Immigration Reform is Now a Pact with History

By Maribel Hastings and David Torres  •   America’s Voice

For those who have waited for immigration reform that legalizes them, a few more days doesn’t mean much. Well, at least not the time needed to know if the Senate Parliamentarian will or will not authorize inclusion of a path to citizenship in the budgetary measure that will be considered through the reconciliation process. The problem is that within this entire imbroglio, immigrants could lose the lives and futures they have built in this country.

Yes, because one needs to be clear about it at this point. So much is said of the political climate and its technicalities, with likely votes, foreseeable obstacles, strategies, plans, narratives, and even whether this will have political impacts on legislators in the near term. But in immigrants’ day to day existence, the only strategy is to not depend on promises in order to reach their goals, amidst an eternal immigration limbo that has already become routine.

And no one understands this reality like they do.

Still, this is the first opportunity in several years in which diverse factors converge, fundamentally that both the Congress and the White House are controlled by Democrats, who have promised this reform for years without it becoming a reality.

For example, Barack Obama promised it in 2008, but we already know how that ended. With a Democratic Congress, health care reform got all the attention; and then, in 2010, the Democrats lost the House of Representatives. Not to mention that Obama increased deportations. In 2012, pressured by Dreamers and in the middle of his reelection campaign, Obama signed an executive order that created DACA, and in 2013 the Democratic Senate approved an immigration reform plan but it was never considered in the majority-Republican House of Representatives.

Since then, it has to be said, the Dreamers have been the tip of the spear of a new immigration movement that has given power and resistance not only to this group of young people who were brought to the United States during their infancy, but also their families, first off, and other segments of the population who for years seemed forgotten, although they never stopped fighting, such as farm workers—to whom this nation owes a great deal.

And now there isn’t even talk of legalizing the universe of 11 million undocumented people, since the current proposal includes just around 8 million people among four groups: Dreamers, farm workers, TPS beneficiaries, and other essential workers.

Still, the support for building a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is overwhelming across the country, as poll after incessant poll shows, revealing an undeniable pro-immigrant sentiment, and at the same time a pragmatic attitude based on the irrefutable benefit that achieving legalization would have on the U.S. economy.

A few days ago, for example, the organization Data for Progress released the results of twelve state polls in which a wide majority backed legalization—in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, Georgia, and Montana. Oregon had the highest support, with 80% in favor vs. 15% against, while the smallest level of support was in Montana, with 62% in favor and 25% against.

As one can see, in each instance support exceeded 50%. This despite the resurgence of anti-immigrant rhetoric and campaigns, filled with xenophobia and racism.

With all of that, we are now in a wait-and-see mode within a complex process, where just one person decides if the legalization language meets the requirements to be considered as part of the budget reconciliation.

But whether the answer is yes or no, the economic contributions of undocumented people—on top of paying various taxes and into programs like Social Security—should be reason enough to try to legalize them. But politicking, especially anti-immigrant discourse, has prevailed over reason for decades.

If nothing happens this time, we have to remember that midterm elections are next year, and who knows if the Democrats will keep their tight majorities in Congress. That’s why this sense of urgency in favor of immigration reform is more present than ever, and it should be—more than a political promise, a pact with history.

Because disappointment has been another constant for undocumented immigrants since the new century began with then Republican candidate, George W. Bush, promising immigration reform in the year 2000. Promise which, when he became president, turned to dust with the Twin Towers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

That is, immigrants have been waiting for a solution since the 20th century, as the last amnesty was in 1986. There’s no fear left. So whether campaign promises are fulfilled or not, they know that they have to continue moving forward, keeping their noses to the grindstone and ensuring their families’ future, no matter the cost.

This is as it has always been, with or without political promises.


News, information and advocacy for Latinos in the Midwest. LatinosInTheMidwest is a digital publication by El Puente, LLC. Noticias, información y defensa de los derechos de los Latinos en el Medio Oeste de Estados Unidos. LatinosInTheMidwest es una publicación digital de El Puente, LLC.