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Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

Reports of death have been greatly exaggerated at least since 1897, when Mark Twain told the New York Journal that contrary to reports, he was in fact alive. So it is with immigration reform which, these days, is the subject of repeated obituaries. You only die once—unless, apparently, you’re immigration reform, which dies in our newspapers and on our TV screens with monotonous regularity.

One reason these frequent death reports are getting boring is that we always know the culprit—there isn’t even any suspense. In the case of immigration reform’s most recent demise, a hitherto unknown politician named David Brat holds the bloody dagger. His defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia seventh district primary supposedly proves that the tea party is again ascendant and that all hope for immigration reform is gone.

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In 1862, during the darkest days for the Union, President Lincoln faced a momentous decision. He wanted to issue a proclamation freeing the slaves in the Confederate states. Many counseled against it, fearing that the time was not right: It would prolong the war, fracture Lincoln’s coalition in Congress, and have other adverse consequences. It was far from clear that the “team of rivals” that comprised the president’s Cabinet would support such an action. But Lincoln was convinced, in his own mind, that emancipation was not only the right thing to do, but would in fact have positive strategic consequences for the war effort. Late that year, buoyed by victories on the battlefield, Lincoln informed—not consulted, but informed—his Cabinet of his decision, and the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863.

President Barack Obama now confronts his “Lincoln moment”: Will he emulate this greatest of American presidents? Will he take bold executive action to address an injustice of his administration: the record deportations of undocumented immigrants? That this would be the right thing to do is unquestionable. The administration is more concerned about the politics: Would it be strategic, or would it actually work against immigration reform? If we think clearly about these issues, as Lincoln did in the case of emancipation, we will see that executive action on deportations is not detrimental to immigration reform, but would, if anything, actually help reform. Why is this the case?

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In his State of the Union address, President Obama declared 2014 as a “year of action,” and reminded Congress that “…what most Americans want [is] for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.” He shone a light on education by noting the importance of “….preparing tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education;” and he again asked Congress to take up commonsense immigration reform as he explained:

“When people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.”

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On November 9, 2012, three days after President Obama’s re-election with the massive support of Hispanics and other immigrant communities, I posted on this blog an analysis of the meaning of the election and its implications for immigration reform. I said that the election would occasion a titanic struggle in the Republican Party between those who wanted to double down on far-right ideological positions and those who understood that the party had to broaden its appeal to immigrants and others who supported the president (women, minorities) if it hoped to remain competitive in national elections. I said that immigration reform would be one of the venues for this struggle, and I said, “The Republican Party will abandon its anti-immigration posture on the day it decides that anti-immigration no longer works for it politically.”

There is reason to believe that day will come soon, if it is not already here. Speaker Boehner and other Republican leaders seem to have concluded that the party must deliver on immigration reform. It also appears that the Speaker is finally fed up with his extremist wing and is no longer prepared to give it an automatic veto over actions that he considers to be in the party’s long-term interest.

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Connecting Our World advocates at a rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota in October 2013.

While members of Congress have left the halls of the Capitol to venture home for the holidays, the unfinished work they leave behind – commonsense, comprehensive immigration reform – will not disappear with the start of the new year. And neither will we.

The pro-immigration reform movement is growing stronger each day. People across the country are standing up, speaking out, protesting, rallying, fasting, and more.

What motivates us?

Every day 1,100 people are deported and separated from their families, jobs, and homes. The vast majority of these men, women, and children would qualify for a legal status under pending immigration legislation. Deporting them is arbitrary, wastes resources, and contradicts the values of our nation.

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Coming off a successful August of immigration reform activism in the states and districts of Members of Congress, reform advocates are in the driver’s seat. But to judge from the defeatism in the community, you would never know it. I don’t worry when the pundits assure us that immigration reform can’t be done; negativity is their job. But I do worry when we start to believe them. Reform advocates will only lose this debate if we allow ourselves to be defeated. If we buy into the assumption that nothing can happen, then we deserve to lose. But the immigrants don’t deserve to lose. There’s too much at stake. We have to rediscover the positive attitude—the confidence that we will win—that has carried us this far.

Remember:  According to the smart guys in the media, nothing that has happened so far could happen. A year ago, the immigration debate that we are having today couldn’t happen—but it did. Nine months ago, a bipartisan group of senators—including some who helped defeat reform just a few years ago—couldn’t come together to introduce a comprehensive reform bill—but they did. Six months ago, you could never put that bill through regular order and have a civilized debate and a successful markup—which preserved the bipartisan, comprehensive essence of the bill—in the Senate Judiciary Committee—but we did. Then, we were assured, the bill could never survive the Senate floor, where it would be picked apart, filibustered, and defeated or, at best, emerge in some grotesque form that no one could support. But, as we all know, it passed intact, with a bipartisan, 68-vote majority.

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Not wanting to be caught unprepared, news organizations write obituaries of famous people long before they are needed leaving blank the manner of death, with plans to add the (fingers crossed!) salacious details when the inevitable day arrives. But every once and while, there is a mistake and someone is reported to have died when they are very much alive.

This is what is happening in the press right now with immigration reform. The departure of Representatives Sam Johnson and John Carter – both Republicans from Texas – from the bipartisan House Gang working on immigration reform bill has created the opportunity to prematurely announce of the death of immigration reform this Congress.

But, no matter what is being said in the press, the reports of the death of immigration reform have been greatly exaggerated.

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August recess. District work period. Town hall palooza. There are many names for this time in August when Congress leaves DC to go home for four weeks. But in the end it doesn’t matter what you call it, what really matters is who shows up.

NAFSA member Patti Jones from Macomb, Illinois showed up. Recently retired, Patti has been a member of NAFSA for over thirty years, serving in a variety of leadership positions. She is currently an Academy coach for NAFSA Region V. Patti went to a town hall hosted by her representative Aaron Schock, a Republican representing Illinois’ 18th congressional district. It was only the week before that Representative Schock made news for coming out in support of a pathway to citizenship at a town hall.

What made Patti go to the town hall?

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