Friday, July 31, 2009
Sophia Tareen writes for the Associated Press:
Activists disappointed that the Obama administration has not given Immigration top billing are trying to yank the issue off the back burner by pressing ahead with their own lobbying and legislation plans they hope will reinvigorate reform efforts.
By honing in on national lawmakers they believe are sympathetic or can be swayed to support their cause and drawing on voters who said reform was a top priority, many immigrant rights advocates are striving to make headway at a time when the economy is top priority.
"We're not going to just be chanting, 'Yes we can! Yes we can!"' said Jorge Mujica, an Immigration advocate in Chicago, which held the largest May 1 rallies and often sets the tone for activists nationwide. "We are going to put the pressure on discussing the details."
It's been a roller coaster ride for immigrant rights advocates pushing for reform over the past few years. When a call to action came in 2006, more than a million people nationwide marched in solidarity to fight a bill considered anti-immigrant. Since then, two legislation attempts failed. The movement fractured and May 1 rallies lost attendance.
Then came a surge of energy with massive voter registration drives and the election of President Barack Obama, whose father moved to the U.S. from Kenya.
Many activists hoped Obama would push for Immigration reform during his first 100 days in office. Some even thought the president would go so far as to put a moratorium on Immigration raids.
But the first hint of movement didn't come until late last month when Obama met with about 30 lawmakers. Though some immigrant rights advocates praised the meeting and Obama's vow to take up the issue this year, others complain he's been too vague on his plans for border security, employer-based verification for workers and the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S.
"People are disappointed that things haven't moved further," said University of California, Los Angeles professor Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda. "They're beginning to organize their own set of priorities."
At this week's annual convention in Chicago of one of the country's largest Hispanic advocacy organizations -- the National Council of La Raza -- attendees got tips on how to lobby lawmakers.
During a session called "Take Your Advocacy to the Next Level! Getting Immigration Reform Done," panelists specializing in political strategy told activists to create a "power analysis" of their U.S. senators and representatives that would include finding out their political donors, stances on Immigration and core values so activists could better appeal to them.
For example, activists could target Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, of North Carolina, who has advocated for families and is a working mom, the panelists said. With that in mind, they could press her on the issue of keeping immigrant families together, they said.
On the ground, activists are getting a jump start on such efforts. One group in Chicago, United Front for Immigrants, has drafted its own legislation proposal that gives lawmakers specific ideas to reform Immigration including ways to "decriminalize the status of being undocumented." For example, instead of deporting illegal immigrants who have no criminal background, the proposal suggests alternative punishments like community service. Click here for the rest of the article.