Did We March for This?

On Capitol Hill and at the White House humane immigration reform isn't gaining traction.

By Avideh Moussavian May 04, 2007

On May 1st, tens of thousands demonstrated in peaceful and spirited marches, vigils, rallies, and other community events to highlight the humanitarian crisis that immigrant communities are facing in the current climate of aggressive, large-scale raids and swift deportations that are tearing apart families.  At events all across the country, participants called for an end to raids and deportations and for Congress to do its job and pass what the American public and immigrants alike want:  humane and realistic comprehensive immigration reform.
Despite this unified message, the demand from the American public to our lawmakers in Congress continues to fall on deaf ears.  House leaders, despite the recent introduction of the STRIVE Act, are making every effort to protect new representatives from a vote by hiding behind the Senate, instead of rising to the urgent challenge of moving the debate forward.  On the Senate side, a deadline for a floor debate to begin the week of May 14 looms as Democrats, including Kennedy, Salazar, Menendez and Durbin, are neck-deep in backroom negotiations with the White House, which is pushing an anti-family and anti-worker immigration plan.
Although the Administration’s proposal that was leaked in recent weeks has been widely condemned by immigrant stakeholders throughout the country, Senate Democrats continue down the dangerous path of negotiating on the White House’s terms instead of working on a bill that focuses on solving problems rather than creating them.  Rather than reject the White House proposal as a non-starter for serious debate, the Senate’s silence has instead paved the way for the White House to undermine the debate in Congress by interfering with years of Senate progress on immigration reform.  
The White House wants to wipe out entire categories of family-based immigration, which would destroy the hallmark aspect of our nation’s immigration system and disrespect family values; it also wants to create a guest worker program that treats immigrants as replaceable parts of a permanent underclass instead of as human beings with family ties and dignity.  After the historic mobilizations that showed the strength of immigrant communities, the important defeat of the draconian Sensenbrenner bill, and the votes that proved that strident anti-immigrant candidates would not succeed at the polls in 2006, immigrant communities and their supporters are left asking:  Did we really march for this?
Avideh Moussavian is director of immigration policy and advocacy with The New York Immigration Coalition.