Has Capitol Hill already lost the political will to fight for immigration reform?

LatinaLista — There’s no denying that Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s immigration reform bill that he introduced in the House of Representatives this week caused a lot of buzz — from both sides of the aisle.

Besides the point that immigration reform is a volatile subject, Gutierrez’s bill, Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity (CIR ASAP) Act of 2009, addresses a lot of the issues that advocates for reform have pointed out as being broken in the current immigration system.

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Of course, some think the bill goes too far and others think it doesn’t go far enough but at least people are talking about it — at least they are outside the Beltway.

It seems that if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has her way, the House of Representatives won’t talk about immigration reform until the Senate starts the conversation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

(Photo: Reuters: Thomas Ferraro)

By then, it might be too late.

Feeling bruised and battered by being the first ones to pass a version of the healthcare reform bill, Pelosi is not anxious to repeat the favor of being the Party’s punching bag for conservatives and opponents of immigration reform.

According to The Hill:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has privately told her politically vulnerable Democratic members that they will not vote on controversial bills in 2010 unless the Senate acts first.

Pelosi’s comments are certainly understandable but extremely disappointing.

Precisely because the immigration reform bill is bound to garner far more outspoken opposition, spread of misinformation and continually vicious attacks by conservative pundits, white nationalists and other nativist groups than the healthcare bill ever did, it’s imperative that the Democratic Party come on board with as much show of unity as they did for healthcare reform.

If ever there was one issue that drove first and second generation Latinos to register to vote and vote for Obama, it was the promise that the Democratic Party would address immigration reform and put an end to the ignored suffering that is happening in communities across the country.

Gutierrez introduced his bill knowing that not everyone would agree with it, but he wanted to show his Congressional colleagues, and send a message to the White House, that the majority of the Latino community expects the next big battle on The Hill to be about immigration reform.

Unfortunately for Pelosi, nobody has the luxury of putting life on hold just because it’s uncomfortable — just ask all the undocumented students who are waiting to see what the immigration judges say about their pending deportations; or ask the men and women who are detained in detention centers and separated from their children and spouses as they wait to see when they’ll have to leave the country and be forbidden to ever return to see them or ask the U.S.-born children who stayed behind when their parents were deported because they knew the chance for a good education only existed on this side of the border for them; or ask…

The list goes on and on.

If Pelosi doesn’t help lead the fight for immigration reform, it will not only bitterly disappoint those Latino voters who based their votes on the promise that immigration reform would be addressed and passed but it will open the eyes of new Latino voters who will learn the hard lesson of just how valued they are as Party members and supporters.

My advice to Pelosi: Use the holidays to rest, refresh and regroup and come back to Washington to make good on a promise that helped send Obama to the White House.

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8 Comments

  1. Dave Bennion said:

    California has long had a tortured relationship with immigration, with even so-called liberals like Gavin Newsom and Dianne Feinstein buying into conservative frames. Too many Californian politicians have internalized the enforcement-only political status quo built by restrictionists. This just goes to show that there is still an incredible amount of education of mainstream liberals to be done.
    But I agree, I had hoped for better from Pelosi.

  2. Connie said:

    Well said! Pelosi and Obama: keep your promise! Don’t succumb to the racist GOP on this issue. A comprehensive immigration bill is the new civil rights issue of our time! It must pass. It shall pass!

  3. laura said:

    Dear Marisa,
    while in theory I agree with you, in practice I think Latina/o activists whould not be expending energy on this bill. We need to stop the raids. We need to get people in dentention for immigration issues released. We need to stop the 287 G programs. These are specific steps that will already relieve much suffering.
    Again, look at health care. Is that the kind of comprehensive reform we want?
    Everyone has only so much time and energy. We should be applying it where it can do the most good.
    And yes – I too regret the time I spent knocking on doors for the Obama campaign. But one thing I know for sure – the Deomcrats do not care in the least about my regrets, or the regrets of millions of people like me. The only thing they care about is pressure.
    Let’s apply pressure.

  4. cookie said:

    So conservative Republicans are racists for not wanting yet another failed amnesty? Of course there are no Democrats opposed to amnesty either, are there? It is all a party issue right rather than an American issue? I see!
    So anyone who advocates the enforcement of our immigration laws is a racist? I see!
    Aren’t all laws “restrictionist” by nature? We should not have quotas on legal immigration that are in keeping with the national interest or we should just accept illegal immigration as the consequence? We should be forced to keep them here whether we need them or not and reward them for their behavior? I see!
    So the state of Calif. has no shortfalls in their budget and aren’t on the verge of bankruptcy and this has no bearing on the fact that we are among one of the most populated states with illegals and you’re saying that Calif. is fighting illegal immigration? I see!

  5. Bryan J. said:

    Sadly, our political system in not made for efficient change.
    Although, if the Dem. Pols do think they will have a better chance of passing CIR AFTER the Health Care reform, there is nothing else one can do but wait.

  6. maryelizabeth said:

    Immigration Reform should be far easier to pass then Healthcare Reform. This article says that it would be more difficult but after talking to political experts I am convinced that the oppostion has burnt all their lightbulbs out on fighting healthcare reform. I think that March is the right time to introduce the new bill and the opposition is going to look like they just can’t support the president on anything he does if they scream too loud. Passing Healthcare Reform is a huge accomplishment and the public eye sees it that way. Even if the bill wasn’t as liberal as we wanted it is the beginning and as years go by it will be slowly tweaked. It is true that nativists, and white nationalists will pound on their chests with Anti-Immigrant rhetoric but they will just look like a bunch of nuts this time around because the vast majority is just sick of the same talking points. My guess is they are going to use the argument that Immigrants damage the infrastructure but the truth is that “all people” damage the infratructure and under the last administration the rich received tax cuts and the infrastructure became neglected (meanwhile the rich had the benefit of “ALL LABOR…that is all workers documented and undocumented” (They benifited from us!) without giving back into the system). Once Immigration Reform passes slowly the rich will have to put back into the infratructure as we create jobs for all Americans to repair what has been neglected. Once Immigration Reform has passed the blame game is over…they no longer have excuses, ways to scapegoat the truth. They can no longer enjoy our LABOR without paying taxes that repair the damage they have done on the infrastructure. They need to pay higher taxes to repair bridges, roads, hospitals etc., etc., etc. It is time that the rich stop using Immigrants as a scapegoat “the blame game” to avoid the inevitable..”a tax hike on the wealthy” to give back what they have taken from all of us. It is time for them to give back what they took out. We all pay our taxes but the Rich is has obviously not paid enough over the last decade and it is time that they put back in what they have taken out since they have used us to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. Now is the time that the senate should move forward on this bill. We have the numbers and I really doubt that the senate will be interested in blocking it “filibuster”.

  7. cookie said:

    It isn’s so called white nationalists and nativists (whatever that means) that are opposed to this Healthcare bill. Stop making it a white race or party issue. It isn’t!
    Anti-”immigrant” rhetoric? Who is opposed to immigration? Most Americans are anti-those illegally in our country not anti-immigrant. Trying to blur those lines again?
    Legalizing millions in our country illegally will not solve the problem. Once legalized the employers will just be looking for a new batch of illegals to exploit.
    What needs to be done is implementing e-verify immediately across the board and eliminating any illegals on the payroll. Imposing a stiff fine on the employers for every illegal whom they employed and if they ever do it again they get thrown into prison and lose their businesses. Securing our borders once and for all and remove any incentives for new illegals to come here such as taxpayer benefits and birthright citizenship for any future kids born from them on our soil. Without jobs they will leave and and it will discourage any new ones to come here. It is the right thing for the American people and doing what is right for our citizens and country is all that shoud be considered.

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