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May Day and Reform
May 1, 2009
Today, tens of thousands of people across the country will participate in May Day marches to demonstrate their solidarity with, and support for, immigrants. While advocates have been using May Day as a rallying point for immigration reform for years, today’s marches are set against the growing sense that the federal government is getting serious about pursuing concrete changes.
This week, there have been three particularly interesting developments, both in Washington and across the country.
First, in a news conference on Wednesday marking his first 100 days in office, President Obama emphasized that he is still planning to move forward on reform after securing the borders:
We want to move this process. We can't continue with a broken immigration system. It's not good for anybody. It's not good for American workers. It's dangerous for Mexican would-be workers who are trying to cross a dangerous border. It is putting a strain on border communities, who oftentimes have to deal with a host of undocumented workers. And it keeps those undocumented workers in the shadows, which means they can be exploited at the same time as they're depressing U.S. wages.
So, what I hope to happen is that we're able to convene a working group, working with key legislators like Luis Gutierrez and Nydia Velazquez and others to start looking at a framework of how this legislation might be shaped. In the meantime, what we're trying to do is take some core — some key administrative steps to move the process along to lay the groundwork for legislation. Because the American people need some confidence that if we actually put a package together, we can execute.
Second, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees held a hearing yesterday on “Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009, Can We Do It and How?” The eight expert witnesses—representing the policy, faith, academic, police, civil rights, and business communities—offered widely varying perspectives on immigration reform. However, all of them agreed that federal immigration reform of some kind is necessary.
Finally, according to a Washington Post¬-ABC News poll, there is a growing sense among ordinary Americans that immigration reform—including an earned path to legalization—is necessary. Despite the negative rhetoric about “illegal immigration” from some vocal anti-immigrant advocates, more and more Americans are approaching the issue with pragmatism and a sense of social justice.
If key stakeholders continue to express their support for reform, legislators will listen. These developments are certainly a step in the right direction.
Laura Hill is a project assistant at CLINIC.
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