Consensus Grows for Common-Sense Immigration Reform

A core American belief is that all people have rights, no matter what they look like or where they came from. American values tell us that families should be allowed to stay together and that there needs to be a common-sense immigration process that includes a roadmap to citizenship for those who aspire to be citizens.

There is bipartisan agreement that the creation of such an immigration process must occur this year. The Obama Administration and bipartisan groups in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have been working on legislation and the Senate group introduced the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (S.744) on April 16.

Both Senator Collins and Senator King of Maine voted in favor of the amended legislation on Thursday June 27, 2013 and it passed by a strong 68 – 32 vote in the often polarized Senate.  “Today, the Senate did its job. It’s now up to the House to do the same,” said President Barack Obama on the vote.

The Maine People’s Alliance is a part of the Alliance for Citizenship, a coalition of human rights groups and labor organizations that have come together to help pass immigration reform this year that will: secure a roadmap to citizenship, preserve and work to advance family reunification, protect rights and working conditions for all workers, ensure enforcement measures protect American and immigrant workers, and advance due process and fair treatment as is consistent with American values.

Alain Nahimana, the new Immigration and Racial Justice Organizer for MPA, and the coordinator of the Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition (MIRC), has been organizing a wide range of campaign activities in Maine in collaboration with immigrants grassroots organizations, faith organizations, and advocacy groups, all united under the umbrella of Mainers for Immigration Reform. Over the past few months, Maine has seen a growing consensus for a fair immigration system among the labor groups, business associations, faith groups and grassroots organizations that have working together on this campaign.

At a May 1st rally in Portland attended by hundreds of people, representatives of various organizations and communities made statements urging Maine’s congressional delegation to support an immigration process that keeps families together with a roadmap to citizenship.

On Mother’s Day, Maine mothers and their children visited the office of Senator Collins in Portland to deliver a crucial message. As one participant, Mia Ntahobari of Portland said, “We know that there will be lots of politics in the back and forth over immigration reform and what’s in the bill, but we, as women and as mothers, want Senator Collins to remind her of what really matters in this debate — keeping families together.”

Immigrants in Maine contribute tremendously to the economy. A report by the Immigration Policy Center states that: “Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians account for significant and growing shares of the economy and population in Maine. Immigrants (the foreign-born) make up 3.2% of the state’s population, and more than half of them are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote. Moreover, Latinos and Asians (both foreign-born and native-born) wield $751 million in consumer purchasing power, and the businesses they own had sales and receipts of $442.5 million and employed more than 3,000 people at last count. At a time when the economy is still recovering, Maine can ill-afford to alienate an important component of its labor force, tax base, and business community—especially since the state’s population is aging rapidly and a growing number of retirees are depending on a declining number of workers.”

A new poll conducted by Public Policy Polling shows overwhelming public support for a common-sense immigration process in Maine. When asked whether they would support a bipartisan immigration bill that includes a roadmap to citizenship, 70% of respondents indicated support for the legislation. In addition, almost 60% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for an elected official who voted for immigration reform.

Now that the bill has moved from the Senate, it faces an uphill battle in the House of Representatives. Maine’s two Representatives have already indicated they support immigration reform, but challenges remains to convince other lawmakers. During the August recess, advocates across the nation will be turning up the pressure on lawmakers in their districts to do the right thing and finally pass comprehensive immigration reform.