Last week, nearly 350 advocates from Latino organizations affiliated with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), descended on Capitol Hill and conducted Congressional visits with a clear message: the time for immigration reform is now, and those who obstruct progress or sit on the sidelines will be held accountable. NCLR also unveiled a one-minute video in English and Spanish reminding President Obama, in his own words, of his campaign promise to rise above fear and demagoguery and restore order and dignity to the nation's broken immigration system. The videos are circulating online, through NCLR's network of Latino community organizations, and with multiple other partners. Many of the people who came to meet with their members of Congress will be returning to DC on March 21 to join in the March for America to take a stand for all of America's workers, families, and communities across the country.
Last Friday, the Associated Press reported that President Obama will meet on Monday with Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and is "looking forward to hearing more about their efforts toward producing a bipartisan bill," according to White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro.
But let's be clear. If the meeting is just to "hear more," it's not going to cut it. The president had a meeting with Republican and Democratic members of both chambers in June 2009, and in August held a White House summit, hosted by Secretary Janet Napolitano, with a large number of representatives from faith, labor, business, law enforcement, immigrant, ethnic, and civil rights groups. Around that time, Schumer and Graham started working on a bipartisan proposal, and Schumer announced he would have the parameters of a proposal ready by Labor Day 2009.
With the Congressional legislative runway getting crowded and time running out before the November elections, it is time to land this plane. Monday's meeting must be followed by a clear, bipartisan proposal and a firm timeline for Senate action. Anything less will be regarded as more stalling by the tens of thousands coming to DC to march in two weeks.
During their Congressional visits last week, community leaders often heard "we are open to consider a reform proposal" from Congress members on both side of the aisle. Well, it's time to stand up and be counted. The country has waited over 20 years for a solution, and those who sit on the sidelines waiting for others to lead will be just as complicit as those who actively obstruct its progress. Immigration reform can help strengthen our economy and the labor rights of all working people, bring stability back to our communities, and quell the rise of hate groups and extremism we are witnessing across the country. From a policy, political, and moral perspective, it's time to act.