Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) – A workable comprehensive immigration reform bill on the table, more sympathetic leadership in Congress and a "this year or maybe never" incentive are prodding immigration advocates to action.
After a day and a half of briefings and strategizing with advocates who work on immigration every day, activists from more than 66 dioceses took their campaign for immigration reform to Capitol Hill April 19.
"It is terrifying, the prospect of a bad bill or no bill happening, considering the number of people who are involved in this," said Frank Sharry, director of the National Immigration Forum. Sharry was keynote speaker for the April 17-19 Justice for Immigrants national gathering organized by the U.S. Catholic bishops' migration awareness campaign of the same name.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he plans to bring immigration legislation to the floor for debate and a vote the last two weeks of May.
As of mid-April, there was no Senate legislation in the mix, but a House bill, H.R. 1645, had the backing – at least as a starting point – of many in a vast coalition of business, agriculture, union, civil rights, ethnic and religious organizations.
It is called the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act, or STRIVE Act.
At an April 18 session of the national gathering, Sharry was optimistic about getting an immigration reform bill signed into law this congressional session. He said the turning point in the debate about how to tackle immigration problems was the passage last year of a House bill packed with strict enforcement measures and little to deal with problems such as the demand for workers that cannot be filled by existing visa allotments.
When that bill and a more comprehensive Senate version could not be reconciled and neither became law, Sharry said, the American people got fed up with both the current state of immigration problems and with congressional inaction.
The House bill contained several problematic provisions, including one that would have criminalized the act of providing help to illegal immigrants. Anger at the prospect of that bill becoming law galvanized hundreds of thousands of people to join rallies and marches around the country last spring...
A USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted in mid-April found 78 percent of a random sampling of Americans favor giving illegal immigrants a pathway to legal status and citizenship.
An assortment of polls over the last six months showed between 57 percent and 65 percent of people nationwide and 83 percent of Californians favor providing a path to legalization. California has been at the forefront of immigration problems and activism...
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