While most news these days focuses on the economic crisis and its hoped-for solution, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D.-Ill.) wants to remind the Obama Administration of the need for immigration reform.
The congressman announced he is going on a five-week, 14-city tour “to document the harm caused to citizens across our nation in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform,” according to a press release.
From Providence, R.I., to Albuquerque, N.M., from El Paso, Texas, to Tampa, Fla. to Philadelphia, Gutierrez plans to hold rallies “for thousands of U.S. citizens whose families have been or risk being torn apart by our broken immigration system,” and he will gather petitions for the passage of a comprehensive reform bill.
Speaking at a recent prayer vigil on Capitol Hill, Gutierrez vowed to deliver thousands of those petitions to President Barack Obama, CNSNews.com reported. He wants to remind the president of his campaign promise of a reform that includes “a path to citizenship” for the undocumented immigrants already in the U.S.
Gutierrez told CNSNews,
If you can show us that you want to work, that you want to take English classes, that you are ready to pay a fine and are ready to engage in a program, then after six or seven or eight years, whatever Congress decides, you graduate. We want to give you an opportunity to change that status of yours.
Some call that amnesty. All we say is we let you earn it. Amnesty is for me to wake up one day and say you’re forgiven [and] you don’t even have to say you are sorry. These people basically have to come forward and say, ‘look, give me a chance and you won’t regret it.’
Some pro-immigration advocates think Gutierrez’s tour is an effective way of highlighting the need for reform. “We’re motivating the nation to feel the Hispanic people’s fervor and the new president to fulfill his promise of doing something for immigrants in the first 100 days of his administration,” Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, told Univision.
But other Hispanic activists interviewed by Univision said that Gutierrez — who, like the president, is from Illinois, — should concentrate his energies on getting direct access to Obama, rather than taking the cause on the road.
“Congressman Gutierrez could call for a meeting of congresspeople to talk to the president and negotiate with him,” said one activist, Julieta Bolivar. “It’s not necessary to go on tour, in that sense, he may be wasting time.”
Gutierrez’s exact motivation for exerting this high-profile form of pressure is not clear. Gutierrez and the rest of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus had sent a letter to Obama on his first day at the White House to request a meeting to discuss immigration.
It is clear that, with each day of bad economic news, the need for immigration reform is losing urgency for many people. Additionally, Americans’ concerns over the domestic economy have led some to call for protectionist measures and closing the door even to legal foreign workers.
Feet In 2 Worlds tried to contact the congressman’s press representative for clarification, but did not get a response Thursday.