As the prospects for Congressional passage of comprehensive immigration reform this year continue to dim in Washington, D.C., it is a good time to pay more attention to policymakers and immigration activists outside of the Capitol. Over the past few years, more action has happened at the state and local levels than the federal level. Why? Realizing Congress may not act any time soon, officials and immigration activists have been seeking practical solutions to immigrants’ immediate problems where they are most likely to be solved.
In fact, on July 31, 112 protested were arrested in front of the White House as they urged President Obama to take executive action on immigration. These activists, representing organizations from around the U.S., protested at the White House because they have given up on Congress passing meaningful legislation this year.
If you want to see positive changes happen for immigrants this year, it is best to know what is happening in your state and city, in addition to understanding the national scene.
STATE AND LOCAL ACTION
New York City, Oakland, New Haven, Trenton, Los Angeles and San Francisco have passed legislation granting government ID cards to undocumented immigrants. Since last year, a number of states — including California, Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oregon — have passed legislation granting drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants. Multiple states have also passed their own versions of the DREAM Act, giving undocumented students in-state tuition assistance.
According to the most recent numbers compiled by the National Conference of State Legislators, immigration-related legislation is accelerating at the local level. A total of 184 state immigration laws were enacted and 253 resolutions adopted in 2013 — a 64% increase over 2012, the report said.
The good news? According to Kica Matos, director of the Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change, the nature of the laws being passed has shifted from policies aimed at blocking illegal immigration to legislation designed to expand access to government services for undocumented immigrants.
HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED
If you are interested in standing up for the rights of immigrants at the local, state and national levels, how do you get involved?
*Join an activist organization and attend events at the local, state and national levels, as possible. Here is information about several large-scale national organizations, but, with internet research, you may find smaller organizations that are targeted to your locale, as well.
- United We Dream (unitedwedream.org): United We Dream is the largest youth immigrant activist organization in the nation. For the younger generation, this group is a great way to get involved. On their website, you can find out how to sign an online immigration reform petition and other ways to take action.
- Immigrant Solidarity Network (immigrantsolidarity.org): The Immigrant Solidarity Network is a good source for news and updates regarding immigration reform and activism. You can join a mailing list for regular updates and opportunities to get involved.
- Immigration Now (immigrationnow.org): You can send a letter to your newspaper editor, find events near you, and sign up for news updates on the Immigration Now website.
*Become informed. Conduct internet research to find out what your local and state politicians are doing in regards to immigration. Which leaders support positive reforms for immigrants, and which are against it? Write letters and make phone calls to let these officials know how you feel about the issues.
*Organize an immigration task force made up of your friends, neighbors, fellow church members and others who share your beliefs about rights for immigrants. Together, organize community meetings to promote your views, such as potluck dinners or protests in front of City Hall. Invite political leaders and local press to attend.
Please share with us all of the ways you are working to protect the rights of immigrants in your neighborhood. We would love to hear your stories!
If you need the help of an immigration attorney, please contact us today to schedule a consultation.