With immigration reform stuck in Congress, supporters try to keep issue in spotlight

Thousands gathered on April 10, 2013, in Washington, D.C., to demand immigration reform with a path to citizenship. [Photo by Lucio Villa]

Thousands gathered on April 10, 2013, in Washington, D.C., to demand immigration reform with a path to citizenship. [Photo by Lucio Villa]

So far, 2014 has been a roller coaster ride for the future of immigration reform. The year started strong when President Barack Obama made immigration reform a legislative priority during his State of the Union address.

“Let’s get immigration reform done this year,” he told Congress in January.

But U.S. House Speaker John Boehner killed the momentum when he said legislative action won’t happen this year. The GOP leader said he didn’t trust the Obama administration’s ability to enforce immigration laws.

Last year, the Senate passed an immigration reform bill, but it stalled in the House.

Immigration advocates say the fight isn’t over.

“I’m not worried about comments Boehner made,” said Greg Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Chen said Republicans are pushing back because it is primary season and immigration reform is a controversial issue.

“Some [Republican] candidates are facing more conservative tea party challengers, they don’t want to speak publicly in favor of immigration reform,” Chen said.

But both parties recognize that supporting immigration reform is crucial for gaining votes from Latino and Asian communities, he said.

The association, which includes 13,000 immigration attorneys nationwide, is lobbying members of the House to pass reform. And advocates are desperately trying to keep the issue in the forefront. There have been prayer vigils, hunger strikes, rallies–and some advocates have even chained themselves to buses to stop deportations.

But given the lack of action in the nation’s capital, young immigration activists have shifted focus. Recently, more than 500 leaders of United We Dream, a group of young undocumented immigrants, protested President Obama in Arizona. The activists say they are frustrated with both parties and are now pressuring the president to stop deportations, the New York Times reported.

In 2013, deportations topped 400,000. That’s almost 2 million deportations since Obama took office—more than any other president. And that number likely will increase.

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