CU Immigration Forum Steps Up Push for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

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(Compiled from material provided by CU Immigration Forum)

Champaign-Urbana activists and other supporters of immigrants and a diverse and stable community have been working on a number of new initiatives to pressure legislators to make immigration reform a reality.

During the week of June 10th, 50 community volunteers met at the University YMCA to call and urge community members to send a voicemail message to Illinois Senator Mark Kirk telling him to vote YES for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Volunteers called 793 people, and 266 of those people committed to calling Kirk. On June 27, the Senate passed overhaul for immigration by a margin of 68 to 32. Thanks to the efforts of our community members, Senator Kirk voted “Yes” on the bill, after voting “No” in the cloture two weeks prior.

The strong vote in the often polarized Senate tossed the issue into the House, where the Republican leadership has said that it will not take up the Senate measure and is instead focused on much narrower legislation that would not provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country. Supporters of true reform hope that the Senate action will put pressure on the House.

On Father’s Day, families all over the 13th Congressional district delivered an oversized Father’s Day card to Representative Rodney Davis (R). The card emphasized the need to “Keep our Families Together.” “Too many families are being torn apart each day that immigration reform is not passed,” explained C-U Immigration Forum member Lorenzo Macedo. “Over 1,100 families continue to be separated each day, and here in Illinois 56,108 children have lost a parent because of deportations. Father’s Day is a time when we celebrate the important role that fathers play in the lives of our children. We are encouraging Congressman Davis to join us in ending this tragedy by supporting comprehensive immigration reform.”

Not long after he received the card, Davis reached out to CUIF members to set up a meeting with a small group of community representatives on Monday, July 1st. Community representatives walked away from the meeting with a better sense of Davis’s take on comprehensive immigration reform. Davis is likely to support a Senate/House conference to negotiate the likely chasm between the Senate bill and any that may come out of the House of Representatives. When asked if he would attend a community meeting on comprehensive immigration reform later this summer, Congressman Davis directed his staff to work with us to find a date.

The Allies of Faith, a working group of the Immigration Forum, is currently seeking volunteers to help out in getting the word out about immigration in general and to encourage people to contact their local representatives. A table every other Saturday at the Farmers’ Market at Lincoln Square is an important part of this outreach. “Several folks have thanked us for bringing immigration reform to the Farmers’ Market,” said community member Pat Nolan. “There’s been an earnestness among people to find out more about immigration issues and to reach out to Senator Kirk and Congressman Davis by signing postcards.”

Beyond the humanitarian benefits, advocates are also emphasizing the economic advantages of immigration and legalizing the undocumented. A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate bill shows that, if passed, the legislation would reduce the federal budget deficit by almost $700 billion over twenty years, in addition to significant upturns in GDP, productivity, investment and job creation.

For more information, visit CU Immigration Forum’s website: CU Immigration Forum meets at the University Y every second Tuesday of the month at 5 p.m.

About Richard Esbenshade

22-year resident of Urbana, taught history for several years at UIUC, specializing in Eastern Europe; longtime activist in peace/green/social justice/solidarity movements; father of two, including Public i alumna Shara.
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