Latinovations would like to thank Vanessa Cárdenas for her contribution to La Plaza.
In Mexico last Monday President Barack Obama said that immigration reform would have to wait until 2010. This news was received with disappointment by immigration reform supporters and fueled speculation that change to our immigration system was not possible in the short term. Yet it is clear that the only alternative for those of us who want immigration reform is to continue preparing the ground and building the movement to make reform a reality sooner rather than later.
Many skeptics and naysayers question whether reform is achievable, but in the last year we’ve seen more often than not that the “impossible” can be possible. Electing the first African-American president, for example, was no small feat, especially by someone who gave himself a 25-percent chance of winning. Legislation in both chambers of Congress to fix the health care system—with a pending vote—was not a prognosis many espoused, either. And a month before it was introduced and passed in the House an energy bill seemed unattainable, too.
The lesson is clear: Americans are hungry for change and this is not a passing trend or a footnote in a poll. It’s a reality that reflects the anxiety Americans feel about where our nation is headed and their clear desire to find solutions to the pressing problems facing our country today. History shows that those interested in solutions most often win the day in spite of those who oppose them.
This is by no means an attempt to minimize the incredible obstacles to reform. We all recognize the unforgiving “legislative calendar,” the strong forces opposing reform, and the weakness of some of our politicians—both Democrat and Republican.
Yet instead of fretting about what pundits say or whether the timeline is being pushed further down the road, the focus should be on doing what we can to nurture our collective strength to build a movement that will be able to deliver whenever legislation hits the floor.
There is no doubt that the immigration movement has come a long way: Immigrant communities are organized in unprecedented ways, alliances have been made across different ethnic groups and in various sectors—faith, labor, and businesses—in support of reform, and there is a robust, ever-growing base of friendly new media. Most importantly, we have reality on our side—12 million strong and true policy solutions that seek to end the status quo.
By requiring illegal immigrants to register, pay taxes, and learn English we will know who is here and why; we will help our economy because we will make sure everyone is paying their taxes and contributing their fair share; and we will protect all workers by ensuring that their rights are upheld. In addition, we need employers and workers alike to have an even playing field, and we must have a better use of limited government resources at the border.
These solutions are firmly grounded in the best interest of our nation, on regaining control of our borders and restoring the rule of law. These are policy solutions that go beyond politics and make sense for all Americans.
The broken immigration system weighs heavily on most Americans and particularly on immigrant communities. We understand what is at stake—families being separated, more border deaths, and hate crimes on the rise.
Yet in order for us to advance as a movement we must recognize our strength individually and collectively. Politicians may not fear reform supporters as much as they fear the anti-immigrant movement, but they are sitting up and paying attention to whether the turnout in 2008 was a passing trend or a real force to reckon with. We’ve shown that we can march, that we can vote—now we have to show that we can sustain the movement and push it over the top.
The road to immigration reform may be long but there is no other outcome except for reform. The status quo is unacceptable and success is inevitable.
Vanessa Cárdenas is the Director for Ethnic Media at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC. Cárdenas regularly appears in CNN en Español, Telemundo, Univision, BBC among others and has been widely quoted in various print publications such as the US News and World Report, The Washington Post and La Opinión.