President Obama prepares for his weekly address (White House photo)
A new battle over illegal immigration is rapidly shaping up in the nation’s capital.
Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform are demanding immediate legislative action from the Obama administration with a planned mass demonstration in Washington scheduled for March 21, billed as “March for America: Change Takes Courage.”
Meanwhile, Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have been meeting with the White House to reintroduce immigration legislation. The bipartisan effort is reminiscent of twice-failed attempts by Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., during the administration of President George W. Bush.
Yet, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, does not expect any comprehensive immigration reform legislation to be pushed by the Obama administration in Congress this year.
“There is very little appetite in Congress to deal with immigration reform this year largely, because President Obama does not truly care about pushing comprehensive immigration,” Krikorian told WND.
“President Obama only mentions comprehensive immigration reform when talking to Hispanic groups. It’s not high on his legislative agenda, and that’s why we are seeing the discontent among the open-borders groups.”
In a controversial move that recalls the effort to create a Real ID national identity card and the current E-Verify system, Schumer and Graham have announced their intention to create a biometric national ID card that workers would need to present to employers to demonstrate their legal status to work.
Krikorian considers this a ruse.
“The point of Schumer and Graham’s new verification scheme is to kill the existing E-verify so illegal immigrants can get work right now,” he said. “It’s a tactical measure that has nothing to do with actually preventing illegal immigrants from getting jobs.”
Immigration activists angry at Obama
On Monday, a group of activists demanding comprehensive immigration reform held press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., broadcast by C-Span to tell the White House illegal immigrants and their supporters are losing patience with President Obama.
Arguing that deportations of illegals actually have increased by 60 percent under President Obama, the speakers at the press conference asserted, often in angry terms, that Obama was not living up to his campaign promises to relax enforcement of immigration laws.
Fair Immigration Reform Movement, or FIRM, a pro-immigration group organized under the auspices of the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C., sponsored the press conference.
“Today I join my colleagues from immigrant and civil rights organizations from across the country to denounce the cruel and inhumane immigration enforcement processes that are tearing our communities and our families apart,” Angelica Salas, the executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles, or CHIRLA, said to begin the press conference.
Arguing that enforcement of immigration laws has become even more severe under President Obama than under President Bush, Salas called for activists around the country to join the March 21 immigration march on Washington.
“Many of us celebrated the election of Barack Obama and believed the then-candidate-for-president Barack Obama when he promised to fix our broken immigration system,” Salas said. “Yet in the first year, the Obama administration has deported 387,000 people, a record high number of deportations.”
Fighting back tears, Beatrice Vasquez, a 15-year old Hispanic born in the U.S., next told the story about how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported her mother, who had illegally immigrated to the U.S., leaving her alone with her stepfather.
“My family had hopes Barack Obama was going to stop family separations,” she told the press conference. “President Obama, show us you are going to do something to show that you are a true president, a president who keeps his word.”
“[The Obama administration] seems proud to out-enforce the Bush administration, deporting 1,000 immigrants a day,” Pramila Jayapal, executive director of One America an “immigration rights coalition” in Seattle told the press conference. “This is not leadership and this is not ‘change we can believe in.'”
Calling on the Obama administration to deliver, Jayapal declared, “We expect the president to order his administration to stop the deportations and to demonstrate leadership on passing immigration reform.”
Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, told the press conference, “It is unconscionable to have over 380,000 people deported in the first year of the Obama administration, and our community is angry, and our members feel betrayed.”
Speaking largely in Spanish, Artemio Arreola, a spokesman for the Mexican-American Coalition for Immigration Reform, told the press conference he voted for the first time in November 2008 along with 10 million Hispanics, motivated by a charismatic candidate that promised to end deportations.
“Legalization is the solution, we want it now,” he said.
Obama administration stalls out
“Obama has not been what the open borders groups expected,” Krikorian told WND. “Right now, all the White House is trying to do is to contain the anger of immigration advocacy groups. There is no way there is going to be a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed this year or next year for that matter.”
Krikorian noted White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had commented during the 2008 presidential campaign that a Democratic White House was unlikely to have the political resolve or legislation coalition needed to pass comprehensive immigration reform until the second term in office.
“The Obama administration has been saying for six months that comprehensive immigration reform legislation will be introduced in the Senate any time now, and there is still no bill forthcoming from the White House,” Krikorian said.
On Monday, the White House canceled a meeting initially announced with Schumer and Graham to discuss comprehensive immigration reform, allegedly because of scheduling difficulties.
HR 4321, known as the Gutierrez Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill after immigration reform advocate Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D–Ill., currently has 94 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives.