06/11/09 a 11:55am por Maribel Hastings *The first part of a series about the players involved in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform, and what makes this time different from past attempts. Read more Introduction WASHINGTON, D.C. – When people talk in the abstract about undocumented immigrants – or, as some call them disdainfully, “illegals” – they don’t think about the fact that these “invisible people” are in fact present every minute of every day. The food we bring to our mouths has been picked or processed by their hands. They serve or cook our meals in restaurants, take care of our children, clean the offices where we work, or own businesses we patronize. They are our neighbors, friends, relatives…the list goes on. Only in the world of Sheriff Joe Arpaio can you tell if someone is undocumented just by looking at him. The reality is that we’re all mixed together. I don’t like it when we talk about immigration reform “bringing people out of the shadows” because it makes them seem like criminals. They’re not in the shadows, they’re in plain sight–even though some people don’t want to see them or recognize their existence, and even though they have to live plagued by uncertainty from one day to the next. Over and over again, we’ve been told that immigration reform is coming, and it’s beginning to seem like crying wolf. But our job now is to maintain the pressure on Washington to do something. The last debate over immigration reform was in 2007, and a lot has happened since then. Over the next few weeks we’ll publish a series of articles profiling the major players in this real-life drama to explain who they are, what changes they’ve undergone since the last, failed attempt at reform, and how the interactions between them have changed. The central protagonists, clearly, are undocumented immigrants, who still haven’t seen a “happy ending” to their situation. But the list of players is long. After all, a wide range of groups have immense interests at stake–which is one of the reasons it’s so hard to arrive at an agreement on the issue. The group “undocumented immigrants” includes those in a variety of situations. Two of the most painful are that of the youths brought to this country as young children, called the “DREAMers,” and that of the agricultural workers who face some of the most dangerous working conditions in the country. However, we will also consider faith communities; business interests; labor groups; law enforcement; pro-immigration activists; anti-immigrant groups; Congress, with its partisan divisions and special interests; and a White House that supports reform and is held by the same party that controls Congress, but relies in large part on the divided Congress to advance its agenda. At the moment, in fact, the battle over health-care reform has delayed any discussion of immigration reform, while the crisis of the undocumented continues. Given the controversy generated by the 287(g) program, which allows local and state police to act as federal immigration agents, we dedicate the first article of the series to law enforcement–and how this time, unlike past years, more police chiefs are speaking out each day in favor of immigration reform that returns responsibility for enforcing immigration law where it belongs: with the federal government.