For the past couple of days, the Senate Immigration bill, also known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act has been the talk of the town. Needless to say, citizens from both the virtual and real worlds have been debating, pointing and counterpointing its finer details. Concerns include how the steep fines may make it cost-prohibitive, how certain restrictions will leave out many groups like siblings and gay, lesbian and transgender couples; as well as the lengthy path for citizenship and wait time for family reunification. But the one that has gotten the most commentary, both positive and negative, has been the enhanced -- and for many, unnecessarily tough -- proposed border security measures.
Whatever the outcome, for now the community seems cautiously optimistic, but one thing is for sure: Everyone agrees that the work on this plan is far from done. Now is when the real fight will happen in order to make sure this piece of legislation does not get derailed, that the efforts and hopes of so many people are not shattered to smithereens. But what exactly needs to happen? What should the community be focusing on next to get this legislation passed?
Here is what some of the most active voices in the community -- organizers, Dreamers and a certain historical figure -- think needs to happen. Let's listen -- and act -- accordingly.
Vivien Labaton, co-chair of We Belong Together
While we applaud the Gang of Eight for proposing to reunite family members caught in the backlog who have been separated for decades, we urge the Senate to keep family at the heart of our immigration system even after that backlog is cleared. We need to ensure women are treated humanely and fairly, and can bring all of their many contributions to strengthen our culture, economy, and communities in America. Reform is not common sense until it includes women and meets the needs of their families.
Joaquín Guerra, Director of New Organizing at Campaign for Community Change
The fact that we have a bill is a victory in itself and a testament to the work of many different organizations that have invested in building the political power of Latinos and the movement to bring all 11 million brothers and sisters living in the shadows. Now begins the hard work of fighting to keep in the good parts of the bill and fighting back the parts of the bill that don't live up to the values of America.
I think that there is no going back. We have a bill that has many great things and many that will most likely hurt our community, but that's why we need to keep telling our stories as human beings who are being affected by the thousands of deportations and family separations that happen every day. My mother will be able to stay in this country, regardless of her deportation date if the bill passes. I am super excited about that! And my 32-year-old sister is a Dreamer again. But I also hope that border security does not become an excuse for my family to not stay together. This is just the beginning of this fight.
Lily Eskelsen, Vice President, National Education Association (NEA)
What's next? We get excited. Not angry. Not demanding. We have the attitude that we've already won the hearts and minds of Americans. I just talk with people about how excited we are that Congress is finally seeing what teachers have seen -- that our students are an asset in every way to the United States, and we're finally are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel! Everyone who has two brain cells to rub together -- business people, advocates, the faith community, educators, Democrats and more and more and more Republicans know that what we have is broken and they're ready to fix it! This is wonderful news! Now we build coalitions. We build momentum. We build excitement that the time has come. Ya es tiempo!
Andy J. Fredes, Uruguayan Christian Musician, Immigration Reform Hopeful
I think this bill is not perfect, not what everyone wanted, but it's good! It means no more fear, no more abuse from employers, family reunification, the chance to apply to any job and freedom to go visit our countries and come back here. We are here because we love the U.S.A. We are willing to protect it and defend it. It is our home! I believe this time we will have Immigration Reform signed by Obama in a couple of months!
I would say the #1 thing people can do is call/write/email their Congress members and tell them we need reform that treats women fairly. They should also immediately sign our petition, because it's really important that we get as much pressure on them as possible to put what we want into the bill. We have lots of info on how to do this on our website.
Dolores Huerta, President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and Co-Founder United Farm Workers
The Senate plan is not all that we had hoped for. However, our community has to remember to be patient. This may be a battle that we have to win one step at a time. It is important for everyone to keep up the pressure. Contact your Congress people and ask them to vote for a just immigration bill.
- LULAC I Voted for Immigration Reform! ...You Should Too Immigration Campaign
- NCLR Tools for Reform
- We Belong Together Petition
What do you think about the proposal? Know of any other Immigration Reform Campaigns or Petitions? Please share them in the comments!