Immigration Advocates to Take the Streets Again

WASHINGTON —Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform will take to the streets again in early October – and this time, the Obama administration will be a target, as well as the U.S. House’s ruling Republicans.

At a Sept. 26 press conference, the group, including retiring Service Employees Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina, explained the protests of those two days will urge Obama to stop deportations of undocumented people, while pushing the GOP to consider comprehensive reform, not just a piece-by-piece group of bills without a path to eventual citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people in the U.S.

And SEIU backs the nationwide marches, in at least 60 cities on Oct. 5 and in D.C. on Oct. 8, with a Spanish-language radio ad campaign urging reform advocates to march on the “National Day of Dignity and Respect” for the undocumented.

The increase in the pressure comes as the House’s ruling Republicans split over whether to consider immigration at all.  The Senate, by a bipartisan vote, approved a comprehensive reform bill earlier this year, featuring a 13-year, torturous path to green cards and eventual citizenship.  It also automatically enacts workers’ rights for them.

Groups at the press conference, including SEIU, represented by Medina, and the AFL-CIO, represented by Jennifer Angarita, its immigration campaign director, said it’s time for the House to act – and for Obama to halt the deportations.

“The senseless practice of indiscriminate deportations and detentions by the Obama administration is a daily crisis for hundreds of thousands of immigrant families across the country,” the leaders said in a statement.  “And every day House Republi-cans delay a vote on reform with a path to citizenship, 1,100 people are deported.

“For the immigration reform movement, this issue is not about politics but about our families.  It is not about the next election, but about our future.  Our movement will not rest until there is a clear plan to solve this issue for our country.  The status quo is unacceptable and we won’t stop until an inclusive path to citizenship is achievable for all the 11 million undocumented.”

Medina said a “diverse, strong and broad” pro-reform movement “demanded an immigration system with a pathway to citizenship,” during the August congressional recess.  But lawmakers appear reluctant.  They’re hung up on fiscal issues instead.

That prompted Medina to retort, paraphrasing Lyndon Johnson, that the solons should be able to “chew gum and walk at the same time.”

“This is the moment for immigration reform to be approved.  Public opinion is in favor of reform,” Medina said.  Medina is retiring from his SEIU post on Oct. 1 to concentrate on immigration reform.  The union’s board elected Mike Fishman, a New Yorker and former President of Local 32BJ, to succeed him.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a leader in the reform movement, started the press conference by saying outside pressure is the only way to get his colleagues to act.  A majority of the House wants to solve the immigration issue, he added.  “Nothing occurs inside Washington, D.C., without demands from outside Washington, D.C.,” he said.

But that majority includes only several dozen Republicans, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will bring up legislation only if “a majority of the majority” GOP supports it.  A majority of Republicans oppose comprehensive reform and support anti-immigrant, anti-Latino laws such as empowering local law enforcement officers to stop anyone who “looks suspicious” and demand to see their papers – under threat of arrest, detention and deportation.  Press conference speakers slammed that, too.

– PAI