General

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

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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