A coalition of Latino organizations from around the country is launching a grassroots push for comprehensive immigration reform.
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, or NHLA, announced Wednesday that it was kicking off a campaign to push for a restructuring of the nation’s system for handling immigrants – both legal and undocumented – and that it would feature 60 town hall discussions.
The coalition is calling on Congress to pass a reform bill that would prioritize uniting families, due process and a pathway to legalization.
The campaign, which NHLA is calling “Latinos United for Immigration Reform,” also will involve reaching out to congressional leaders through the Internet and telephone calls, meetings with politicians in their home districts, and a target of 100,000 such outreach efforts in the near future.
"The record-breaking Latino electorate of last November was not a one-time phenomenon,” said Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF, which is part of the coalition. “Those voters and future voters are watching carefully and taking action to ensure a meaningful immigration reform that reflects our nation's highest and most enduring values of fairness, family and prosperity."
President Obama made little progress in overhauling the nation's fractured immigration laws in his first term, but he redoubled his efforts after winning re-election. The November contest also spurred some Republicans to drop their opposition to immigration reform, given that Hispanics overwhelmingly backed Obama.
Bipartisan groups in the Senate and House of Representatives are working on drafts of an immigration reform bill; the Senate group has indicated that it could have its draft ready in April after it returns from its spring recess.
Obama and the Senate group are in agreement on some core principles, including a pathway to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country, revamping the legal immigration system and holding businesses to tougher standards on verifying their workers are in the country legally.
But they're at odds over key issues. The Senate group wants the citizenship pathway to be contingent on securing the border, something Obama opposes. The president has also sidestepped the contentious guest-worker issue, which contributed to derailing immigration talks in 2007.
The NHLA effort would be one of the largest collective pushes for immigration reform. Many local immigrant rights groups have held rallies and press conferences in support of comprehensive immigration reform.