The main Congressional supporter of progressive immigration reform apparently is fed up with President Barack Obama’s lack of action on the issue.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D.-Ill.), who last year introduced an immigration reform bill in the House, is even calling for Latinos to punish Democrats and Republicans alike at the polls this year, saying that if the issue sees no action before April’s Congressional recess, it won’t be addressed at all in 2010.
Gutierrez told the Mexican news service Notimex, the reform movement should set a March 21 deadline for the Democratic administration to get the issue started.
“If the issue is not broached by that date, the Hispanic vote will have to reflect on the idea of a punishment with a vote of absence in the next elections, so that our power and importance are felt,” he said, in a statement that was reported in Spanish by the wire service.
Gutierrez, who was in Los Angeles Monday for a series of pro-reform events, said there would be another round of demonstrations in Washington D.C. on March 21 to press for an overhaul. “It’s time to generate attention,” he said.
Also interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, the congressman said “people are angry and disillusioned” at Obama, after he dedicated a “throwaway line” to immigration during his State of the Union speech. He said this was the last straw for many activists who are disappointed by the president’s enforcement-mostly approach.
Gutierrez appears ready to break a pattern of “progressive patience” that has developed since Obama took office a year ago.
The pro-immigration camp that voted for Obama in both the Democratic primaries and the general election is still waiting for definitive action from the White House. And while the administration has provided some encouraging statements – phrased in the broadest possible way – advocates have continued to keep their fingers crossed that Obama may finally get the ball rolling.
The pattern repeated itself last week with the State of the Union address. Before it took place, the White House winked and nodded, with press secretary Robert Gibbs saying the issue would be broached in the speech. That night, immigrants and their supporters held their breath for over 45 minutes to finally get the most generic of statements, where the main verb phrase about immigration started with “should.”
Still, the following day, some optimistic reactions and promises to keep fighting could be found among the pro-reformists. This weekend, New York Daily News columnist Albor Ruiz urged the optimists “to take off the blindfold and face the harsh reality.”
It is almost incomprehensible – and frankly a little absurd – that after Obama’s address to Congress and the nation that some pro-immigration-reform groups continue to delude themselves and feed immigrants the Pablum of false hope.
Ruiz said the 36 words Obama dedicated to the issue “in passing near the end” of his speech were “at best an afterthought, at worse a bone thrown to the immigration community to keep it wagging its tail and hoping against all hope.”