CAPITOL HILL — Immigrants rights leaders, civil rights leaders and a group of young immigrant leaders from across the country gathered outside the U.S. Capitol Monday to send Congress a message, as they said, that “We are Ready” for comprehensive immigration reform. The activists gathered as a group of eight U.S. Senators knows as the “Gang of Eight” is expected to introduce immigration reform legislation as early as Tuesday.
A group of young immigrants wearing white “We are Ready” t-shirts gathered on Capitol Hill, before dispersing to knock on lawmakers’ doors to push for comprehensive immigration legislation which would grant legal status and a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants currently living in the United States illegally.
The Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Xavier Becerra of California, said he has been ready for immigration reform for a long time.
“Quite honestly I was ready the moment I was born, as the son of immigrants, a father who had a chance to go to about the sixth grade, a mother who came when she married my father at the age of 18, when she came from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico to this country. We are ready," he said.
Freshman African American Congressman Steven Horsford, a Democrat from Nevada, said that it is time for U.S. public servants to step up and do their jobs.
"To me, immigration reform is the civil and human rights issue of our time. Our system is broken and unless we do something immigrants will continue to be forced to live in the shadows, families will continue to be torn apart and our country will suffer," he said.
But not all lawmakers agree that any immigration reform legislation should include a pathway to citizenship. Speaking on ABC News This Week, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama warned that from what he has heard about the proposed immigration reform, it would hurt low-wage American workers.
“They have produced legislation, it appears, though it looks like now it may be another week before we see it, that will give amnesty now, legalize everyone that is here effectively today, and then there is a promise of enforcement in the future," he said.
The so-called Gang of Eight senators working on immigration reform includes four Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Rubio has strongly endorsed the legislation, which, if it passes in the Senate and then in the House, would be the most far-reaching overhaul of U.S. immigration law in almost three decades.
Congressman Becerra said he believes Republican House Speaker John Boehner does want to take immigration reform up in the House if it passes in the Senate, but said immigration activists and others will have to keep knocking on the doors of Republican members of the House of Representatives to win their support.