An immigration march in Washington, a national bus tour, visits to legislators and events in cities around the country will all be taking place in the next few weeks and months, as part of a new campaign led by a group of immigrant, labor, religious, business and civil rights organizations. The Alliance for Citizenship was formed for one purpose — they are pushing for citizenship for the country’s approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants. The group announced a Power Up for Citizenship week of action during the Congressional recess to urge legislators to support a pathway to citizenship for all as part of comprehensive immigration reform.
“Since when did a pathway to citizenship become an extreme idea?” said Eliseo Medina, International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in a press call today announcing the campaign launch. “Here’s what’s extreme — to create a permanent underclass,” said Medina. He was referring to the current debate within Congress on how to legalize the nation’s undocumented as part of a comprehensive immigration reform package.
Some legislators, like Idaho Republican Congressman Raul Labrador, have said there should not be a pathway to citizenship for those who came in undocumented. Labrador has said a better way to allow undocumented immigrants to live and work in the U.S. might be to “legalize” their status, but not offer citizenship. The Idaho congressman also said insisting on citizenship for the undocumented might doom immigration talks, since some Republicans in the House would not vote for that.
The Obama administration as well as the Senate “Gang of Eight” are working on possible legislation favor a gradual path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. There are different ideas, however, on how that should work. This past weekend, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who is part of the Gang of Eight, swiftly condemned a recently-leaked Obama Administration proposed plan which calls for allowing undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship after at least 8 years. Rubio said the proposal was lacking and would be “dead on arrival,” though the White House assured it was a backup plan and the president was counting on bipartisan bills to come out of Congress.
“Latinos did not go to the polls expecting that our abuelitas, our parents, our brothers and sisters and our co-workers would be relegated to second-class status,” said SEIU”s Medina. ”We expect Congress to pas a bill that includes a fair, clear and direct path to citizenship.”
Today on the Alliance for Citizenship press call, National Council of La Raza (NCLR) president Janet Murguía said they were not interjecting specific timelines for citizenship. The important thing, said Murguía, is that “the pathway has to be reasonable, not vague — and clear,” she said.
Among the group’s activities are a Spanish-language ad campaign, “El Poder,” which will be shown this week in different media markets. Alliance for Citizenship will also hold events in Illinois, New York, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Texas and New Jersey, and go on a 19-state bus tour through California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Missouri, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Colorado, Rhode Island, New York, Florida and North Carolina. The group also plans faith events around Easter recess, a nationwide drive to get one million calls to Congress urging immigration reform, and a massive Immigration March on Washington on April 10th.