By Maria Leon
TUCSON, Arizona – A group of Hispanic lawmakers will present in the next few days an immigration reform bill before the U.S. Congress because, in the words of one, “now is the best time to act.”
“The bill could be presented as soon as the end of next week or by the end of October,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told Efe by telephone from Washington.
“We can’t keep waiting, immigration reform can’t wait any longer,” he said.
Though he gave no details about the bill that is still being worked on, he said that one of the chief objectives is to find a way to legalize the almost 12 million undocumented immigrants estimated to live in the United States.
The measure, which has the support of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and is being introduced by Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez, includes normalizing the status of thousands of undocumented students and a plan for legalizing agricultural workers.
It also contemplates a reform for detention centers and the procedures for processing undocumented immigrants.
Grijalva acknowledged that he still doesn’t know what will be required of a person to be able to enter the legalization program, but said that those who have complied with the law and paid their taxes will have that chance.
“The requirements are tough. People who have been found guilty of serious crimes such as murders, domestic violence and drug trafficking will be eliminated,” he said.
He said that the main objective of the bill will be to reunite families and that it will benefit people considered to be of “good moral character.”
“We want to get it going, because frankly if we wait for the leadership in Congress it’s not going to happen. If we wait for the administration, the reform won’t take place until 2010 or 2011. And if we get to the elections, nobody will want to deal with it at all,” Grijalva said.
“Instead of waiting, we want to say that the debate starts here, we’ve waited long enough,” he said.
To criticism that President Barack Obama has “forgotten” his campaign promise to present an immigration reform measure during his first year as president, the lawmaker said that he hopes the president will support this proposal.
“We gave all our support to the idea of hope in the presidential election, now we’re waiting for the response. We’ve reached the point where he (Obama) must also answer to the hopes we have,” Grijalva said.
He acknowledged that the fight will be difficult, above all against the strong opposition expected from the Republican side.
“What is important is to begin the debate – we don’t want the subject of immigration reform to be forgotten,” Grijalva said. EFE