Immigration Reform

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A discussion about the Bipartisan Senate plan and President Obama’s proposal on immigration reform from Reverend Warren Stewart Senior, pastor for the First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix and co-chair for the Black/Brown Coalition. Joining him are Chairs the Board of the National Immigration Forum: Danny Ortega, attorney and chairman for the National Council of La Raza; and Lisa Urias, co-chair for the Real Arizona Coalition.

Jose Cardenas: For the first time in Years there was a serious Talk on getting Congress to Act on immigration reform. A bipartisan group of senators announced their plans, which included a path to citizenship for 11 undocumented people. President Obama spoke in Las Vegas, putting his full support to a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration laws. Here is what some of the senators and President Obama Had to say this week.

SOT: 11 million human beings who are here undocumented, vast and enormous majority of whom have come here in pursuit of what all of us would recognize as the American dream. That is what we endeavor to move forward here on.

I am the most optimistic I have been in sometime -- I recognize there are difficult challenges ahead. I get the sense of a spirit and commitment that is far beyond what I have seen in sometime.

Elections. Elections. The Republican party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens, and we realize that there are many issues in which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens. This is a preeminent issue with those citizens. In Espanol, vamonos --

A process that includes passing a background check, paying taxes, paying a penalty, learning English, and then going to the back of the line behind all of the folks who are trying to come here legally. That is only fair. All right. So, that means it won't be a quick progress. But it will be a fair process.

Jose Cardenas: Here with me tonight to Talk about the proposals from the Senate and the president Is Danny Ortega, attorney and chairman for the national council of La Raza. Lisa Urias, cochair for the Real Arizona Coalition. And the Reverend Warren Stewart, senior pastor of the first institutional Baptist church in Phoenix, cochair for the black/brown coalition. He also chairs the board of The national immigration Forum, an advocacy group in In Washington, D.C. Welcome all of you to "Horizonte." Start with you, chairmanship is relatively new what --

Warren Stewart: A sister who I worked together with for many, many years, contacted me two and a half years ago, pastor Stewart, we want you to help us on this immigration issue. This is a justice issue, of course, and I have been about justice all of my ministry here. It was a natural for me. It is a justice issue, moral justice issue that needs to be addressed because it deals with our human brothers and sisters.

Jose Cardenas: One of the most prominent organizations working on this issue. You were -- what did you think of the president's speech?

Warren Stewart: The president instead of giving particulars was very human. Very down to earth. A phrase he talked about, it is not us versus them. Remember that we used to be them. Talking about immigrants. So, he put it at a very humane, touchable level that it -- it is a life issue. This whole immigration that we have to fix and repair.

Jose Cardenas: Any concerns about the senators proposal?

Warren Stewart: No. We know that they will have to work on it to get it through the Senate and then over to the house. Our concerns are more of what is going to happen in the house than the Senate?

Jose Cardenas: Danny, as the Congressman put it, not on our show but in one of the newspaper interviews, the devil is in the details. And there are a lot of details that aren't discussed in either proposal. What do you think is missing right now?

Danny Ortega: I think the Senate plan has got that problem. If you really look -- they say path to citizenship, the only real path to citizenship that they define is for dreamers and for people who have been working in agriculture. The whole idea that we are going to wait to make sure that the border is secure before anybody can get a pathway to citizenship, makes it so indefinite that it could never happen. That is where I think --

Jose Cardenas: In the meantime, though, people will have probationary status.

Danny Ortega: Probationary status and then legal residency status. You want the process to citizenship and the words in one of the headings of the plan and you look at the details -- dreamers and AG jobs, that is something that we have to work on.

Jose Cardenas: And the Emphasis in the senator's proposal, contingent upon securing the border.

Danny Ortega: There are just so many contingencies. I think they don't want to say we support the path to citizenship. And I think all contingencies are pointing in that direction. I tell you I am encouraged by the plan. I think it is a good first step. I wouldn't dismiss it. It would have been the -- this could be the plan. Before I begin to criticize anything about this plan, I want to see what is over there on the right and with the house of representatives.

Jose Cardenas: Any criticisms of the president's proposal?

Danny Ortega: No, actually the president was I think more liberal of the plans although he continues with the enforcement policies. I like the fact he has a specific definition on when people can become citizens. I think they're pretty similar, but his is going to be tougher than even the Senate plan.

Jose Cardenas: He has been criticized for not saying more about temporary guest workers.

Danny Ortega: Yeah, I think it is important for us to talk about that a little bit more. It depends on what area of temporary workers you want to talk about. The more you talk about temporary workers the more you talk about protection of the workers. You have a little tension in allowing them to come in at the will of the employers. So that to me is a hot issue and one that has to be -- you have to be very delicate about. Should have been delicate about the path to citizenship but it wasn't but on the guest workers, I think that is where the problem is.

Jose Cardenas: Lisa, you and Danny had both been working on the real Arizona coalition, coming up with the S-A-M-E, same proposal, give us background on that?

Lisa Urias: Same platform developed with the Arizona coalition to respond to the issue of immigration. As you know, Arizona is considered the bellwether state on the issue of immigration. And a lot of folks involved in the coalition to try to advance -- the platform, in some ways very similar to the senators platform and president's platform -- the whole goal of it is to come up with ways -- legalizing the 11 million here currently undocumented. Finding a way to define what a secure border means at every port of entry in the United States and changing the Visa system. We need Visa reform to ensure that the U.S. has what it needs to engage in a vital economy.

Jose Cardenas: The real Arizona coalition as I understand it is a broad-based group. You have Montgomery on one side and others like Daniel Ortega who might be considered not necessarily politically in the same part of the room, but -- and business groups.

Lisa Urias: Absolutely. Really started with an economic platform. Because we wanted people to understand that the vitality of America is the fact that we have immigrants coming to this country. From our inception, immigrants have driven this economy and this culture of America. This beautiful experiment that we started many, many years ago called America. It was driven by immigrants who came here who risked everything for that land of opportunity. We know that from the inception and to today, immigrants are a vital part of this economy. We started with the business voice and then brought in other folks, law enforcement, civil rights groups, faith groups, others, justice O'Connor has been participating with us because we wanted to be sure that we had all voices at the table participating in the process and giving us their input.

Jose Cardenas: Where do you see Arizona going, what role it will play in the immigration debate?

Warren Stewart: Arizona has been the negative forefront and we are trying to reverse that with leadership coming within Arizona. I'm a part of the black/brown coalition, a group of community leaders from all levels that are saying that we have more in common than we have uncommon, and we join together to speak for justice issues for all people, but especially people of color. We are trying to take the leadership and we hope that and we see that our senators, our congressional delegations, some of them will follow suit. I even heard the governor speaking about she supports comprehensive immigration reform about two weeks ago. And that is movement.

Jose Cardenas: All right. I think the reverend may be right there, Danny, but the governor qualified her commitment by saying when she is satisfied that the border has been secured. And that is the criticism made by the bipartisan senators proposal, contingent on securing the border, to be determined by a commission --

Danny Ortega: You know, every proposal has to have a little bit for everybody. And securing the border first is the language of the right in terms of their constituency. Path to citizenship is the language to the left. At the end of the day we have to figure out what we have in common, and if part of getting a plan through is making sure that the border is secure, I'm for it. Okay. How you define it is where the problem is at. One person sees it one way and another person sees it the other. If we could come up with a definition acceptable to all on what control of the border means, maybe that is where we have to start. The problem is that some people are using it as a pretext for knowing that it will never happen and therefore we could never have immigration reform.

Jose Cardenas: Are you optimistic that we will see --

Danny Ortega: I am very optimistic. If you look at what the senators did yesterday and what the president did, we just need to wait for the house to come forward and see what they want. I think it is imperative for everybody, irrespective of a party to come up with a plan and more so for republicans than anybody else.

Jose Cardenas: Almost out of time. I understand same is working on a possible summit. What might that cover?

Lisa Urias: We are hoping to have a national summit here. We hope that maybe our senators would participate, or at least one of them, to talk about these issues. We have been doing summits all around the state over the last few years to talk about immigration reform with people from a national platform who have very inciteful suggestions and input into the process. We hope to do that here sometime within the coming months.

Jose Cardenas: I'm sure we will be talking about this for some time to come. That is our show tonight. For all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm Jose Cardenas, have a good night.

Danny Ortega:Attorney and Chairman, National Council of La Raza; Lisa Urias:Co-chair, Real Arizona Coalition; Reverend Warren Stewart Senior:Pastor, First Institutional Baptist Church and Co-chair, Black/Brown Coalition;

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