Advocates Hopeful About Immigration Reform Under Obama, Maybe Even In First Year

Advocates want a stop to deportations and raids.

Advocates want a stop to deportations and raids. (Photo: El Diario/La Prensa).

As soon as President Barack Obama was sworn in the new White House website went up, in a rapid move celebrated by geeks everywhere. Some also found a bit of encouraging news on the site.

“Barack Obama’s White House Spoke of Immigration Reform,” headlined Univision.com. A story by Jorge Cancino on the Spanish-language network’s website underlined the fact that the “Agenda” section of the new White House site “included the commitment to promote a change to immigration laws that allows for legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants.”

The new administration’s page on immigration repeats the main Obama campaign proposals on the issue:

Create Secure Borders: Protect the integrity of our borders. Support additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry.

Improve Our Immigration System: Fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy and increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.

Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally: Remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

Bring People Out of the Shadows: Support a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.

Work with Mexico: Promote economic development in Mexico to decrease illegal immigration.

“There is no doubt that the Obama Administration will push immigration reform,” said Oscar Chacón, executive director of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, in an interview with Iván Mejía of New York’s El Diario/La Prensa.

Chacón added:

“In a meeting we representatives of (pro-immigrant) organizations had recently with the Obama transition team’s immigration advisors, they assured us that he has in his plans an immigration reform for the first year of his government.”

Still, pro-immigrant activists acknowledge that the new administration has other priorities that it must attend to first.

Harry Pachón, president of the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, told Mejía that immigration “is one of the top ten issues for President-elect Obama, but it is not one of the main ones, like the economy or defending the border.”

In this context, some are willing to settle for at least some immigration-related measures that show a presidential intent to solve the matter.

Asked what they would settle for by La Opinión reporter Eileen Truax, UCLA professor Octavio Pescador said, “I think that stopping raids and a moratorium on deportations can be an acceptable measure, (plus) using the same criteria that have been used in the immigration system for family reunification.

“This would send a political message and it is a measure that can be taken immediately.”

Some Hispanic and pro-immigration advocates will take part in a march today in Washington D.C. to demand an end to deportations and Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids.

Pescador said another proposal that should be considered, since it’s likely to get Congress’s approval, is the DREAM Act, which would give U.S. citizenship to undocumented high school and college students who were brought into the country as children.

María Elena Durazo, AFL-CIO treasurer, told Truax she is hopeful.

“It’s not the first thing he will solve, but it is possible that it will happen in the first year,” she said. “During the campaign, he not only referred to the suffering of families facing immigration problems, but also to the damage this situation does to other workers, to the rest of the working class.

“My hope is based on the fact that what he has described in the job recovery plan includes a commitment to reform the laws, and I think that the designation of Hilda Solís as labor secretary is a good sign.”

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