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Immigration Advocates Gear up for Reform

New America Media, News report, Cristina Fernandez-Pereda Posted: Apr 14, 2009

The Obama administration has expressed its serious intent to push for immigration reform. Ethnic media will be a secret weapon in that push, advocates told ethnic media editors and publishers in a conference call organized by New America Media.

The New York Times reported last week that President Obama wants to pass immigration reform before the end of the year. He had brought it up at an earlier townhall meeting as well. Other outlets such as La Opinion and the Spanish-language news agency EFE had also previously reported in the Administration's interest on the reform.

The administration is showing that they are serious about moving this bill said Angela Kelley, Director of the Immigration Policy Center. She said it appears that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are lining up behind immigration reform.

"This Congress cannot avoid immigration reform," Kelley said, arguing that no matter if lawmakers are working on the heath care bill, or the education reform, they will have to face the immigration issue. They also cannot put it off blaming the Bush administration.

The election was a "game changer" for reform said Kelley with Latinos turning out in high numbers and the makeup of Congress changing significantly. Douglas Rivlin, communications director for the National Immigration Forum (NIF) said the high turnout of Latinos was an example of the success of the today we march, tomorrow we vote strategy of immigration rights activists last year. As a consequence, according to experts on the call, the White House has received about 21,000 calls and Congress got about 4,000 faxes to thank the Administration for its interest in the reform.

Groups such as the National Immigration Forum have also started different efforts to update as many people as possible with the latest information. Mehrdad Azemun at the NIF said the campaigns are making use of text messaging. Anyone can send a text message to the number 69866 followed by the word JUSTICE or JUSTICIA (in Spanish) and plug into the movement. That way they can stay apprised of any critical breaking news for example a need to fax or email a lawmaker. Ethnic media can put up a button on their websites that would connect their readers to the campaign as well.

"We have the will to win, on this year 2009, and we are going to communicate that to Congress," Azemun said.

For Lynn Tramonte, Policy Director at America's Voice, one of the key elements of the reform is going to be ethnic media's role in sharing all the information with their audiences. Americas Voice is set to launch a website featuring the reporting of Maribel Hastings, formerly of La Opinion on the issue. And the National Immigration Forum agreed.

"Ethnic media is going to play a crucial role in the reform. They are our secret weapon. They can keep the community informed, provided with accurate information and share what their readers can do to plug in the reform," said Douglas Rivlin, Communication Director at the National Immigration Forum.

Welcoming the interest on the reform, Alberto Avendano, editor of El Tiempo Latino, asked the experts about any initiatives to engage other Latinos who feel safe about the reform because they have .

In response, Azemun highlighted that outreach for the reform has to go beyond ethnic media and engage a population as large as possible. "We have to make the case to everyone. It will require that we show how the immigration reform is going to benefit all folks even if the don't have a personal stake at it," he said. "The family issue is also going to be essential. No matter if your immigration status is legal, it is very likely that they know someone who is undocumented and is going to be affected by this immigration mess," Azemun added.

In order to make the case, experts are going to focus on protecting the immigrants' rights -there are 12 million undocumented and uncovered by federal law-, their contribution to the economy -around 66 billion dollars could be added to the tax revenue in the next 10 years- and border security according to a study from the Immigration Policy Center.

Angela Kelley agreed that the more people these groups engage in the reform, the better. She said the immigration movement needed to mobilize the sleepy majority of Americans who favor some form of sensible immigration reform. But she was still cautious about what the reform could achieve. "This is a very different time that started last November and continued with who we have now in the White House. But we would be kidding ourselves if we thought we don't need an enforcement component to the reform, a verification process, and civil rights and privacy protections," she argued.

For Tramonte, having the ethnic media involved in the reform and showing the public what they can do "is going to make the difference between action and success." NIFs Rivlin said the campaigns would announce further steps including a website, social networking strategies within the next few weeks.

Related Articles:

The Medical Crisis in Immigration Detention

Immigrant Rights Signed Away?

A Letter From Immigration Detention

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