In the Republican-controlled House, many legislators are positioning themselves to not only resist but also undermine immigration reform. Speaker John Boehner has said that he will not bring a bill to the floor unless a majority of Republicans support it.
Immigration reform has been on hold for more than a decade, leaving 11 million people in a legal limbo. We strongly urge representatives in Washington to instead work on sensible and humane policy solutions that will resolve the plight of families across this nation.
But for legislators who want to usher a bipartisan reform effort into a minefield of backwards amendments, we remind them of the following.
In 2006, immigrants and allies rallied across the country in massive demonstrations. The slogan then was "Today we march, tomorrow we vote."
It was not an empty promise.
The anti-immigrant attacks from the right had grown so hostile that it drove outraged voters to the polls. They helped cast a Democrat in the White House. This trend continued as Republicans moved to be more inclusive in 2012 but failed to offer a real program for immigration reform. The political implications for those who choose to go to the negotiation table in bad faith are clear.
But more importantly than the political consequences, Congress has a moral obligation to children who should not be separated from their parents. It must bring out of the shadows people who stand ready for full integration and to contribute to our nation's economy as baby boomers age out.
In these weeks, the issue of border security has been allowed to dominate the discourse around reform. We understand that controls at the border are needed. However, the conversation around immigration reform doesn't begin and end at the border. And this two-step process that many Republicans are obsessed with – that legalization must be conditioned on a military border complex– is the same delay tactic they have been using for years.
Undocumented persons are willing to pay penalties and meet a host of requirements. But to condemn them to some purgatory in an attempt to seal off the United States from Mexico is a political game because Republicans keep moving the line on what border security means.
We are also aware that Democrats — from President Obama down—promised to deliver comprehensive immigration reform, with a path to legalization and citizenship. This does not translate into an indefinite parking lot for undocumented families until Republicans have all of their items checked off. That's not compromise – it's capitulation.
We expect both parties to show leadership for a workable policy solution that sets up immigrants, and in turn, our nation, for success. In the meantime, we stand ready to bring great attention to who leads, and who works against this process.