President Barack Obama will sit down with Sens. Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham to finally talk immigration reform this evening. However, after more than a year of kicking the politically-divisive issue down the road, doubts linger on whether he may be just trying to reduce the impact of a potentially massive march for immigration reform to take place in Washington in less than two weeks.
The March For America is organized by a nationwide coalition of pro-reform activists, including unions, religious groups like the Catholic bishops’ conference, Asian American and Hispanic organizations, and others. They collaborate under the umbrella of the Reform Immigration For America campaign.
According to the organizers’ website, buses will depart from as far as Florida, Iowa and Tennessee to join the March 21 demonstration. The coalition expects “tens of thousands” of demonstrators, according to an article by Ali Noorani, director of the National Immigration Forum, on The Huffington Post.
Noorani said a caravan has already departed from Phoenix and will stop in Houston and New Orleans, among other locations, before reaching the nation’s capital.
On the day of the march, under the slogan “Change Takes Courage,” marchers will congregate in front of a stage draped in American flags with the Capitol as a backdrop, Noorani said. There will be an interfaith service led by 5,000 religious leaders, he added, “calling for the best of America to come together and welcome the stranger.”
This evening, Obama will discuss the immigration bill on which Schumer and Graham have been working. Conspicuously absent will be another legislator, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who has introduced his own, more progressive initiative in the House. Schumer has in the past outlined his principles for reform, which lean towards a heavier focus on enforcement rather than on family reunification or humane reforms to the immigration system.
Activists are not blind to the fact that Obama has not pursued immigration reform with the intensity nor the speed he had promised. Chicago activist Joshua Hoyt, who says he knows Obama since 1986, wrote last week that, while “the Obama administration was on track to deport some 400,000 immigrants” in its first year,
“The sense of betrayal among Latinos — especially immigrants — is palpable, just as it was after Obama’s 2006 vote on the border fence.”
Jennifer McFadyen, immigration blogger at About.com, saw a political maneuver in Monday’s meeting:
“I think the timing has less to do with midterm elections and more to do with the thousands of immigration activists that will be knocking on Obama’s front door in a couple of weeks.”