By Jose Rodriguez, Executive Director, El Concilio, NCLR Affiliate
If there are any lessons to be drawn from the ongoing immigration reform fight, it’s that to win, we must be tenacious in our efforts. We saw the results of such tenacity just a few short months ago when the Senate passed its historic comprehensive reform bill. Our success in the Senate was the product of tireless hours of hard work from advocates who were relentless in delivering the message of reform to all 100 senators. It was a hard-won effort, but in the end our side prevailed.
Of course, advocacy also requires the willingness of elected officials who are open to ideas and willing to evolve their thinking on certain issues. Last week provided an excellent example of both. Representative Jeff Denham (R–Calif.) joined us in Patterson, California at a rally that marked the end of a two-day series of events designed to highlight the need for reform. His attendance was crucial to showcasing the power of our advocacy, and we sincerely thank him for joining us and having the courage to tell his Republican colleagues in the House that the time for a vote is now.
Shortly after his election, Mr. Denham began actively engaging the Latino community in his district. It was very clear from the beginning that he was concerned about the issues impacting our families. He wanted to make sure that he understood our concerns and we understood that he was fighting for us. Since being sworn in this past January, his office has maintained an open dialogue on immigration and the various other issues affecting our community.
We were all very encouraged last year when the president announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy for undocumented youth. When Mr. Denham announced his support for the new policy, it was clear to us that he grasped how it could drastically alter the lives of millions. His support for DACA demonstrated to us that he was someone who could have a thoughtful conversation about what needs to be done to see immigration reform through.
At our event last week, advocates and undocumented youth from throughout the state gave many moving and emotional speeches about our broken system. It was especially inspiring to have Mr. Denham, whose bona fides as a conservative are substantial, stand up and talk about why he thinks it’s time for him and his colleagues in the House to finally give immigration reform a vote.
Hopefully more members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will heed Mr. Denham’s words and work together to hammer out a deal that includes a pathway to citizenship. Once again, we thank him for his support, his courage, and his leadership in making comprehensive immigration reform a reality. We look forward to continuing the fight with Mr. Denham by our side in the coming months.