Momentum is building to pressure the president to deliver on immigration reform as business stakeholders, law, faith leaders and even former president George W. Bush are vocalizing their support on legislation.
The former president George W. Bush came out of the shadows Tuesday to announce that he believes lawmakers should tackle immigration reform with a “benevolent spirit.”
“Immigrants come with new skills and new ideas,” Bush relayed at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas. “They fill a critical gap in the labor market.”
It almost mimics a race in terms of which party gets a hold of the immigration debate. Faith and business leaders indicated that politically there is plenty at stake within both parties. Yet, in the end, it seemed that advocates were hopeful the president would push forward his own legislation on comprehensive immigration reform.
Faith leader says Obama has 92 days after inauguration to introduce immigration reform
Faith leaders such as Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners, wasted no time dictating the premise of his argument. He told reporters at a press conference Tuesday morning that the president has 92 days to introduce immigration reform.
“In 2013, we’re calling on the president in the White House and we’re going to meet with the White House and we’re calling on action in 92 days. That’s a specific task and I’m hopeful about the response,” said Wallis.
More than 250 activists are planning a strategy session and are then heading to Capitol Hill for meetings with lawmakers today. The coalition clarified that rather than advocating for a piecemeal approach, they’re pushing for a comprehensive reform package.
“The time is now,” reiterated Wallis. “We’re calling for something big, something bold, something that changes the issues.”
Legalization versus citizenship
The issue as raised by reporters seems to dictate that the contention is less about amnesty, but rather it’s legalization versus citizenship. Ali Noorani, president of the National Immigration Forum, explained that at the end of the day such pathways will be determined by Congress. Noorani emphasized that as supporters they’re going to build momentum for Congress to act.
Other leaders including Richard Land, president of Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, indicated that they were not taking a position on either approach. It could be possibly a series of immigration bills.
Yet, others like Mark Shurtleff, a conservative Attorney General of Utah, took a more solid stance.
“I believe it has to be comprehensive,” said Shurtleff. While explaining that in 2007 it seemed that everything was labeled as amnesty with the other issue of contention being border security.
“You can’t piece meal like that,” he said. “We’ve learned that now state by state where the enforcement only punitive actions of certain states have hurt the economy.”
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez later explained to VOXXI that he wouldn’t be completely opposed to a legalization option that took several approaches, but it has to be structured in an orderly fashion.
“Passing a piecemeal. That’s a bit subjective if it means one piece in March, one piece in April, one piece in May—all part of a collective prescription that’s tolerable, but if it means years of dividing a political component of immigration reform it’s not politically feasible or acceptable.”
He added that permanent residency and earned citizenship is a “must” not just for family members, but also agricultural workers.
Pressuring the White House
The same was echoed by Luis Cortes, president of Esperanza. He said where they’re both balancing the debate is the guest worker programs. Cortes told VOXXI it’s going to be difficult to get a bill passed from the Democratic Party on the temporary worker provision because of their union alliance.
Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, explained in a previous interview with VOXXI that the reason they opposed guest worker provisions is because when the Bush administration championed immigration reform in 2007, it required a worker to return to their home country. There was no pathway to become a permanent legal resident. He said that could potentially lead to workers being more easily exploited.
Cortes added that he’s hopeful the president will begin negotiations on the immigration reform debate. Faith based leaders and business stakeholders indicated that the margin of victory between winning and losing within the Republican Party has narrowed.
Administration officials within the White House are also playing a pivotal role including key figures such as Cesar Chávez’s granddaughter, Julie Chávez. The next step will be to meet with them. A coalition of faith and business leaders will be discussing their efforts with White House staff tomorrow.
Yet, the bigger question still centers on the president’s image.
“The question is can the president reach across the aisle?” said Cortes.