With the Republicans gaining ground in Congress it is time to develop a new strategy for comprehensive immigration reform.
This is what Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez said recently to a group of students at Columbia College Chicago, (where I also am an assistant professor of journalism.)
"What do we do in January given the electoral votes of the last election?" Gutierrez asked. "We need to stop talking about comprehensive immigration reform. If that is the goal and the objective now, it is really impossible to accomplish cause the votes do not exist."
Gutierrez said it wasn't possible to pass a bill when Democrats were 260 strong in the House and now number around 180. In the Senate, Democrats held 59 seats and now they are down to 52, and a few of the Democrats won't support comprehensive immigration reform, he said.
"I assure you in the next two years you are not going to get comprehensive immigration reform," Gutierrez said.
Some Republicans instead will push for altering the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that grants U.S. citizenship to all babies born in the United States, he said.
"They are not for comprehensive immigration reform they are for taking constitutional rights that you already have," Gutierrez said.
So Gutierrez outlined a new two-fold strategy.
First is to support the DREAM Act. Both Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have indicated they are ready to call for a vote on the DREAM Act. There could even be some movement on the DREAM Act in Congress this week.
That is the legislation that would help undocumented youth, who complete two years of college or military service, forge a pathway to legal status.
Second is to call on President Barack Obama to sign a moratorium on deportations especially of parents who have U.S. citizen children.
"The moratorium is the movement. The movement is the moratorium," Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said that civil right leaders didn't wait for Congress to act.
"Do you think Cesar Chavez, when he was fighting for the farm workers, woke up and said, 'I wonder if the speaker is gonna be for me?' Do you think he thought that way?' "
Gutierrez said that during the campaign Obama said the immigration system is broken and that he should keep his promise to fix it by signing a moratorium on deportations.
"They say a pen is mightier than a sword," Gutierrez said. "With a pen he can simply write and say we're not going to deport any more undocumented workers from this country who have U.S. citizen children. He can do that with a pen because ... Congress won't act."
Gutierrez also criticized the Obama Administration for the unprecedented number of deportations. It exceeds even the rate of the Bush Administration, according to the Washington Post. Most of them are non-criminal deportations.
Gutierrez was hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and spoke to Columbia students, including a class taught by adjunct professor Jose Lopez.