Immigrant Rights Activists: "It's Showdown Time"

February 23, 2010
Angela Caputo
Progress Illinois

If there's one point that Illinois' immigration reform activists have driven home over the past year, it's that they won't take "next year" for an answer. When naysayers on Capitol Hill said that legislative reforms had no chance of moving forward in 2010, Illinois' own Rep. Luis Gutierrez responded by introducing legislation that would put some 12 million undocumented people on the path to citizenship. Those community groups, faith leaders, and students that came out in record numbers to help elect President Obama in 2008 aren't backing down either. This spring, they are focusing their attention on the White House and Congress -- and taking the fight to their doorstep.

Activists from across the Prairie State -- from union organizers to clergy to nonprofit leaders -- came together yesterday to highlight their effort to send 10,000 Illinoisans to D.C. on March 21 for a national rally in favor of comprehensive immigration reform. (If you're interested in participating in the march, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has more information here.)

"It's showdown time," Centro Sin Fronteras' Emma Lozano said. "We are united as never before. We will mobilize as never before." Watch Lozano and fellow reform supporters, including Chicago Ald. Ricardo Munoz and United Electrical Workers District 11 President Carl Rosen:

As we've noted before, the overreaching goal of this campaign is to see the immigration reform package -- including Gutierrez' bill in the House and Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) forthcoming measure in the Senate -- clear both chambers by May. For that to happen, Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill must step up and display some political courage. On that note, local activists are calling on Illinois' own Sen. Dick Durbin -- a longtime advocate for reform -- to flex his muscles as majority whip. And of course, they're continue to urge President Obama to make immigration reform a priority as well.

With the general election nine months away, Illinois' Latino community is making sure to remind the players in Washington of their political power. After all, as America's Voice recently reported (PDF), this growing portion of the electorate could be key in deciding some tight elections this fall. "Latino voters will be voting just like they continued to vote," Juan Salgado of Instituto Progreso Latino said yesterday, "in high numbers."  And those votes will help determine whether their overall agenda moves forward or stalls.