"He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 49:10

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Immigration Reform - Past Due!

by Fidel "Butch" Montoya

Latino voters from across the country congratulated one another on the role they played in helping to elect Barrack H. Obama as president. It was a time of self reflection and celebration. Many Latinos now felt their issues were going to be addressed and solutions found.

One of the issues high on candidate Obama’s agenda was his promise to address the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Obama put his campaign on over drive in its attempts to reach out to the voters who were supposed to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Well, we know the story. Obama got elected. HOPE and CHANGE were the words of the season. We would see the change we all sought for America and now there was hope as well.

With the President’s ratings dropping and all his political capital backed by paper money, Obama finds that with three years to go, already all is not well in Obama Land.

The Wall Street Journal’s poll is not good news for the president. The 12/11 - 14/2009 Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows 47% - 46% approval for the President. Below 50% and with the war on terror hitting a major pothole in the last few weeks, it does not look for President Obama even as we approach the new year with optimism.

The Wall Street Journal reports that overall the President has lost a good part of the Independent vote and has lost most of his Republican support. Losing this support is going to make it difficult to govern, particularly as Democrats find themselves fighting amongst themselves.

NBC's Mark Murray commenting on the latest polls says, "This survey underscores what I consider a dramatic and unmistakable change in the political landscape,” said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted the survey with GOP pollster Bill McInturff. “For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast.”

We have seen how the Democrats have handled the health care reform debacle, buying support from some Democratic senators that are only looking out for their own states and not for the common good.

While there is a celebration in the Senate over heath care reform, the House version is far different and most likely mean more horse trading to get it done, if that it is possible.

With the President’s popularity falling to earth, the health care debate debacle must likely poisoning the immigration reform debate and Democrats choosing sides, it does not look like the best time to introduce comprehensive immigration reform…or will there ever be a good time.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Democrat from Illinois introduced the first step toward comprehensive immigration reform with CIR – ASAP. “Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009”.

Immediately, support was being voiced from around the country, with the general consensus being that “it is time”. The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) commended Rep. Gutierrez for introducing CIR – ASAP.

Catherine Tactaquin, NNIRR’s Executive Director did however voice some concerns being raised by other immigration reform allies. “While Rep. Gutierrez’s proposed legislation includes some needed protections for our vulnerable communities, it continues to treat immigration as a ‘national security’ issue and stops short of doing away with the most egregious aspects of our flawed immigration system.”

Many immigration allies agree that thousands of undocumented immigrants continue to be arrested and detained by local law enforcement who often does not understand the nuances of enforcing immigration law. No one need look further than Arizona Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio who has abused the Section 287 (g), Immigration and Nationality Act; Delegation of Immigration Authority agreement with Homeland Security Department.

The Section 287 (g) immigration enforcement agreements with local law enforcement agencies are supposed to provide the necessary training for local cops to act like federal homeland agents. Unfortunately, in Sheriff Arpaio’s case, his troops are accused of violating the civil rights, not to mention civility and moral laws toward undocumented immigrants.

It got so bad in Arizona; Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon called in the Justice Department to investigate Sheriff Arpaio and his gang of merry men. That says something when the mayor of a major city has to call for a Justice Department investigation against the county’s sheriff, and the agency who signed the original Section 287 (g) immigration enforcement agreement.

Meanwhile, in Southern California, State Senator Gil Cedillo didn’t even wait for the ink to dry on Rep. Gutierrez’s immigration reform package before announcing at a press conference his opposition and “to raise concerns about Luis Gutierrez’s Immigration Reform Bill.”

When asked why Cedillo and the Southern California Immigration Coalition were so quick out the door to oppose this legislation, spokesperson Ron Gochez told me, “This bill, for the most part, seems much more progressive than previous bills associated with Gutierrez so we are happy about that. However, we have the responsibility to raise concerns that are otherwise ignored or swept under the rug by the Democratic Party and its leadership.”

I asked Gochez why not work through the process in the Congress to seek changes to the bill so opponents to immigration reform can’t point their fingers and say, “They aren’t even united amongst themselves.”

Gochez fired back, “Although we would like to see real change come from Congress, history tells us that this will only come from an organized people who demand and are willing to fight for their rights and dignity. Power never concedes power without a fight.”

This brings us back to the primary concern about the need for immigration reform. First, with our own gente going public with their opposition to the Gutierrez Bill, that creates a perception that we are not united in our efforts to get reform passed in 2010.

Second, has the poorly managed health care reform legislation poisoned the water for comprehensive immigration reform?

Third, will the Democrats stay together on immigration reform or start making deals to water it down?

But perhaps, more importantly, has anyone heard President Obama come out lately….and say he supports Rep. Luis Gutierrez’s CIR – ASAP immigration reform bill?

I don’t think his falling approval ratings means the president will sit this one out too, do you think?

For the proponents of CIR - ASAP, "the red flags are flying at full mast,” indeed!

This article first appeared on http://www.latinolandscape.com/

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972.

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