Letter Two To President Obama – Immigration Reform Now!

President Obama talks with Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for South Asia, left, and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon in the Oval Office, Nov. 13, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Nov. 16, 2012: Dear Mr. President, What a difference a few days makes! Suddenly, Republican lawmakers have abandoned their ‘self-deportation/build a fence’ platform and are seemingly ready to embrace comprehensive immigration reform.

No more support of states like Arizona and Alabama and their racial profiling immigration laws; no more talk of “anchor babies” and “illegal aliens.”After the November 6th shalacking, based largely on the turnout of the Latino voting bloc of 23.7 million, Republicans are now ready to get in line and bend over.

The former hard liner on the issue, House Speaker John Boehner, suddenly says that comprehensive reform, which includes a pathway to legalization for the undocumented, will be a priority in 2013. And in the Senate, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is teaming up with New York Democrat, Chuck Schumer, to put together a bipartisan bill that can hopefully pass the Senate.
But as they say, the proof will be in the pudding.

We have gone down this road before under former President George W. Bush where the famous Ted Kennedy/John McCain Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of May 12, 2005 got many immigrants excited. We saw more excitement again in 2006 with Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of Senator Arlen Specter. Yet the measures got nowhere and left many at the proverbial altar.

Like you, President Bush had promised to deliver immigration reform for the Latino voters who had helped get him elected in his second term, but failed them because of the extreme right wing segment of his Party, including Rep. Lamar Smith, (R) of Texas, who see any reform as amnesty and refused to budge on anything but the harshest of measures.

So forgive me if I remain only cautiously optimistic. But I agree with you – we have to “seize the moment” and make this issue a top priority come January 2013, especially since Latino and immigrant votes are now up for grabs.

There are now just 11.6 million immigrants living in an undocumented capacity across the U.S., home to 309.3 million people. Of the current illegal population, only 14 percent have entered the U.S. since 2005. That means the vast majority have been in the country for years.

Of that number, 56 percent are Mexicans, 22 percent from Latin America, 13 percent from Asia, 6 percent from the Caribbean and Europe and three percent from Africa. They are all depending on you for some form of relief now that the data proves illegal immigration is down at the Mexican border even as criminal deportation is up.

So any argument from the right about fixing the border first is mute – you already have! A bill both Democrats and Republicans can agree on quickly should definitely include some of the suggestions put forward by the GOP including learning English, paying a fine and back taxes, making E-verify mandatory nationwide, giving priority to spouses and children caught up in the sponsorship backlog, overhauling the Labor Certification Program to match qualified workers with urgent work and using biometric data to better track foreign travelers.

But what you and Democrats cannot flip flop on is a pathway to legal status for the many that have been living in this country for decades and contributing to this economy. This is hardly amnesty. What it is, is the smart thing to do – economically, socially and politically. Especially as the Pew Hispanic Center predicts that the Hispanic electorate is likely to double by 2030, up to 40 million.

This is indeed the moment to make immigration reform happen. Enough of the hand wringing! Let’s make this immigration bill a New Year’s gift to all immigrants and line up the votes to make it a reality!


Felicia Persaud

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.