As has been highlighted on countless occasions, at the center of the slow economic recovery in the United States is the unemployment plight and its believed correlation with undocumented workers. The immigration issue has evolved from a usually marginalized issue into the ultimate political pawn where strong lines have been drawn between restrictionists and more tolerant liberals. With many stakeholders involved, immigration reform is imminent and here are five key players that are leading the way.
5) Mayor Michael Bloomberg
New York City has a rich history of accepting waves of immigrants and Bloomberg has continued in this tradition. From providing free language lessons and services that help immigrants assimilate into American life to building a broad coalition of leaders from the political and business world to push for prudent immigration reform, Bloomberg represents the rational side of the immigration debate.
4) Socially Responsible Companies
With vested interests, businesses that rely on low-cost labor as well as cutting-edge tech expertise have become more involved in the Immigration debate. American Apparel is one of those companies. As far back as 2003, AA’s Legalize LA campaign has helped raise awareness on the need for immigration reform. Given that a large proportion of its garment workers are immigrants who are constantly faced with deportation, American Apparel’s production capacity is heavily dependent on the availability of the skills of these workers. On the other hand, some Silicon Valley leaders have joined the fight to help promising undocumented students attend college, prepare for jobs, and find ways to legalize their status. The coalition led by Jeff Hawkins, the Palm Pilot inventor, and other big tech names such as Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple’s Steve Jobs, allocates funds to the Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC), a non-profit that provides scholarship opportunities, job preparation workshops, internships, and legal advisement to undocumented youth. The involvement of the corporate world in immigration illustrates the severity of the situation and the negative externalities it is creating for firms.
3) Academic Institutions
Universities understand the importance of expanding educational opportunities to undocumented youth and have become one of the main supporters of the DREAM Act. College officials representing big schools such as Arizona State University to Tufts University and many others have all expressed their public support for the DREAM Act and have passed resolutions that integrate undocumented students into their schools.
2) Rep. Luis Gutierrez
As Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Task Force on Immigration, the Representative from Illinois has been on the forefront of not only on issues of immigration but in other social justice issues pertaining to minority groups such as LGBT rights, gender equality, and other liberal causes. In 2011, he visited several cities including Birmingham, Alabama, denouncing HB56, the state’s anti-immigration law, and actively helped immigrants who are victims of racial profiling to have their deportation cases terminated. In Washington, he has become the national face of immigration reform where he works within and across party lines to reach a reform that takes into account immigrant rights as well as the economy.
1) Undocumented Activists
From journalists to students to organizers, undocumented persons are leading the fight for immigration reform from the shadows. Through the use of campaigns, petitions, marches, protests, undocumented activists do not only provide services for undocumented immigrants, but they serve as the lobbyists for a people without a political voice. The DREAM Activists for example, provide a platform of invaluable information for undocumented youth and organize around passing the DREAM Act into law. Since hitting a political dead end on the federal level, DREAM activists have been organizing around passing state versions of the DREAM Act and have been successful in California and eleven other states.