The immigration debate claimed the spotlight this week — both at the President’s State of the Union address and at yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Today, nearly 300,000 Americans will petition Congress to put citizenship for all 11 million undocumented persons at the heart of a new immigration reform law.
The petition effort, led by a coalition of immigration, labor, Latino and progressive groups, manifests the pro-immigrant reform movement’s expansive power. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are active in this legislative battle. This follows closely upon the mobilization that surrounded the November elections.
The actual petition will arrive today at the Office of Senator Leahy (D-Vt.) at 11am EST, as the first immigration hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee is getting underway. The official Senate hearing record will record all 265,213 signatories. This massive drive marks an important victory in the fight for citizenship for the 11 million, say activists.
The petition drive represents the organization of the pro-immigration reform movement — and the massive support it enjoys. In a departure from its past attempts to influence Congress, the contemporary movement now wields political clout which will likely impact the Congressional immigration reform debates. Meanwhile, the anti-reform contingent has grown increasingly shrill and impotent in efforts to influence national elections.
"Any plan to reform our disastrous immigration laws must focus on making sure that the 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. who want to fulfill the requirements for citizenship are given the opportunity to do so on an accelerated timeline that is both practical and humane," stated Becky Bond, Political Director of CREDO Action, a group collecting over 100,000 petitions.
"Latino voters are pleased the country is discussing and debating immigration reform. Latino voters are also profoundly concerned that as currently discussed in the Senate and White House, proposals for immigration reform will likely end up excluding millions from among the 11 million," said Arturo Carmona, director of Presente.org.
Carmona denounced "multiple traps” that would exclude immigrants from citizenship, such as unrealistic language requirements, exorbitant fees, and unfair employment requirements.
“We are calling for real immigration reform that includes all 11 million undocumented immigrants, no less," Carmona declared.
The petition drive was led by a wide range of immigration, Latino and progressive organizations, including CREDO Action, Presente.org, Reform Immigration FOR America (RI4A), Daily Kos,National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and America’s Voice Education Fund (AVEF).