This week the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee started down the long thorny road of Immigration.
There are five Bills before the Senate Committee; the U.S. House of Representatives approved bill H.R.4437, the Sensenbrenner Bill, and the 300-page Immigration Bill, introduced by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), both bills focus in on the criminalization aspects of Immigration Reform. Then, there is HR 2330, introduced by Senators John McCain and Edward Kennedy, the Comprehensive Enforcement Immigration Control Act, introduced by Senators John Cornyn and Jon Kyl, and finally there is HR 2092, introduced by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, that is radically different from all others. The McCain/Kennedy Bill and the Cornyn/Kyl bill reflect the Guest Worker type programs, while the Lee Bill has no guest worker provision and grants legal status to anyone living in the U.S. for five years from the date of passage.
Our intent is not to dissect each Bill today, but to reflect the varying degrees of this issue from the Nativist perspective that wants to build bigger fences and further criminalize the process, going as far as to put Social Workers and Priests into jail for humanitarian work. Our intent here is to demonstrate that the voices being raised by the Hispanic community are having an impact on the dialogue. What we are seeing is a growing involvement, a maturing of the Hispanic political body and, do we dare use this term, an awakening of the sleeping giant?
Herman Baca of the Committee on Chicano Rights of National City raised his voice at the Mexican/Latino Leadership Summit in Riverside and addressed the Immigration issue from a Historical and Human Rights perspective. Enrique Morones hit the road with his caravan across the Southwest to Washington, D.C. to raise his voice to change the current anti-immigrant landscape.
In San Francisco, the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, which is protesting the aspect of new Bracero type programs, is holding a hunger strike in front of the San Francisco Federal Building. In Chicago several Hispanic groups held a march protesting the impact of HR 4437 and the wave of fear that this Bill would spread across America. Even within the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, voices have been rising against the “Nativest” aspects of HR 4437 and embracing the positive aspects of Immigration i.e. that Immigration is a positive aspect to economic growth and low unemployment.
This Hispanic Community, on several levels is rising to the occasion and addressing on issues that are vital to their existence as full fledged members of America. In a recent Poll it was revealed that 49 percent of the Latinos were “extremely” concerned about illegal immigration. They are making their voices heard. As the Hispanic Community continues to evolve and become more and more involved in the political life of America, it will have to make their voices relevant to the ongoing political discussions at many more levels other than on Immigration issues. Hispanics, Mexicans Americans, Latinos are an important element of Americas growth and development. It is time that they participate in all aspects of America’s development!