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Office Hours Week Seven

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Today, America’s Voice Education Fund and fellow immigration experts held the seventh in a series of weekly press briefings, or Immigration Reform “Office Hours.”  Each week, a different and diverse group of speakers shares the latest information on the players, politics, legislation and other developments in the debate in Washington and around the nation.

Moderated by Frank Sharry, Executive Director at America’s Voice Education Fund, today’s call featured Jaime Contreras, Vice President, SEIU 32BJ; Angie Kelley, Vice President, Immigration Policy, Center for American Progress; and Victor Palafox, Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice.

Speakers discussed the historical April 10th “Immigration Rally” in Washington, DC and the tens of thousands of people that attended from all over the country. In addition, they discussed details leaking out about the bipartisan immigration reform legislation that will be introduced in the Senate next week, and outlined their view of what a fair and inclusive path to citizenship should look like.

There was a shared sense among all speakers that “this time is different” and we are on the verge of a major breakthrough this year that finally will bring stability and security to millions of American families. 

Jaime Contreras, Vice President, SEIU32BJ said, “We’ve been here before, but this time it’s different, we are different and Washington is different. The nearly 100,000 who showed up from all across the nation on Wednesday, the diverse range of leaders who spoke to them, the overwhelming support from the public and swift movement in Congress is proof that now is truly the time for common sense immigration reform with a fair and attainable path to citizenship. But we won’t be satisfied with a partial reform; we will fight until the end for reform without triggers that legalizes all 11 million undocumented immigrants.”

One of the delegations that traveled lengths to participate in the rally was the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice,Victor Palafox, prominent leader within the organization said, “The time is now and over 200 Alabamians traveled 20 hours and over 750 miles to confirm this. We have waited long enough for Congress to act on immigration, and our communities have worked tirelessly for federal action on such a critical issue. The ball is in Washington’s court and we will not stop until Congress passes an immigration reform bill that brings an end to the mean-spirited and ineffective patchwork of state immigration laws and creates a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.”

On the heels of the Senate bill introduction there are many questions related to the components of the bill that have been leaked in the past few days.  Angie Kelley, Vice President, Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress explained, “The goal here is to deal with the 11 million folks who are here without status and the wider, clearer path we can create for those people so that they can achieve citizenship, the better.  When the Senate Gang of 8 announces their bill next week, I urge people to read the bill carefully—you need to watch the whole movie of the bill in order to see if it gets a happy ending or not.  Over the past several weeks, there’s been a series of leaked reports on different components of the bill, but I think that despite what’s getting attention in the news, the important thing to keep in mind is that we’re moving forward on processing green cards for the 11 million—that’s what’s going to be at the heart of the immigration bill that gets introduced next week.”

Frank Sharry, Executive Director ofAmerica’s Voice Education Fund said, “Let’s not forget that the reason we’re having this debate is because millions of Latinos, Asian Americans and immigrants voted, and immigration reform is a mobilizing and defining issue for those communities.  A clear and inclusive path to citizenship is at the heart of what they want to see in immigration reform, so as much as we’re mesmerized at times by the Republican debate and divisions within the Party, the fact of the matter is that the political imperative for this comes from Latino and immigrant voters who want reform that is humane to the 11 million people here and that gives them a chance to live in equality and dignity—that is the center of this debate.”

For recordings and resources from prior Office Hours calls, click here.