SAN JUAN, January 1 - In this new year of 2013, for the first time in a long time, hope and optimism have interjected all those hopeful for humane and comprehensive immigration reform.
It’s amazing to think that just a few months ago, before the general election, pro-immigrant voices were hanging on of the edges of hope.
So much tragedy was occurring and little talk for action was being proposed before the election. In La Joya, just a week before the general election, tragedy struck with the deaths of two Guatemalan immigrants seeking a better life. This tragedy, just like countless other tragedies remind us constantly of how badly broken our immigration system is, and shows us the severe need for comprehensive and humane immigration reform.
The story of the two Guatemalan immigrants didn’t gain powerful national attention. But just a week later during the general election, and with the re-election of Barack Obama; Latinos participated in record numbers and overwhelmingly in support for President Obama.
Much of this support for the president was in response against Governor Romney’s outspoken proposed immigrant policy of self-deportation and his rejection of the Dream Act. Perhaps Governor Romney’s tough stance on immigration was a strategic move to keep and gain the conservative base. The results in November 6 show that the Republicans surely gained that conservative support, but also lost grip of the fastest growing electorate in the United States, that being the Latino/a voter.
The PEW Hispanic Center reported 71 percent of the Latino vote for President Obama and 27 percent to Governor Romney. Latinos also made up of ten percent of the national electorate, and made a crucial difference in battleground states like Colorado, Nevada, and Florida. In the state of Texas, 72 percent of Latino voters voted for President Obama. This unprecedented Latino political awakening has now set the stage for the proposal and passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
The likeability of comprehensive immigration reform is growing in the minds of most Americans. A national George Washington University poll shows 62 percent of Americans likely support a pathway to citizenship. Even a bi-partisan collaboration of eight U.S senators from both major parties are beginning to work together on this legislation. President Obama has also made it a top priority for 2013, and could very well introduce his own version of the bill to congress.
Surely the awakening of a large Latino electorate has tilted the debate on the side of the pro-immigrant community, but still the process of getting immigration reform is not easy. In order to get this reform done, the same electorate that has influenced support for immigration reform is urged to continue its activism and not hibernate in 2013. Many details of reform are surely to be debated; attempts at skewing and watering down real and humane immigration reform will try to be compromised.
I invite and urge all of you who support or seek to support humane immigration reform to join this worthy cause and assure its victory. This new year of 2013 is full of hope, and we want to continue to ride this wave of hope into a historic passage of Comprehensive & Humane Immigration Reform.
Daniel Diaz is a community organizer for La Unión del Pueblo Entero. La Unión del Pueblo Entero is part of the Equal Voice RGV Network.