The pressing need for comprehensive immigration reform has been clear for a long time.
Although George W. Bush made numerous grave mistakes in the conduct of foreign policy and domestic affairs, fair-minded observers have to acknowledge he supported not only measures to further strengthen U.S. borders but also an earned path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants.
In 2005-06 there were massive national protests in support of legalization, and public opinion polls at the time confirmed that most Americans favored this important, humane reform. Unfortunately, the right wing of the Republican Party prevented Congress from enacting such legislation.
Almost a decade later, the human costs of our broken immigration system are deeply disturbing and growing. More than 11 million immigrants sin papeles are working hard and contributing a great deal to our country economically, socially and culturally. But they continue to live in the shadows, in fear, and unable to do all they want for their families and their new country. About 2 million people, the vast majority of whom are not felons, have been detained and deported since 2009. Countless families have been torn asunder and estimable suffering has ensued. Hundreds of people continue to die each year trying to reach el norte.
After President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012, it seemed for a few months like the Republicans would learn a few vital demographic and political lessons. Even their most fervent critics hoped GOP politicians would remember the U.S. is a nation of immigrants and recognize that comprehensive immigration reform would benefit the country as a whole. It has been deeply disturbing to see the most reactionary elements of the Republican Party oppose such reform in the past 16 months. In contrast, one has to credit President Obama and Democrats in Congress for working hard to bring about this change in our laws.
The Republicans’ intransigence, often fueled by racism and fortified by terribly gerrymandered congressional districts, cannot continue. Neither can the massive deportations and the severe harm done to so many families and individuals.
In recent months, immigrant rights advocates, people of faith, labor activists, and other Americans from diverse backgrounds have recognized the need to once again take to the streets and call for comprehensive immigration reform in peaceful and productive ways. Protests, candlelight vigils, marches, picketing and even civil disobedience are picking up again and likely to grow in the months ahead.
At 3 p.m. Saturday, a large March for Justice will take place in Houston. Participants will assemble at the intersection of Bellaire and Renwick, then march to Burnett Bayland Park at Chimney Rock and Gulfton. The purpose of the March is to call for more equitable worker and immigrant rights, and the pressing need for comprehensive immigration reform will be front and center at the event.
Hundreds of people, including individuals from Galveston County, will participate in the march and speak out for justice. Together, we will help hasten the day when our elected representatives in Washington, D.C. do the right thing for immigrants.
David Michael Smith is a former college professor.