LatinaLista — Today was a big day in Washington.
There was the bipartisan passage of the Senate Finance Committee’s health reform bill, even though there was only one Republican that signed on — and there was the immigration rally attended by thousands of immigrants, advocates and sympathizers.
If you didn’t hear about the rally, it’s not surprising. It didn’t take place until late afternoon – after the passage of the health reform bill but news outlets are slowly getting around to writing about it.
And they should be because this wasn’t the usual caravan-to-Washingon-and-demand-immigration reform rally. This rally was different in that it served as the platform where Illinois Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, attempted to jumpstart the immigration debate by unveiling the “core principles” he wants seen included in any immigration reform bill.
From Rep. Gutierrez’s list, it’s easy to see that compared to the healthcare debate, the immigration reform debate has the potential to split this country wide open.
While the accepted viewpoint is that there will be much give-and-take once immigration reform reaches the floor of Congress, there are certain points, as outlined by Rep. Gutierrez, that are just not negotiable. Among them are:
Pathway to legalization for undocumented workers: “Immigration reform will not work unless it takes a practical approach to dealing with the 12 million undocumented immigrants living, working, and raising families in the United States. We need a bill that says if you come here to hurt our communities, we will not support you. But if you are here to work hard–if you are here to make a better life for your family–you will have the opportunity to earn your citizenship.”
Smart and humane interior enforcement: “Inside the country, my plan will promote fair immigration proceedings, humane treatment of immigration detainees and policies that respect the tenets of community policing.”
Family unity as a cornerstone of our immigration system: “Family is the bedrock of our society, and immigration reform must support strong, united families and treat all immigrant families fairly and equally. Right now, our broken immigration system keeps too many American families apart for years and even decades, when they have done everything legally. We need a system predicated on family values by developing laws that better value families — a system that keeps families strong and, most importantly, keeps husbands and wives, parents and children together.”
DREAM Act: “We all want a country that is better educated, better motivated and better prepared for the future. My plan will strengthen the DREAM Act, making it quicker and easier for students who grew up in America and know no other home to fully participate in our society. Immigrants brought here as children should not be punished with fines or other means; rather, they should be fully integrated into our society as the Americans they truly are–and as quickly as possible.”
Of all the points Rep. Gutierrez advocates, these are the ones that will draw the most criticisms from people who already vehemently disagree with any measure that supports citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
For advocates of undocumented immigrants, all of Rep. Gutierrez’s recommendations won’t please them either — but that is the way it should be.
Neither side should be in total agreement with these recommendations or any future ones that will be submitted in the name of immigration reform.
It’s when there is disagreement that debate can begin. However, there were hard lessons learned during the healthcare debate that need to be taken to heart, or at the least, be highlighted:
Opponents will try to derail the immigration debate with exaggerated and dishonest analysis, accompanied by extremely vocal disrespect of anyone who opposes them.
Yet, the most worrisome is that opposition to any kind of immigration reform debate will manifest into physical attacks on not just those perceived to be undocumented immigrants, but anyone who fits the so-called stereotype of what an undocumented immigrant looks like.
It’s already been happening:
Hate crimes targeting Hispanic Americans rose 40 percent from 2003 to 2007, the most recent year for which FBI statistics are available, from 426 to 595 incidents, marking the fourth consecutive year of increases.
The Latino community is bracing for these kinds of unwarranted attacks and the conservative activists who fuel the condoning of these acts should be held as accountable as the creatures perpetuating them.
Immigration reform started today. Time will tell how ugly the battle gets.