By The AILA Media Advocacy Committee

Several weeks ago on Sunday, March 21, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Washington D.C. to advocate for a change in our immigration laws. And then, on Saturday, March 27, thousands more demonstrated in Los Angeles in solidarity with the Washington D.C. demonstration. Other marches are planned in cities across the country for April 10, 2010, including Seattle, Washington and Las Vegas, Nevada and as well as another broadly sponsored demonstration in Los Angeles scheduled for May 1. The purpose of the demonstrations are to continue to highlight the need for immigration reform, especially a pathway to legalization for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who contribute to our economy, but are forced to live in the shadows of our society.

In addition to broad contingents from various immigrant communities, the demonstrators have included substantial numbers from faith based coalitions across the country, as well as from civil rights organizations. The demonstrations have been organized to remind President Obama that he promised to fix our broken immigration system within the first year of his administration and that this promise must be kept. The demonstrations also voiced concerns over President Obama’s record breaking deportation removals in the fiscal year 2009, and the ICE leadership’s quota goals of 400,000 removals this year. Despite ICE’s quasi-retraction, enforcement is clearly at the forefront of this administration, placing millions of immigrant families in danger.

Right now Congress appears deadlocked on this issue. The House of Representatives has stated it will not entertain reform until the Senate passes a bill. The Senate is looking for a second Republican to sponsor the Schumer/Graham proposed bill.

But the immigrant rights movement will not be dissuaded. They will continue to put pressure on the Obama Administration to move forward. As we have seen through health care, the power of the Chief Executive can move mountains when the will is there and the President cannot simply pass the buck back to Congress. The immigrant rights groups are determined and will keep up the pressure on this administration. There is a small group of Republican Senators willing to support reform. Notably, Senator Judd Greg (R-NH) recently went on the record regarding CIR as saying, “now is a good time to do it.” Whether or not a Senate bill has to have a second Republican sponsor remains to be seen, but just as with health care reform, the lack of Republican sponsors should not alone stop movement on an immigration bill. The continued advocacy for reform by all the stakeholders in this fight, from the immigrant communities, faith-based organizations and the employer community, is what, at the end of the day, will be instrumental in achieving just and reasonable reform.

The stakes are very high. American businesses are unable to grow and invest in our economy, due to rigid and flawed interpretations of our laws by DHS and economists have shown that a broad immigration reform bill is one of the strongest stimulus measures available to jumpstart our troubled economy. The plight of millions of immigrants without legal status continues to be more unbearable every day. Some are class valedictorians, but are unable to go to college, get a job or simply drive. Mixed status families, which include US citizens as well as undocumented immigrants, have been brutally separated by worksite raids and harsh immigration court decisions; or live in fear of separation at the hands of ICE’s actions. As well the lack of relief or benefits for same sex partners has added to the misery created by our broken immigration system. The list of heartbreaking stories continues to grow. The faith based groups have hammered home the teachings of the Scriptures. All speak of welcoming the stranger among us. It is in this spirit that we must continue on; fighting for what is morally right and fiscally beneficial to our great country.