Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Debate Marches On

Debunking Myths on Immigration
A Talking Point from The American Progress Action Fund
April 11, 2006

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and other cities for the National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice.  The size of the demonstrations surprised even the organizers – showing a huge groundswell of support for comprehensive immigration reform and anger over the inaction of Congress to pass a bill before they left for recess.  In the wake of the bill falling apart, many on Capitol Hill and those against real immigration reform are spreading myths about what really transpired over the past few days.  There is a need to separate the myth from reality in the heated rhetoric surrounding the immigration debate.

  • Conservatives deserve the blame for the failure of the passage of the immigration bill.  Despite attempts to place the blame at the feet of the progressive members of congress, the truth is that conservatives were responsible for the bill dying.  The Hagel-Martinez bill WAS the compromise that was agreed on.  There was bipartisan support for the original bill (McCain-Kennedy), but in the interest of getting a bill out of the Senate, many progressives further compromised and supported the Hagel-Martinez bill.  Democrats, wanting the strongest possible bill to come out of the Senate, opposed amendments to Hagel-Martinez because they feared the bill would get watered down in conference with the House.
  • Immigration isn’t just a “Mexican” issue.  Conservatives are trying to paint the immigration fight as one with Mexicans only.  That is not the case.  While the crowds were "mostly Latino," "people representing other ethnic groups also participated." People from all corners of the globe came out to support immigration reform.  In New York, "the thousands who converged at City Hall Park were greeted in Spanish, Chinese, French and Korean, and heard invocations by a rabbi and the leader of a Buddhist temple."  Alan Coleman, a teacher in Washington, D.C., held a sign "decorated with green shamrocks" that read "We Were All Immigrants Once."
  • There is still hope for a comprehensive immigration bill.  Despite all the talk that “immigration reform is dead,” the rallies of the past few days prove that the people won’t let the issue just go away.  When Congress comes back after yet another break, they will have heard plenty from their constituents who overwhelmingly want fair reform.  The McCain-Kennedy bill still remains the model for what should be passed: a bill that secures our borders, cracks down on employers who hire the undocumented and provides a path to citizenship that isn’t amnesty for the over 11 million undocumented people living in America today.

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