Show Me the Data!
Not even two weeks ago, more than two hundred thousand people descended on the National Mall to demand comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). If those numbers didn't wow you, now a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) finds widespread support among religious groups (including mainline Protestants, Catholics, and white evangelicals) for comprehensive immigration reform. Dr. Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI, asserts that American voters, by a 2-1 margin, support CIR and that more than 8-in-10 Americans believe strongly that immigration reform legislation should be guided by values of protecting dignity, keeping families together, promoting national security and ensuring fairness to taxpayers.
The findings of the survey are encouraging as voters wait for progress on a CIR bill in the Senate. Just two weeks ago, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) published an op-ed in the Washington Post outlining the four principles of the immigration reform bill they are co-authoring, which include employment verification, increased border security, programs for temporary workers, and a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. President Obama hailed the op-ed as, "a promising, bipartisan framework" and pledged to work with the Senators to pass a bill this year.
So, where's this bill? Campaign season looms ahead and CIR is a tough issue to take on at any point in the election cycle, so why the dawdling? Apparently, Schumer and Graham want to ensure a firm base of bipartisan support when they introduce the legislation so they've been seeking out second Democrat and Republican lead co-sponsors to introduce the bill with them. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) has agreed to take on this role, but the Republican spot is yet to be filled. Republican Senators currently being courted for this position are Sen. Cornyn (TX), Sen. Hatch (UT), Sen. LeMieux (FL) and Sen. Brown (MA).
Truth be told, there are many other Republican Senators like Sen. Snowe and Sen. Collins in Maine, Sen. Voinovich in Ohio, Sen. Lugar in Indiana, Sen. Murkowski in Alaska and Sen. Gregg in New Hampshire who have expressed support for comprehensive immigration reform. If Schumer and Graham are looking for a second Republican co-sponsor to get the ball rolling, then it's our job as constituents of these Senators to call and write their offices urging their leadership and involvement on this issue.
The PRRI poll indicates that nearly 9-in-10 voters, (86%!) favor a CIR policy that establishes a path to legalization for the undocumented and that a majority of voters (56%) believe our immigration system is completely or mostly broken. Most surprising of all, 47% voters - almost half - say that immigration is very important to them. There are an estimated 12 million people living in the shadows of our society and 4 million individuals loitering in the visa backlogs waiting to reunite here with their loved ones. If the statistics are true, if almost half the population feels this issue is crucial and needs to be addressed, then let's stop resting on our laurels waiting for Congress to move!
In August 1963, an unexpectedly large crowd of 250,000 people attended the civil rights March on Washington -- during which Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech -- to support President Kennedy's Civil Rights Act, which passed the following year. 47 years later, an unanticipated 200,000 people turned out for the March for America in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.
These numbers are significant. The numbers on the Mall and the numbers in the survey indicate that people want change. History shows us that when we raise our voices repeatedly and with fervor, we can elicit movement from our elected officials. Now is the time for us to make noise. We laid the groundwork by doing the research and gathering for the rally. Now it's up to us as individuals to write, email, fax, call and visit our Members of Congress non-stop until we achieve comprehensive immigration reform.