Inside the Capitol, a bipartisan group of eight senators known as the gang of eight were putting the finishing touches on legislation to overhaul the system that was expected to be unveiled Apr. 15. The Senate’s Gang of Eight will postpone the rollout of comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the wake of two bomb blasts that killed several people in Boston.
Several people active in the fight for immigration reform around the Mid-South were eagerly looking forward to the unveiling of the proposal.
“Comprehensive Immigration Reform, something that we’ve been waiting on for a long time,” said Gaby Benitez, 24, West Tennessee Organizer. “It was supposed to be proposed last month and that hasn’t happened and so it has gone through several deadlines that haven’t been met.”
It has previously been reported that the legislation would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people now in the country and establish a 10-year process for obtaining a green card but the actual proposal has yet to be unveiled.
“We are hoping that a bill proposal happens and that way we can look at the texts and what it will really be in telling and who will be included and hopefully we won’t see any exclusions, said Benitez. “ That’s what we have been fighting for is to make sure that everyone is included which is an estimated 11 million people and at first there were definitely lots of exclusions.”
Previous proposals have excluded domestic workers, day laborers and people in the L.G.B.T. community and their families. “
So we are hopeful that when it is presented that we see all 11 million or the majority of 11 million included in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform or what we call Just and Humane Immigration Reform,” said Benitez.
At a small restaurant in Mid-town, an employee that requested to give only his first name Carlos expressed his feelings about immigration and the upcoming proposal.
“I think a lot of people are interested in knowing what is going to happen with all of this,” Carlos, 28 a cook said. “I’ve been here for a while now. I work. I take care of my family. I know some people that are undocumented. I cannot say, you know? But they just want to take care of their families, you know? I don’t know what’s going to happen but I’m hoping.”
There are several organizations that have been fighting for Comprehensive Immigration Reform here in the Mid-South. One of these organizations is Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). )
TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration that has the mission of empowering immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee by giving them a unified voice and defending their rights.
“TIRRC has a program called Immigrant State Assembly,” said Benitez. “That is basically a group of 14 local committees that we organize with in directly with even more organizations that we partner with. Here in Memphis the Workers Interfaith network is also one of those organizations that is part of the Immigrant State Assembly.”
Workers Interfaith Network is made up of people who seek justice with Mid-South workers. They bring together people of faith, workers, and community activists to join together in fighting for living wages and to stop unfair working conditions.
“In addition there is Communities United and One Voice which meets which meets every Tuesday at the MSPJC, said Benitez. “They have been working together by having popular education workshops to hear what the people want, what the people need and what the people will not negotiate with Immigration Reform.”
At a small coffee shop in Mid-town Bartolo Gonzalez, 37 a painter shared his feeling about immigration reform and the proposal being but together to be presented to Congress.
“This immigration reform is going to affect me possibly, said Gonzalez. “I’ve been here for more than ten years… undocumented. Me and my wife we have two boys. So it’s going to affect me.”
Gonzalez expressed optimism for some immigration reform to happen soon.
“And I’m so excited because we are going to have that immigration reform this year,” said Gonzalez. “I’m happy. And how I feel when I see some people on TV not supporting the immigration, I feel sad. These are human being in an economy. And when we include people that come here and work hard we are going to have a better country. It is American principals. This country was built with immigrants.”