Queens politicians and immigration activists rallied last Friday to support a move by House Democrats to force a vote on immigration reform that would affect the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
“Our message to [House Speaker] John Boehner is, stop delaying,” Congressman Steve Israel (D-Suffolk, Nassau, Queens) said outside Flushing Town Hall.
He called on House Republicans to sign on to the discharge petition to bring the measure to the floor, which would still leave them with the option of voting for or against it. “But we deserve a vote,” Israel said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) filed the discharge, or “demand a vote,” petition on March 26. Republicans, who have said they do not intend to hold a vote on the issue, would be forced to do so if the Democrats can get 218 members of the House of Representatives to sign it.
As of April 1, 172 members had signed on to the petition. The bill has 199 co-sponsors, including three Republicans. It is considered unlikely to gather enough GOP support to succeed, but that hasn’t stopped Democrats from trying.
“We need to get every single legislator, every single Congress person, to pass this,” Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said. “The time is now.”
“The American people will not accept any more excuses. The time for comprehensive immigration reform must be now,” Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said in a joint press release issued by the politicians and activists who held the rally. Meng was unable to attend due to a death in the family.
The bill, HR 15, is named the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act. It would provide a path to citizenship for the illegal immigrants already living here, increase border security in a bid to ensure that the problem does not continue to grow and reduce the backlog of legal immigration cases.
“I believe immigration reform is a plus for our nation’s economy,” S. J. Jung, president of the MinKwon Center for Community Action in Flushing, told the Chronicle before the rally. Jung participated for eight days last November in a Fast for Families hunger strike event in Washington, DC to promote immigration reform.
MinKwon provides social services, community organizing and advocacy, encourages civic participation and provides youth programs for the Korean community.
Jung cited figures from the Center for American Progress showing that immigration reform would increase economic output by $1.6 billion, whereas the mass deportation of about 400,000 undocumented immigrants every year decreases economic output by $2.7 billion. He sees examples of this in MinKwon’s community.
“There are some people capable of starting a business in the community, but their status is unclear,” Jung said. “I believe immigration reform is a plus for our nation’s economy.”
Yen Chou, president of the Chinese American Parent-Student Council, noted that many families have been broken up because of deportation.