In 2013, there was great momentum for immigration reform. The Senate had already passed its immigration bill, and pressure was being put to bear on the House to do the same. There was a sense of hope and great support for immigration reform nationwide. Pro-immigration reform blog posts and opinion pieces linked a viable immigration system to the U.S. remaining on top in innovation and pleas for immigration reform from major sectors of our economy, like the agriculture, travel and hospitality, and tech industries, were heard loud and clear. Economic giants like Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Coca-Cola, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and so many more, came out in vocal support of immigration reform. Even many conservative religious organizations stood behind immigration reform as the right thing to do. Poll after poll showed that the majority of Americans favored comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. And yet, the House failed to deliver.
Now, in 2016, anti-reform sentiment in Congress has again taken control, and the pro-reform momentum of 2013 is just a memory. How did immigration reform slip through our fingers in 2013, when it had so much support? Even now, a majority of Americans still support comprehensive immigration reform, and 3 out of 4 Americans support legalizing the undocumented. More striking is that 14 out of 16 exit polls in the South Carolina and New Hampshire Republican primaries indicated that a majority of voting Republicans support offering undocumented immigrants a way to gain legal status.
So how is it that our supposed democratic process continues to be held hostage by the anti-immigrant faction? Is it simply because, as often explained by our elected representatives, the restrictionists are louder? Well, if that’s the case, we need to get loud. We need to organize and be just as vocal about what we want our representatives in Congress to do. AILA already plays a role in this, through national efforts and grassroots advocacy at the chapter level. We will be more powerful with a seamless, concerted plan.
As the incoming chair for the AILA D.C. chapter, which is geographically best placed to climb Capitol Hill with our message to Congress, I am committed to working with my AILA colleagues nationally to push for immigration reform throughout the year, beyond our National Day of Action. I am committed to gathering case examples, writing Letters to the Editor and op-eds, visiting Congressional staff, and finding ways to lift our voices to a level that cannot be ignored. If the restrictionists have been loud enough to block immigration reform for so many years, it is time for us to fight fire with fire. And, that will entail a comprehensive, ongoing effort by all.
Looking forward, we’ll need every voice to advocate on behalf of our clients in order to get comprehensive immigration reform passed. So please, raise your voice with me!
Written by Joung “Jackie” E. Lee, Chair-Elect, AILA DC Chapter