Tulsans praise potential for immigration reform
BY STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
Monday, January 28, 2013
With President Barack Obama set to introduce proposals for comprehensive immigration reform Tuesday, a day after Democratic and Republican senators discussed drafting legislation to provide a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, local supporters said Monday that government action is long overdue.
Immigration attorney David Sobel called the potential for reform in the country's immigration laws "long overdue," adding that it will give immigrants "the chance to be productive citizens."
Sobel said effective immigration reform has the potential to spark job growth, as both white-collar and blue-collar positions could easily be filled by qualified immigrants who are already eager to make a respectable living in the United States.
Francisco Trevino, CEO of the Greater Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said he "definitely supports" the government's moving forward with comprehensive immigration reform. Such legislation could immediately have a positive residual impact on the American economy, he said.
"More (immigrants) will be willing to invest in the U.S.," Trevino said. "It will be good for Oklahoma; it will be good for everyone because instead of them sending money back to their country of origin, that money will stay here."
Trevino also lauded proposed plans to address border security, which he said would reduce criminal elements and prevent businesses from abusing undocumented workers.
In Washington, the senators acknowledged pitfalls that have doomed such efforts in the past, but they suggested that November’s elections — with Hispanics voting heavily for Obama and other Democrats — could make this time different.
Passage of the emotionally charged legislation by the Democratic-controlled Senate is far from assured, and a taller hurdle could come later in the House, which is dominated by conservative Republicans who’ve shown little interest in immigration overhaul.
In Tulsa, Sobel and Trevino both said those who stand in opposition to immigration changes express apprehension based on lack of understanding of the issues.
"Those who are anti-immigration are usually the most uniformed," said Trevino.
Besides citizenship provisions, the Senate measure would increase border security, would allow more temporary workers to stay, and would crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. The plans are still short on details, and the senators conceded that months of tedious and politically treacherous negotiations lie ahead.
But with a re-elected Obama pledging his commitment, the lawmakers argued that six years after the last sustained congressional effort at an immigration overhaul came up short in the Senate, chances for approval this year are much better.
"This will give immigrants a better chance to believe and live the American dream," Trevino said.
World Staff Writer Kendrick Marshall and The Associated Press contributed to this story.