Obama to Meet With Schumer, Graham Amidst Calls for Concrete Action on Immigration
Over the weekend, news broke that the President intends to meet with Senators Schumer and Graham Monday evening at the White House:
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans to focus attention on immigration next week by meeting at the White House with two senators crafting a bill on the issue.
White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro said Obama will meet with Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on Monday.
The president is "looking forward to hearing more about their efforts toward producing a bipartisan bill," Shapiro said Friday.
So are a lot of people, it looks like. The news generated 9,026 comments on The Huffington Post (it was the front page story for a time on Saturday), and has come amidst growing pressure on the administration to show concrete progress on immigration reform in advance of the upcoming "March for America: Change Takes Courage" in Washington, D.C. on March 21st.
Momentum is building rapidly for the march. Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Reform, writes:
Today, a caravan of faith leaders, day laborers and others is leaving from Phoenix, Arizona. Greeted by crowds of up to a 1,000 in places like Houston and New Orleans, this caravan will grow to dozens of vehicles and hundreds of people to arrive in DC on March 21st.
In Michigan, Ohio, California, Wisconsin and states across the country, communities are raising money and organizing buses to bring African American workers, small business owners, immigrant families and others to Washington DC on March 21st.
These communities on the move will meet in Washington DC to joins tens of thousands of Americans to March FOR America on Sunday, March 21, 2010, and remind our elected leaders that Change Takes Courage.
Indeed, tens of thousands of people will be marching to Washington to stand up for that vision of change-- for crafting an immigration system that is once again rooted in America's most deeply-held values of fairness, dignity, and hard work. Clarissa Martinez, Director of Immigration and National Campaigns at the nation's leading Latino advocacy organization, NCLR, argues in an article at Huffington Postthat the President must help move the process forward after Monday's meeting:
But let's be clear. If the meeting is just to "hear more," it's not going to cut it. The president had a meeting with Republican and Democratic members of both chambers in June 2009, and in August held a White House summit, hosted by Secretary Janet Napolitano, with a large number of representatives from faith, labor, business, law enforcement, immigrant, ethnic, and civil rights groups. Around that time, Schumer and Graham started working on a bipartisan proposal, and Schumer announced he would have the parameters of a proposal ready by Labor Day 2009.
With the Congressional legislative runway getting crowded and time running out before the November elections, it is time to land this plane. Monday's meeting must be followed by a clear, bipartisan proposal and a firm timeline for Senate action. Anything less will be regarded as more stalling by the tens of thousands coming to DC to march in two weeks.
In case you missed this new video from NCLR, a reminder of the President's own promise and stated vision to reform immigration:
"They're counting us to rise above fear, the demagoguery, the pettiness, the partisanship, and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform... In this country, change does not come from the top down. Change comes from the bottom up."
And as Douglas Rivlin, blogger with NewsJunkiePost.com argues, immigration reform is not only a top priority for Latinos, but for groups like Irish Americans as well:
With millions of Irish immigrants in the U.S. – and tens of thousands undocumented – the Irish are stepping up and engaging seriously in the immigration reform debate. [...]
... Ciaran Staunton, co-founder and President of ILIR is traveling to Denver, Phoenix, and Tucson to send the message that “Immigration reform is as important to the Irish American community as it is to any other community,” according to ILIR’s press release.
The fact remains that a stunning majority of Americans prefer a comprehensive immigration overhaul to both doing nothing about our immigration crisis and to deportation-only immigration proposals, which do little to truly fix our broken system.
It's becoming increasingly clear that the time for immigration reform is indeed now.
[Update: Late Monday afternoon, the White House meeting was postponed due to flight delays that kept Sen. Graham from Washington.]