A Countdown to Reform, Despite Conflicting Reports on Immigration Bill’s Status

Advocates across the nation have begun a 10 day countdown for immigration reform that will culminate on May 1st. May Day has become a traditional day to advocate for immigrant rights, and this year, hundreds of rallies and marches are scheduled to be held across the country.

In New York, immigrant community leaders gathered outside Senator Charles Schumer’s  (D-NY) office yesterday, who has worked with Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) on a bipartisan bill for immigration reform.

“Every day, we’ll be taking action to remind Senator Schumer that he must follow through on his commitment to deliver a strong, bipartisan immigration reform bill,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, in a press release.

In the same release, Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum and chair of the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign was quoted as saying, “Senator Schumer took on this responsibility, and he needs to deliver. We know the task is difficult and that Republicans have not stepped up as strong bipartisan partners, but we need leadership. We can not afford more delay.”

But the status of Schumer’s bill, and the likelihood of Congress taking on immigration reform as its next major agenda item, is looking very murky.

On April 10th, House Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke to thousands at a rally in Las Vegas, promising that congress would pass immigration reform asap. “We need to do this this year. We can’t let excuses like a Supreme Court nomination get in the way,” he said.

But three days later, he flip flopped, saying “We won’t get to immigration reform this work period.” (The current congressional work period ends just before Memorial day.)

Rally outside Sen. Charles Schumer's Manhattan Office

Rally outside Sen. Charles Schumer’s Manhattan Office. (Photo: NYIC)

Senator Lindsay Graham also recently expressed doubts the nation would see immigration reform this year, even though he had appeared publicly with Senator Schumer to promote his commitment to it.

“If you’re a red state Democrat, you want to get into an immigration debate right now? I don’t think so,” Graham said.

Yet the Wall Street Journal is reporting that President Obama called Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) on Tuesday to tell him Democrats are moving ahead with immigration reform next month.

“I have an open mind to read the bill,” Brown said. “That doesn’t mean that I will vote for granting amnesty to anyone. But I want to be respectful to the president and to any member who brings me a proposal.”

In his campaign, Obama said he would take up immigration reform during his first year in office. That didn’t happen, and he is being criticized for not making it a priority.

“Latino and immigrant voters remember the promises they heard and are tuned in enough to see they haven’t been kept,” said U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) in a statement on Tuesday.

A close look at mainstream media and the blogosphere reveals nothing but conflicting reports.

In an article yesterday, L.A. Times reporter Peter Nicholas wrote,  “a White House commitment to overhaul the nation’s immigration system this year is collapsing.”

Yet on the same day, Reuters reported they heard from Congressional aides that Congress may take up an immigration bill next, before a climate bill.

The only thing clear is that immigration reform activists aren’t giving up. They are furious about SB 1070, approved by the Arizona state legislature this week, which grants local and state police sweeping powers to arrest undocumented migrants.

In her statement directed at Sen. Schumer, Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition was adamant.

“Too many lives have been lost; and too many families have been ripped apart, for it all to lead to nothing. We need to deliver change. Now!” said Hong.

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AboutSarah Kate Kramer
Sarah Kate Kramer first got hooked on collecting stories as a StoryCorps facilitator, then traveled the world with a microphone for a few years before settling down in her hometown of New York City. From 2010-2012 she was the editor of Feet in 2 Worlds and a freelance reporter for WNYC Radio, where she created “Niche Market,” a weekly segment that profiled specialty stores in New York. Sarah is now a producer at Radio Diaries, a non-profit that produces documentaries for NPR and other public radio outlets.