By Maria Peña
WASHINGTON – The national mobilization expected to attract some 100,000 people to Washington on Sunday will show an immigrant community fed up with unkept promises and with a Congress incapable of passing a comprehensive immigration reform.
Despite President Barack Obama and congressional leaders being in favor of reform, one fact is irrefutable: the reform plan has not moved an inch in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate has only got to the stage of working out a rough draft.
On Tuesday groups of evangelical Hispanics presented the national campaign “Esperanza por America” (Hope for America), saying that it’s time that Congress listened to “the outcry of the people.”
“We reject the idea that conservatives do not support immigration reform...the aim of Esperanza por America is to make Congress pay attention to the more than 60 percent of Americans who support reform,” the Rev. Luis Cortes, president of the Esperanza USA group, which includes more than 12,000 congregations, said at a press conference.
Cortes was accompanied by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), and other religious and political figures.
Pro-reform groups of all sectors have had enough of fine phrases and demand results this year.
Judging by the bitterness of the debate on health-care reform – another of Obama’s promises in 2008 – bipartisanship is nothing but an illusion and both projects face an uphill battle.
Obama has asked Congress to have the “courage” to approve health-care reform, but the immigrant community is asking the same of him on the subject of immigration reform.
In an appearance last Sunday on ABC News’s This Week, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham advised Obama to get to work on it.
“You put together a comprehensive legislative reform package. You bring it to the Senate and House and see how many Democrat and Republican supporters you can get,” Graham said, addressing the president.
Graham and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) met with Obama last week to analyze how to push reform forward, even though no other Republican has come out in support of it.
The South Carolina Republican said a bill being drafted in the Senate would include border security measures, establishing a biometric Social Security card, a guest-worker program and a plan offering the country’s estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants a chance at legalization.
Obama wants to help clear away the current stumbling blocks in the immigration dialogue, but has set no deadlines and the pro-reform groups are asking him to invest more political capital in the matter.
With a view to November’s midterm congressional elections, the outlook is gloomy: there are squabbles, for example, between the business community, which supports a guest-worker program, and organized labor, which opposes it.
As with the failed 2007 reform, most Republicans appear to have little appetite for passing such a bill.
Republicans, and some Democrats in conservative districts, face pressure from groups that are opposed to an “amnesty” and say that the United States should have “one
flag and one language.”
Their complaints are the same as ever: they see undocumented immigrants as a threat to national sovereignty, an expense to the public and they “steal” jobs from citizens and legal residents and that, at a time when there are 15 million unemployed, these conservatives find intolerable.
Graham’s reluctance is not surprising, then, since he represents one of the country’s most conservative states.
If blacks paid with blood for their civil rights in the 1960s, now the immigrant community is paying for a wreck of an immigration system with raids, deportations and having their families broken up.
It is estimated that more than 5,600 immigrants have died on the border with Mexico in the last 15 years in their attempt to reach “the American dream.”
Sunday’s march will be another reminder to the political class that immigrants, with their growing political clout, will be looking for coherence between rhetoric and deeds. If reform fails again, they will register their discontent at the polls.
In that case, Republicans will have less and less support among Hispanics and the late Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts won’t be the only one the Democrats will lose this year. They have been warned. EFE