The rumors of immigration reforms’ death have been greatly exaggerated over the years. In only the past few months, we’ve seen headlines like “Immigration Reform Heads for a Slow Death,” “Immigration Reform is Probably Dead,” and “RIP: Immigration Reform Bill is Dead.” Everyone wants to be the first to call it, the first to declare it, or the first person to have seen it coming. It’s not a terribly difficult story to write; some legislator or group of legislators say they don’t know how to get it done yet, or that it’s a hard issue to tackle, and presto, the stories come rolling out about the demise of reform. It may make a sexy headline, but for those who follow, understand and care about reform, these headlines become meaningless. In large part, because as soon as another legislator says or does something (like this week’s addition of three Republican members of Congress to the house immigration bill, H.R. 15) the headline quickly changes to “Immigration Reform Isn’t Dead Yet” and “Immigration Reform is Dead. Or Maybe it Isn’t.”
However, what is often ignored in the race to be the first to “call it” is the fact that the movement and the public momentum that has built in favor of immigration reform is in no way dead or dying. In fact, it has grown and matured over the past 15 years. It’s a movement that represents the widest diversity of people, industries and interests possible. It’s also one that is not dependent on what a single leader or person’s view is on how it should get done. It’s a movement that is getting stronger.
NPR noted this fact while reporting on one of the major rallies earlier this year:
The immigration movement is on the cusp of a major victory, but it got there without a charismatic, clear leader and without a cohesive national campaign. In a lot of ways, this march was a perfect example of that. You could see it in the signs that protesters carried: They were printed by labor unions, community and women’s groups, LGBT and human rights groups.
In an interview with Mary Giovagnoli, the NPR piece also explains that:
“the strength of the movement is due in large part to its decentralized nature: the immigration movement was born with national and local activists advocating for very specific interests. Some, for example, advocated for farm workers, others may have advocated for Africans seeking asylum. It really only became the case in the last decade that the sheer volume of issues in the immigration world were so many, so severe, that people started to recognize it was a big issue. It’s allowed an even broader coalition of people to come to the table…that’s why at immigration rallies you’ll see evangelical groups alongside gay rights groups.”
So while there is no doubt that path has been long and there is more work to be done, there is no doubt that it will be done. The movement has gotten bigger, stronger, and louder. And we know very well the path before us will not be easy as we take the words of our late Senate champion, Ted Kennedy, to heart:
“The path forward has never been an easy one. There were filibusters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But we didn’t give up and we ultimately prevailed…Immigration is another issue like that…we are in this struggle for the long haul.”
Instead of writing our obituary every few months, the public would be better served by thoughtful and nuanced coverage of the many issues tied up in the immigration policy debate and what we have to lose each day we don’t have reform