ATLANTA—As part of a national campaign, people from Asian and Hispanic grassroots groups visited their representatives on March 5 to discuss comprehensive immigration reform.
They want a Senate bill by March 21 that will include an easy path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who are in the United States illegally. Opponents call such a provision amnesty and have resisted it. It seems like a long shot.
Yet according to Son Ah Yun, board member of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), elected officials must realize how important those groups already are as a voting bloc and how much more important they will become.
“In the fall of 2012 our communities spoke [in the national election], Comprehensive Immigration Reform must pass now with a clear, un-burdensome path to citizenship and reunite families by reducing backlogs,” Yun said in a press release announcing the tour.
It is important for officials to see that the fast-growing Asian and Latino communities are cooperating, according to Yun.
“We are not going to change their minds today,” said Teodoro Maus, former diplomat, architect, and painter who is co-founder and president of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) and a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “If we can create a doubt in their minds that perhaps they are not on the right route, it will be a great success.”
The advocates visited the offices of Reps. David Scott (D-Ga.) and Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) and Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
No staff in any of the offices would discuss immigration policy in detail, according to Judy Yi of NAKASEC. Despite that, it was a good beginning, she said. She noted that Woodall is very engaged with his constituents, often holding town hall meetings, and she encouraged the activists on the bus to attend such events.
Woodall criticized President Barack Obama’s 2012 directive to the Department of Homeland Security allowing certain young undocumented immigrants to apply for deferred removal, nicknamed the DREAM Act. Woodall said in a June 2012 press release, “With today’s decree, President Obama demonstrates the same contempt for America’s laws that those who enter illegally do.”
Yovany Diaz applied for deferred removal. He is 18 years old and has spent most of his life in the United States. “I like the DREAM Act, but it creates divisions between people,” he said. During downtime on the bus, he read Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” in Spanish.
“We’ve built networks all these years,” said Adelina Nicholls, executive director of GLAHR. “It’s a new generation, a new generation,” she added.
The key principle for immigration reform to the groups on the bus tour is to “Keep families together by preserving the family immigration system, eliminating the immigration backlogs, stopping mandatory and indefinite detentions and cruel deportations for minor infractions,” according to a handout from NAKASEC.
According to an email from D. A. King, founder and president of the Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society, “The twisted and mindless message here is that American borders and immigration laws are somehow human or civil rights violations. This opposition to enforcement of the same immigration laws that brings in more than 1 million legal immigrants—most from Asia and Latin America—to the USA each year would not change with enactment of yet another legalization scheme for illegal aliens.”
The Anti-Defamation League describes King as an extremist who espouses inflammatory anti-immigrant rhetoric. His views have influenced Georgia legislators and have been presented neutrally in the mainstream media.
Georgia passed a state immigration law (H.B. 87), modeled on Arizona’s S.B. 1070, that makes it illegal to aid illegal immigrants and requires employers to check the immigration status of new hires, among other provisions. King strongly supported the law. Farmers and small-business owners have sought to amend the law.
Groups in 19 other states are holding the bus tours, which will culminate in Washington, D.C., on March 12 and 13. Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington state, and Wisconsin are the other states.
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