Progressive Activists React to Grim Diagnoses on Immigration Reform

Activists deny immigration reform is dead - Photo: Jelena Kopanja.

Activists deny immigration reform is dead. (Photo: Jelena Kopanja)

Pro-reform activists acted quickly to tamp down gloomy predictions about the future of immigration reform in Congress after Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts special Senate election. In a lightning round of conference calls and press releases, they argued that unlike the health care overhaul, this is an initiative that enjoys bipartisan support and that the new Senate math created by Brown’s victory “doesn’t change our fight.”

One issue remains unshaken — immigration reform,” claimed the umbrella organization Reform Immigration for America (RI4A), which organized a national teleconference to speak “about the Massachusetts election and its lack of influence on the current debate.”

“That will make our job more difficult—but not impossible,” said Eliseo Medina, vice president of the Service Employees International Union during the conference. “We never thought of immigration reform as a partisan issue—we always knew we would need the support of both parties in order to pass comprehensive legislation.”

Support for an immigration overhaul “crosses party lines,” insisted Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice. He added,

“If the lesson Democrats took away from Massachusetts is that that they should not take on tough issues or make waves, they are wrong. Voters are hungry for leadership, despise partisanship, and want both parties to work together to solve our toughest problems. Immigration reform represents a golden opportunity.”

Another immigration reform supporter, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D.-Calif.), took part in a Spanish-language press conference organized by MaribelHastings.com, an America’s Voice website. The Congressman said “of course” the House leadership has the political will to push forward with the overhaul.

President Barack Obama had promised to deal with immigration reform during his first year in office. While Mr. Obama’s self-imposed deadline expired this very week, Becerra said “the president remembers his promise well and I think that there’s an understanding of the political and social circumstances… that he faces at the moment, while he struggles with the immigration issue.”

The RI4A also emphasized a 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center, which said that 63 percent of the population supported a reform package including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The stunning Democratic loss of Sen. Edward Kennedy’s seat spurred yet another conference in the pro-reform camp, this one organized by the Center for American Progress, featuring blogger Markos Moulitsas, union leader María Elena Durazo and Think Progress researcher Andrea Nill. (You can watch it here.)

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