As the debate intensifies in the nation over Comprehensive Immigration Reform, a potential catalyst gathering is in the making at the University of California Riverside. The ambitious event billed as a Leadership Immigration Summit is a product of the sponsoring student Alliance for Immigration Reform and it has invited scholars, elected leaders and immigration reform activists as well as extended a letter of invitation to President Barack Obama.
The Summit scheduled for March 16, 2013 looks good and I thank the organizers for inviting me to participate in the planning session plenary.
Additionally and with all due respect, I have a few humble observations on the program. At the present moment, with possibly days from the publication of the Senate and House Bills on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, the huge political momentum that has been building since and during the presidential campaign, appears to be irreversible. Specifically, as a key beginning, the implementation of Deferred Action-DACA for the 1.8 million undocumented students in the country. Moreover, without a doubt immigration has crystallized as a mainstream national issue, becoming a significant part of the “national conversation” since the November 6, 2012 elections and it is also one of the three legislative priorities successfully put forth by the administration and placed on the agenda in both federal legislative bodies for 2013. Essentially, with a few exceptions or skeptics, most experts, elected leaders and prominent national organizations from all sectors of the political spectrum involved in the process, agree that the passage of the long awaited reform is imminent.
I have looked at the makeup of the policy makers on the agenda for the event and they are all democrats, and I don’t mind that, except that the list does not include any of the players directly involved in the making of the upcoming bills from both houses. By this I mean proven immigration reform elements such as Cong. Xavier Becerra, the 3rd or 5th most powerful member of the House or Cong. Luis Gutierrez whom we all know is the well known Latino elected leader and advocate for reform since the Immigrant Spring of 2006. And of course they are both members of the congressional group of six in charge of formulating the House Bill. Plus, I don’t see anyone representing the White House and my understanding is that a formal invitation letter was sent to the President by the student organizers.
My point is that in order to build a viable ground based working plan, for the afternoon planning session, the confirmed panel of participants –and I’m one them- the media and the several hundred expected participants in the summit will need fresh information, the fine points on the political and organizational process and identifying the key targets for the lobbying pressure points. Furthermore, something that is always left out of the equation and gatherings of this nature is the role of the extreme anti immigrant right wing. I am referring to FAIR, Numbers USA, Chris Coach and their historical leader John Tanton, all together make up the brains behind the burned out SB 1070 legislative strategy. The question is where are they now and the identifying their strategic plan, if there is one?
As I write, the Labor and Business Commission has reached a milestone agreement on future flow of immigrant workers, low and high tech, very similar to the one included in the 2007 STRIVE ACT by Gutierrez and also his 2010 proposal. At the same time a 500 member Bus Tour of Undocumented Immigrants to D.C. has already departed from several cities in the country, including Chicago, Washington State and Texas and the 10 bus caravans will stop in several cities before arriving to the Capital on March 13 to lobby Congress. The tour is being coordinated by the Washington based Center for Community Change and sponsored by several national grass roots coalitions. This comes on the hills of several hundred DREAMERs who were just in Congress. And like them there has been a parade of movements and forces that have already been there and many more to go.
The political process is going to intensify immensely as the bills officially reach Congress. Parallel, the marches and the promoting organizations have begun to move with several large media events and small street demonstrations in the hundreds taking place last week in Las Vegas, Austin, El Paso, San Jose, and other cities. Leaders are now setting their eyes on March 30 in LA, April 10 in D.C. and May 1st for major mobilizations in targeted battleground regions and the capital. If the movement stays out of divisions and succeeds in moving hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions, as in the Immigrant Spring of 2006, it will be a determining factor for a more progressive Comprehensive Immigration Reform, specifically for a broader and expeditious inclusive legalization and the overhaul of the archaic and broken system.
Hopefully it is understood that in this last stage of a 27 year struggle that began in 1987 in Los Angeles on behalf of the 2.5 million immigrants that were left out of the Amnesty Law approved the year before, there is already an ongoing political and organizational train running full speed ahead, with a whole set of local, regional and national protagonists and strategies all the way to the White House, at play. So what are those visions and what forces are behind them? In this context, and though I respect many of the scheduled participants, I strongly believe that several key players should still be invited such as President Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, SEIU’s National Secretary Treasurer Enedino Medina, Journalist Maribel Hastings or Frank Sharry of America’s Voice, a spokesperson for the Center for Community Change-the key organization behind the 200,000 people March on Washington in 2010, as well as a representative for the main DREAMER national organization.
*The Alliance is also being mentored by Maryann Gonzalez and Prof. Armando Navarro
*Javier Rodriguez is a journalist and a media and political strategist. A long time social activist, he was the initiator and directed the making of the 1.7 million historical immigration march in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006 as well as the May 1st 2006 Great American Boycott. He is presently involved in the making of La Universidad Obrera de Mexico-Los Angeles and recently completed his third trip thru Mexico in a year, observing and writing about the country’s political process, the aftermath of a highly questioned presidential election, the drug war and migrants. Blog Larayueladejavier.wordpress.com email firstname.lastname@example.org.