Over the course of one week in the month of May, more than 130 colonia leaders and LUPE members from around the Valley convened to decide LUPE’s stance on immigration legislation proposed by New York Senator Charles E. Schumer.
The proposed legislation, offered as a compromise between conservative proponents of border security and law enforcement and advocates of a path to citizenship, would increase border militarization while at the same time include both the DREAM and AgJOBS acts. It has been referred to as a “border-first” bill, meaning a crackdown on illegal immigration and heightened border militarization would be given first priority.
Colonia leaders convened in four meetings in different Valley cities to discuss the merits and faults of the proposed legislation. LUPE organizers and leaders took turns explaining parts of the proposal, breaking down key elements within the bill and opening it up for discussion after each part.
LUPE members applauded the inclusion of the DREAM Act and AgJOBS bills, but raised concern over increased immigration enforcement. While some favored increased border security to protect against cartel violence spilling over the border, many did not like the added Border Patrol presence the bill would bring to their communities.
Many were tired of waiting years for a path towards legalization. One commenter, discouraged, said, “We are going to get more immigration enforcement anyway, so if we don’t take this we lose AgJOBS and the DREAM Act.”
After small group discussion, the proposal was brought to a vote. Of the 132 members voting, 121 vote to support the proposal.
Leaders then asked members to come up with ways that we can attempt to minimize the damage done by the bill and maximize its benefits. Members proposed calling Senators, organizing marches, and raising awareness in the community about the proposal.
To close, the group reflected on the importance of having these sessions. Members said that participating in the meeting allowed them to create an informed community by helping them understand what immigration reform really looks like and preparing them to go out and talk about the proposal. It also allowed the members to find unity around a vision for comprehensive immigration reform.
Organizers then encouraged colonia leaders to take up this push to improve the Schumer proposal. “This is something that has to be done by everyone,” said one organizer. “It can’t be the organizers alone.”