Immigration Reform Supporters Gather To Write New Playbook

John MacCormack, Express-News (San Antonio), August 16, 2007

Sharing only a common interest in immigration reform, an improbable collection of advocacy, business and political groups met for six hours Thursday in a first step toward hashing out a new alliance.

“Raul Yzaguirre is a Democrat. I’m a Republican. We had John Cornyn who voted against the immigration bill. We had Ciro Rodriguez who would have gladly voted for it,” said Lionel Sosa, who hosted the event.

“The next step is for us to begin to craft a message. And within two years, if everything works out, the American pubic will be hearing from us in the media,” said Sosa, a San Antonio consultant who formed the group Mexicans and Americans Thinking Together (MATT) to promote dialogue and reform.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-San Antonio, and Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio, both appeared as invited speakers at the roundtable session held at the University of the Incarnate Word.

Among the diverse parties at the table were representatives of the Texas Farm Bureau, the Texas Vegetable Association, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Association of Manufacturers.

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“We believe the debate was one-sided. The “antis” were very shrill and had a simple message: This bill promotes amnesty, therefore it’s wrong. So we got stomped,” said Yzaguirre, former president of the National Council of La Raza.

“Today was a beginning. The fact that we could all sit in a room together for seven hours with a common goal was a significant first step,” he said.

With the expectation that immigration reform someday will return as a legislative issue, the group intends to craft and promote a message that immigration is beneficial to the country economically, politically and morally.

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For John Trasviña, president of MALDEF, there is no time to waste.

“This is not a theoretical discussion, it’s a practical discussion driven by urgencies,” he said afterward.

“Because of the defeat of the immigration bill, we’re facing anti-immigrant local ordinances in Texas, Georgia, Virginia and elsewhere,” he said.

Tamar Jacoby, representing the conservative Manhattan Institute, found plenty of common ground Thursday among the various liberal groups.

“Immigration has always been a divisive issue that has created strange bedfellows. No one can do it alone. No one has enough votes,” she said.

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