By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Immigrant rights advocates are calling for a holly jolly reform season filled with rallies for comprehensive immigration reform.
Rights for All People is calling for people to celebrate the holidays with actions around what is sure to be a heated battle in Washington over immigration reform. The group will meet Saturday at 11 a.m. in Aurora at Novias de Mexico, 1463 Florence St., to advocate for reform efforts.
President Obama’s administration last month expressed a desire to push for legislation that would bring about immigration reform.
The goal is to provide a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants, though that number is just an estimate. Some polls place the number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States as high as 20 million.
Calling it an issue of “just and humane immigration reform,” Rights for All People believes the holiday season is a perfect time to rally for their cause because the season is a time when people are encouraged to work and come together.
“The holiday season is a time to come together as a family, but millions of families in the United States are broken because our immigration system is broken,” said Emily Parkey, with Rights for All People.
Advocates are collecting holiday cards that will be sent to Congressman Ed Perlmutter, D-Lakewood, that say, “All I want for Christmas is just and humane immigration reform.”
One card specifically states, “All I want for Christmas is just and humane immigration reform in the new year so that we can unite our family.”
Advocates point to the pain the immigration system can cause families when workplace raids take place that result in some families being separated through deportation proceedings. Here in Colorado, advocates point to the December 2006 raid on the Greeley Swift & Co. plant. More than 260 workers were arrested on suspicion of identity theft. In the end, more than 100 illegal immigrants were detained and later deported for illegally working at the meatpacking plant.
Advocates will canvas Aurora this Saturday visiting business owners in an attempt to compel them to rally for immigration reform. Owners will be asked to place collection boxes for community members to turn in their holiday immigration reform cards.
Doubt still lingers as to whether Congress will want to tackle the issue, as lawmakers are already facing historical health care reform and controversial energy issues. Some analysts say the legislation will likely be postponed until after mid-term elections next November. But the White House is calling for immigration reform efforts to begin as early as the beginning of next year. Officials have called for a “three-legged stool” approach that includes tougher enforcement of immigration laws, including a crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers; a streamlined system for legal immigration; and a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
Critics of the reform effort doubt that many undocumented immigrants would actually go through the effort to become legal citizens. Those with criminal records, or who owe thousands of dollars in taxes likely won’t go through the process, Stan Weekes, director of Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform, recently said.
He said there are likely thousands of undocumented immigrants out there with criminal backgrounds and who don’t want to pay back taxes.
“If we granted this path to citizenship, how many of them are going to do it?” asked Weekes. “Why would they turn themselves in to get deported?”
Meanwhile, Perlmutter spokeswoman Leslie Oliver said the congressman generally supports reform efforts.
“His consistent message on immigration reform has been that we need to enforce the laws that are currently on the books, we need to crack down on employers who aren’t checking immigration status, and for the immigrants who are paying taxes and haven’t committed any crimes, but who are here illegally — we should provide them with a pathway to citizenship,” she said.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters