Photo: Reuters (Photo : Reuters)
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights advocacy organization in the U.S., is hosting its annual conference this week, and a key topic being addressed shouldn't be surprising: immigration reform.
Over 5,000 Latinos from all across the country have gathered together to unite in the fight for immigration reform, vowing to use their increasing political clout to push the House of Representatives to vote in favor of the comprehensive Senate reform bill, according to NCLR.
A town hall held this week at the conference focused on the moral, economic and political imperatives for winning reform. The discussion was headlined by Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., and brought together experts, advocates and political strategists to make the case for reform and to discuss the efforts underway to get Congress to deliver tangible solutions.
NCLR acknowledges that achieving reform will require bipartisan compromise, political will, and multi-sector voices and constituencies to build the political pressure to win legislation.
"We have won an historic battle, but we have not yet won the war," said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR. "The House of Representatives presents a different political dynamic, and the push in that chamber to secure real reform will be difficult."
Gutiérrez promised that in August, when members of Congress are gathering for their own town halls, they will hear from business owners, farmers, faith leaders and the broad cross-section of Americans inside and out of the Latino community who support them.
"The current immigration system is just a mess, and we have got to address the deportations, the breaking up of families and the harm our current system does to the U.S. economy," he said. "I think there will be a new spirit and a new urgency this fall to complete the work that the Senate started and the country strongly supports."
With the future of immigration reform resting in the hands of the Republican-led House, a straw poll of more than 1,000 attendees at the conference showed almost unanimous support for the passage of the comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
Approximately 95 percent of respondents said that it's important that immigration reform is passed in 2013. This desire rises above political affiliation; 91 percent of Democrats, 90 percent of Independents and 82 percent of Republican attendees stressed the importance of passing reform legislation this year.
"This survey shows what we have seen in poll after poll - no matter their party ID, demographics or geography, Americans want their elected officials to fix the country's broken immigration system and provide a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans," Murguía said. "America deserves a vote."
Murguía went on to emphasize that passing immigration reform this year is in the best interest of the country. She argued that the legislation would be a boon to the economy and would bring stability to the "social fabric of our communities" as well as the American workforce.
The straw poll helped to show how personally involved the Latino community is in the issue, with 60 percent of respondents saying they are keeping a close eye on how their members of Congress vote on reform.
The results also revealed that there will be political ramifications for those members of Congress who fail to back the immigration reform package, with 97 percent of respondents saying that they will be more likely to support politicians who support them by voting in favor of reform.
"Latinos are watching what's happening on Capitol Hill very closely. They will certainly remember who is fighting to preserve failed policies that serve no one, and who is working to serve our national interests by delivering an effective solution on immigration," Murguía said. "We are a strong and growing political force in this country, and we are prepared to be the voice for those who are silenced by fear and uncertainty of our broken system."
"The Senate has provided a model for how to move forward on this issue through bipartisanship and compromise - it's time for the House to follow suit."