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Expectations Run High for Immigration Reform in the United States

Blazing temperatures didn't deter protesters, activists and community leaders from taking to the streets of Washington DC earlier this month in a show of support for immigration reform that would legalize some 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. Their cause seems to have been heard by a bipartisan group of senators who proposed a new immigration bill this week.

La reforma migratoria vuelve a ser noticia este mes. Foto tomada de Flickr/nathangibbs (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Immigration reform is again front page news this month. Photo taken from Flickr account of nathangibbs (CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The so-called “Gang of Eight” (comprised of four Republican and four Democratic Senators), have been working on drafting the bill since February of this year. Among other things, the proposed S.744 bill includes the creation of a provisional program aimed to assist immigrants who meet certain requirements begin their application for legal residency; provisions to increase the strength of border security; the establishment of a merit-based system whichs awards green cards based on education and job stability; the development of electronic verification system e-verify, which employers will use to check an applicant's legal status; and a system that will track all foreigners exiting the counry. Without a doubt, some of these measures are quite controversial and problematic.

What remains to be seen, however, is how the attacks at the Boston Marathon on 15 April will play into this bill's success. The suspects, brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 26 and 19-years-old respectively, are originally from Chechnya in southern Russia although they had been living in the U.S. for nearly a decade. Actually, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a US citizen. Tamerlan died Thursday night in a shootout with police in a Boston suburb, while Dzhokhar- detained Friday after a massive manhunt closed down the city and surrounding areas- remains in critical condition in one of the city's hospitals.

For some, like those at Encuentro, the proposed bill is merely a first step:

What this means is that there is so much more to do. We have to now assure that the plan is detailed with the clearest, attainable path to citizenship, that there be no discriminatory barriers that could impede people in our community. We want the best because our struggle has been big and united. Encuentro wants to highlight that this struggle has been happening from Albuquerque to Alabama and beyond, and is finally getting to the hearts of the entire country. We want to celebrate with you all, but at the same time, we still recognize there's much to do, especially going out and celebrating the migrant worker this year by going to the May Day celebrations and marches.

Father José Eugenio Hoyos explains how he views the relationship the Catholic Church has in immigration reform on his blog:

Nuestra Iglesia Católica desde los comienzos del Éxodo masivo de inmigrantes dentro de la historia y en la actualidad siempre ha estado acompañado y apoyando a las familias inmigrantes…Las dificultades y sufrimientos de los inmigrantes sobre todo de los indocumentados golpean nuestras conciencias de cristianos y nos invitan a adoptar actitudes iluminadas por la fe y la Palabra de Cristo, especialmente desde nuestra comunidad. Las Sagradas Escrituras nos llaman a ser más sensibles y dar la bienvenida a los extranjeros, a los inmigrantes y a los enfermos (Mateo 25: 31-46).

Since the early days of the Exodus our Catholic Church has always been joined and supported by immigrant families…The difficulties and suffering of immigrants- above all the undocumented immigrants- weigh heavily on us as Christians, and are inviting us assume stances rooted in faith and the Word of God, especially on behalf of those within our community. The Sacred Scripture call us to be more sensitive and graciously welcome the hungry, the stranger, and the sick (Matthew 25: 31-46).

This month marked the launch of a new campaign by American news sources to deter the use of the term “illegal immigrant” in print. The initiative was started by the Associated Press, who claims the term “illegal” implies a criminal act, and identifies the person as illegal instead of explaining their immigration status. News outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post and other new conglomerates are likely to follow this example. Social media giants like Mark Zuckerberg have also recently expressed an interest in the topic, though some reports say the interest goes only as far as to gain the human capital from the country's developing demographics according to the newspaper Politico.

The proposed bill and the decision to cease using pejorative terminology in reference to immigrants have been major topics on Twitter.

Cindy Y. Rodriguez (@cindyrodriguez) says:

@cindyrodriguez: Hasta ahora, la campaña contra dicha palabra ha tenido un éxito limitado

@cindyrodriguez: Until now, efforts to stop using the word “illegal” have had only limited success.

Some like Alfonso Hernández (@alhezjr) urge followers to support the reform:

@alhezjr: Apoyemos la Reforma Inmigratoria Comprensiva esta semana de apoyo,15-20 de abril @worldrelief #G92 #ReformaInmigratoria

@alhezjr: Show your support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform this week, 15-20 April@worldrelief #G92 #ReformaInmigratoria

Finally, Karina Sánchez Campos (@karisanchezc) quotes Republican Senator Marco Rubio, one of the eight senators in the bipartisan group that drafted the bill:

@karisanchezc: #ReformaInmigratoria Pagar impuestos mientras tiene este estatus temporal y “demostrar que no son una carga pública” (Marco Rubio).

@karisanchezc: #ReformaInmigratoria Pay taxes while you are in temporary status and “prove that you are not a public charge.” (Marco Rubio)

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