U.S. immigration reform activists are refusing to let Congress’ focus on Syria drown out their efforts, delivering on Wednesday 600,000 signatures to House Speaker John Boehner’s Ohio office, calling for a path to citizenship.
Their message: We’re refusing to let the prospects of a passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill die amid a crowded agenda in Congress. Behind this push is an alliance of numerous evangelical groups, labor organizations and individuals who call themselves the Alliance for Citizenship.
“One of the things we want to make really clear to Speaker Boehner and to members of the House and Senate and to the president is that these 600,000 are just a representative of the millions of people around this country that are not going away,” said Troy Jackson, former pastor of University Christian Church in Cincinnati, and director of Ohio Prophetic Voices, a statewide clergy network that campaigns for social issues.
“We are not going to let immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship get put at the bottom of the stack and the bottom of the agenda,’ Jackson added. “This is too important for the lives of 11 million ... for us to allow this to become a low priority for Speaker Boehner, for the House, for the Senate and for the president.” He was referring to the estimated number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
Several key votes need to happen before House lawmakers have the time to even consider either committee-passed piecemeal immigration reform bills, or a soon-to-come comprehensive legislation. At the moment, they are debating a resolution that would allow President Obama to use “limited, narrow” military force on the Syrian regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons to attack rebel forces last month, killing more than 1,400 people. A final vote is expected next week. Thereafter, Congress will need to pass a temporary spending bill known as a continuing resolution in order to prevent a government shutdown after Sept. 30. A few weeks later, the debt ceiling will need to be raised in mid-October to prevent a national default.
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But members of the Alliance for Citizenship say they will not accept any of those issues as an excuse not to act on immigration reform, especially when there is mounting support.
“Call me an optimist, but I believe our elected officials have the capacity to work on more than one thing at once,” Jackson said, shortly before his colleagues started filling Boehner’s office with piles of signatures Wednesday morning.
“We didn’t put them there to only focus on an international issue and then OK, once that’s done we’ll do something else. They can move a multifaceted agenda,” Jackson added. “Any excuse that says we can’t deal with immigration because we are working on budget deals right now is just that, an excuse, and we’re not going to accept it. These 600,000 signatures are an indication of the voices that were being lifted up ... that are letting members of congress know that immigration reform, with a pathway to citizenship, is something that we’re not going to rest until it is the law of the land.”