As the immigration reform debate grows, national Latino organizations are placed in the middle of the debate likely to confront challenges as the details become more concrete.
Two proposals were unveiled within the same week by a bipartisan group of Senators dubbed the “Gang of Eight” and president Barack Obama. While both the White House and the Senators have attempted to dampen concerns that these are similar principles, others have foreshadowed incoming roadblocks.
One of those is a path to citizenship.
Latino organizations expected to mobilize for immigration reform
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) lightly touched on the issue during a Thursday press conference. He said that he along with his Republican colleagues agree that border security would not be a barrier to attaining citizenship. Yet, Schumer said defining a pathway to citizenship could become a challenge. The Senate framework indicates that it would be dependent on border security, while Obama’s outline doesn’t.
It was also noted by an analysis in the Washington Post that Republicans could also face a dilemma if Obama and Democrats reject such notions and are forced “to vote on a more direct path to citizenship.” In addition, even within the Republicans who are supporting the Senate framework such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) they are already cautioning that by building the debate upon “social provisions,” it would likely fall apart.
“We do have concerns that —the ideas are putting in quite a few obstacles” said Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum. “To tie citizenship to a very complicated border security validation process could just be a never ending path.”
Adding to the equation the role national organizations that cater to the Latino community will play as the debate moves forward could become crucial. Before the November elections, Latino organizations were pivotal in mobilizing grassroots support among the community and consequently helped get the president reelected. An estimated 71 percent of Latino voters favored Obama in contrast to Romney at 27 percent.
Last December, the same coalition of groups indicated they would be enforcing similar get-out-the-vote strategies to pursue immigration reform that could be starting in early March. The national groups have yet to “draw a line in the sand” just yet, but there is general consensus of what they would be supporting.
NALEO advocates for citizenship
“The pathway to citizenship is also encouraging that all three sides, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, White House and Senate are referring to creating some sort of path,” said Max Sevillia, director of policy and legislative affairs of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).
“In the past, we have seen quotes from Sen. Rubio that talks more about a path to legalization than a path to citizenship, but from the senate principles it seems like he’s in full agreement.”
Sevillia said such details that they will be looking forward to including are questions such as permanent partners, the timing of this path to citizenship, the issue of whether or not the legislation will include a trigger or something that needs to happen before the status of undocumented individuals changes and a “robust integration title” that would facilitate the transition for legal permanent residence.
He added that they will also be advocating for a path that is “fair and reasonable.”
“Ones that are achievable, ones that are not overly punitive to our community and that provide a real opportunity for people to come out of the shadows,” he said.
NALEO, the National Council of La Raza, AFL-CIO and other national groups such as the National Immigration Law Center have taken similar stances on the issue of citizenship, and certain provisions such as family reunification will also come under debate as the question on future flow is deliberated. In addition, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) reiterated their stance on family reunification after the president’s speech in Las Vegas, Nevada.
MALDEF indicated that they will advocate for “the continued proliferation of state and local anti-immigrant laws and policies that undermine nationally determined policies, enforcement of family unification policies that discriminate against LGBT couples.”
Eight national Latino organizations who played a pivotal role in mobilizing Latino turnout will be engaged in the effort, which includes the National Council of La Raza, LULAC, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Voto Latino, the Hispanic Federation, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Mi Familia Vota and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).