As I’ve worked on immigration reform for the past six and half years with CWS, I’ve felt the heartbreak that so many of our community members have experienced due to the failure of our lawmakers to achieve reform. But this moment is different. It looks like we have the necessary votes – plus a few more – for the Senate to pass legislation that will create a pathway to citizenship for millions of our undocumented community members. We’ll know for sure in the next 24-48 hours.
This doesn’t mean that our fight is over. In fact, it’s far from over. We can’t just rest on our laurels after this Senate vote. We still have a long road ahead to urge the House of Representatives to create an accessible pathway to citizenship, reunite separated families, and increase protections for refugees and asylum seekers. It’s going to be tough, but I have full confidence that by continuing to meet with our legislators and lift up our voices in the media and at creative rallies and prayer vigils, we can make immigration reform a reality.
It’s also important to recognize that this is a difficult time for many in our movement, as we see the reality of the compromises needed to advance this bill in a bipartisan way. The Senate bill is far from perfect, and in some cases goes against what we’ve been advocating for. We see this particularly in the Corker-Hoeven amendment approved on Monday, which further militarizes our southern border. There are also many members of our communities who will not be able to access the path to citizenship, which is incredibly hard to live with. But many of our community members will be able to pursue a path to citizenship and reunite their families. We cannot discount that. This bill will make things better than they are now for millions. We will continue to work to improve these provisions as the House considers its legislation, the conference committee merges the Senate and House bills, and the administration prepares to implement it.
One of the key reasons why we’re seeing such momentum on immigration reform is because the faith community has organized across our country, hosting prayer vigils outside detention centers and Senate offices, meeting with their Members of Congress, and educating communities about the moral need for immigration reform. I am so proud that together with our friends and partners we have seen more than 10,000 calls to Senate offices by people of faith during this process.
As I have met almost daily with Senate offices in the past few weeks, many have said that the faith voice is the reason they are supporting immigration reform. Senate staff have told me that people of faith are the only ones who can really educate communities so that we can not only change immigration policy, but we can also change the culture of our communities as well – to build a stronger and more welcoming country. This is why the faith voice is so powerful!
As we move ahead this week and into the House process, I keep reminding myself that we are unlikely to see another chance to enact immigration reform bill for another 10 years. Now is the time for immigration reform. We are witnessing in real time the arc of justice bending toward the sun. There is still a lot in our way, but we are closer than we have ever been before to achieving reform for our immigrant brothers and sisters. Thank you for your witness and your action, and get ready to call, write, and meet with your Representatives as we seize momentum from the Senate vote and make immigration reform a reality!
By Jen Smyers, Associate Director for Immigration and Refugee Policy, CWS