk. In all candor, I was neither comfortable nor pleased with his performance on this issue in 2006 and 2007, as he lost both times. Has he learned from his previous mistakes? Time will tell, and he does face a serious challenge for reelection soon in a highly Hispanic state, so one would think that motivation is not the problem. It will come down to a question of competency. I would be more comfortable if there was some indication that progress is being made in the Senate on this issue.

However, as we saw last week, Harry Reid does not seem to have made significant progress on this issue. In analyzing the votes for e-verify and the border fence amendments this week, I only noticed one Senator voting differently now than they did two years ago – Senator Webb. Other than that one vote, it was déjà vu all over again.

And what of Senator Schumer? He is filling some difficult shoes, in assuming the leadership post on Immigration from Senator Kennedy. I praise him for having the courage to step up to the plate, and I wish him nothing but success, because he is in for the battle of his life. I want to be clear and up front. He is going up against Senator Jeff Sessions on this issue, and to date, Sessions is the undefeated Champion. There is almost nothing that I like about the politics of Senator Sessions on the issue of CIR, but I do have to offer my grudging respect. The man is competent, and a very worthy adversary.

Last week, let us call it as we saw it. Schumer went up against Sessions on the e-verify amendment, and Schumer got beat.

Sure, we can shrug it off, and assume that things will be different when the negotiations for a full CIR bill get moving – by Labor day, according to Senator Schumer. But why should they be different? At the end of the day, it is going to come down to horse-trading. However, ultimately, the pro-CIR side wants to trade earned legalization for enforcement. Schumer will give Sessions E-verify and the border fence, and Sessions will give Schumer earned legalization. That has always been the gist of it, and all the many other subsidiary issues are supposed to fall into place like dominoes.

Unfortunately, since last week, either through Session’s competency, or Schumer’s lack of preparation, Sessions now has both e-verify and the border fence in his pocket already. What motivation does he have to trade now? We already gave him the two things that he wants the most, and the game hasn’t even started yet!

Therefore, when it was my turn to speak on Saturday, and they asked me if I have any concerns, I brought this issue up.

Look, I do not mean to belittle Chuck Schumer. He is an extremely credentialed and well respected public servant, and a very good man, (and he also went to my mother’s high school – Madison in Brooklyn). I intend to support him 110% in his efforts on CIR, and I still believe that he will ultimately prevail on this issue. I just want to make sure that he has gotten the wake-up call this week. The Restrictionists have a very competent General in Jeff Sessions. We can leave no stone unturned, and we must dot every “i” and cross every “t”. We can not leave anything to chance. We have to have this game won in the locker room, before the kick-off. The other side is that good.