New Congress Feeling the Power of the Latino Vote


SEIU Working to Keep Congress on the Road to Immigration Reform

Congress is getting ready to debate comprehensive immigration reform.

Members of Congress are discussing the issue behind closed doors and the White House is polishing its principles for public release. As the new Congress took office last week, the talk in Washington — besides the politically created fiscal crisis — was immigration.

“By-and-large, the United States is a nation of immigrants,” proclaimed House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, during the opening speech of Congress’ new term. “Built, enriched and strengthened by men, women and children who share our patriotism and seek the American dream. The strength of our democracy will be advanced by bold action for comprehensive immigration reform.”

The script for Ohio Republican John Boehner’s reelection as House Speaker included a nominating speech by ally, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-WA, which listed immigration reform as the second of three top issues — after tax reform — to be tackled by the new Congress.

The reason for Congress’s sense of urgency on immigration, of course, is the political rise of Latinos in the 2012 election, a point underscored by Vice President Joe Biden at a later event with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“What’s different today is that the rest of the nation, the rest of America, recognizes it’s time; it’s your time,” the vice president said. “Have you ever seen a time when the Republicans had a more rapid epiphany about immigration than the one they had in this past election? All of a sudden…the American people know what their leaders are only figuring out, the awesome potential (of the Latino community).”

Therein lies our challenge. The talk in Washington points to the road for comprehensive immigration reform, but we all know the road is filled with sharp dips, curves, and yes, a few more cliffs. Our job is to keep Congress on track to enact comprehensive immigration reform this year and prove that the potential of the Latino community is, indeed, awesome. Our task is not easy.

Congress, after nearly crashing on fiscal matters, is being asked whether it can handle the ongoing budge battles and take on immigration. Congress has no choice. Congress must do immigration reform. The public demands it and so do the Latino, law enforcement, faith and business communities.

Lawmakers are going to have to learn how to steer and shift gears at the same time, and deliver immigration reform that places 11 million undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship, requires employers to play by the same rules so that all workers receive fair wages and benefits, and keeps our borders safe.

We will be watching the lawmakers’ maneuvers. If they fail the test on immigration, we will help deliver the report cards to voters in the 2014 election. We are up to the challenge and hope that Congress is too.

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