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Now is the time Hispanics have been waiting and praying for. Let me be clear: if you’re ever going to take a vacation day from work to go lobby members of Congress, then now is the time.
A deal for Dreamers is really and truly within reach. In fact, this is the closest we’ve been to a legitimate piece of legislation on immigration in thirty years. In the case of DACA, there’s no road left to kick the can down.
Still, a legislative victory is far from a foregone conclusion.
As DACA’s March 5th expiration looms large, a deal for America’s Dreamers will require no small amount of political courage from the leadership of both parties, and it will only be the result of an enormous amount of pressure from our community.
Despite the political drama that will surely unfold in the weeks ahead, we must remember, it’s all about defending and protecting the lives of Dreamers.
With a permanent solution so close at hand, I want to issue a clarion call to both Democrats and Republicans alike: Any deal for Dreamers will require real, and at times, painful compromise. Both parties must be willing to confront the immigration hardliners in their ranks who for too long have poisoned this debate by refusing to negotiate.
The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, represents Hispanic American evangelicals – the fastest growing faith demographic in the country. Our community occupies a political territory rich with tension, and squarely in the middle of America’s two major political parties. Sometimes this means we take shots from both sides. Other times, it means we are the last bridge-builders left standing.
In the spirit of bridge building, I want to address both sides of this debate, beginning with the Democrats.
Latinos have deeply appreciated the Democratic Party’s consistent advocacy on behalf of Dreamers, but we also remember when Obama’s Democratic party held a filibuster-proof majority in Congress and failed to propose - much less pass - any immigration legislation.
Democrats must also realize a clean Dream Act is probably not a political possibility in our present climate, even though many of us, myself included, have pushed for it in the past. We must come to terms with the fact that it was President Trump’s promise to build a wall that propelled him to the White House in the first place, and we live in a representative democracy.
While Trump’s preferred type of border security has been a source of division, I for one am not willing to sacrifice the lives of 1.8 million of our children on the altar of a wall that only a few years ago most Democrats supported. The Democrats, therefore, must include a good faith effort to discuss securing the border.
It is likewise imperative that Republicans don’t attempt an ill-advised power grab. If after the midterm elections in November, conservatives have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, they can always come back and revisit aspects of immigration reform they weren’t able to accomplish this time around. In the meantime, they must deal with the reality they only have a 51-49 majority in the Senate.
The Republicans will likely have to budge on key areas like the final number of Dreamers covered, the amount of time before they are eligible for citizenship, to what degree chain migration is decreased, or even how many miles of wall is ultimately funded.
Conventional wisdom dictates that in a midterm election year, neither party has much appetite for big, bold and potentially controversial legislation that might risk alienating either party’s base. We have to make this election year an exception to the rule.
There are many people who want to speak for Hispanics, but now is the time we must speak for ourselves. If you’re Hispanic and have never been to Washington - let me say it again - I strongly suggest you consider taking a vacation to our nation’s capital in the next few days and knock on your representatives’ doors. If you’ve never picked up the phone, sent a letter or written an email to your elected officials, now is the time.
Now is our time.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He has been named by CNN and Fox News as "the leader of the Hispanic Evangelical movement."