Last Update: Thursday, May 16, 2013
|Cheers, High Expectations Greet Immigration Reform Plan|
|Written by Alex Garcia|
|Thursday, 31 January 2013 06:40|
"Now is the time" to fix the nation's immigration system President Barack Obama declared, as he made his pitch on Tuesday, Jan. 29, to bring an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. Juan Rodriguez couldn't have agreed more.
Since crossing the border illegally in 1988 and arriving in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons, both of them now teenagers, the family has faced the threat of deportation. "If there is a (immigration) reform, as soon as they allow you to leave and come back, I'd go see my parents in Morelos," Rodriguez said, as he and some 200 other immigrants, union members and students watched Obama unveiled his immigration reform plan on a big screen set up inside the Methodist Church in La Placita, in downtown Los Angeles.
Rodriguez, who works as a cook in a downtown restaurant, said if an immigration reform takes place, he would borrow money if necessary to pay for the process.
"You can't let it pass because this is too important for all immigrants," he said.
'A Nation Of Immigrants'
Obama's proposal calls for more border security and employment verifications, as well as a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants already in the United States who pass a background check, pay taxes and penalties and learn English.
The plan is similar to one presented only a day before by eight leading Republican and Democrat Senators, bringing the prospect of immigration reform much closer to reality. "Think about it – we define ourselves as a nation of immigrants. That's who we are in our bones. The promise we see in those who come here from every corner of the globe, that's always been one of our greatest strengths. It keeps our workforce young. It keeps our country on the cutting edge. And it's helped build the greatest economic engine the world has ever known," Obama said in his speech.
"These 11 million men and women are now here. Many of them have been here for years. And the overwhelming majority of these individuals aren't looking for any trouble. They're contributing members of the community.
They're looking out for their families. They're looking out for their neighbors. They're woven into the fabric of our lives."
Pro-immigrant activists responded favorably to Obama's plan.
"We welcome the President's impassioned statements that America is ready to overhaul an immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants," said Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). She had traveled with a caravan of community members and immigration rights leaders to Las Vegas, where Obama made his speech.
"Now is the time to move swiftly forward on a new immigration process in reality and not just preachment, a process that brings long-overdue recognition to hard-working, tax-paying immigrants whose hard labor and sacrifice feed all of America and much of the world," said United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez, who also was in Las Vegas to hear the President speak.
Meanwhile, The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) issued a statement in support of the President's plan as well. "Immigrants and their families play a vital role in this country, and their full integration into the fabric of our civic life will help ensure our nation and its economy thrives for years to come. We applaud the President and the U.S. Senate for making progress on this issue and ask Congress to act on a bipartisan legislative solution to the nation's broken immigration system," the statement said.
"NALEO members from both sides of the aisle look forward to working with the President and Congress in the coming weeks to make immigration reform a reality."
Arrests Up, Entries Down
Obama's speech comes after more than 1.5 million deportations during his first four years as President, the highest of any administration.
It comes also as the rate of immigrants coming into the U.S. has dropped dramatically in recent years, partly due to more security along the border and because of the economic recession that has gripped the country for the past three years. Apprehension records along the U.S.-Mexico border dropped from a high of 1.1 million in 2005 to 340,000 in 2011.
Still, the nation's immigrant population reached a record 40.4 million in 2011, including an estimated 11.1 million who are undocumented, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Many of them have been patiently waiting for Obama to fulfill the promise he made when he campaigned and took office in 2008, when he vowed to work on immigration reform. Guatemala native Karla Chavez, who came to the U.S. in 1999, hopes that Obama's words become a reality this time.
"Immigration reform would be wonderful for me, I could go to my country because we have left many things to reach the American dream," said Chavez, who works as a janitor.
"My children benefited with Deferred Action, but it's not fair that we have to go back. We have also contributed to the growth of this nation, with our taxes. I pay them and never get anything in return," she said. Now comes the real work, which involves debating and drafting an actual immigration bill that includes the points highlighted in the Obama and Senate group plans, something expected by March.
The Senate would vote on the legislation by August, then send it to the House of Representative for its decision before it can reach the White House for the President's signature.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 31 January 2013 06:48|