Leaders of nearly a dozen grass-roots immigrant rights groups excoriated President Obama and congressional Democrats on Monday, accusing them of moving too slowly to legalize the status of undocumented immigrants and citing a record number of deportations in 2009.
“Our community is angry. Our members feel betrayed,” said Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. “We never believed in our wildest dreams that President Obama would have a record like this.”
Advocates have promised to bring tens of thousands of demonstrators to Washington for a March 21 protest and to punish Democrats at the polls in November if an immigration bill is not brought to a vote.
“No legalization. No reelection,” Emma Lozano, executive director of the Chicago-based Centro Sin Fronteras, told reporters.
Immigration advocates in Washington and lobbyists working with the two senators [.Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.)] said privately that the effort amounts to political damage control.
“We just don’t see how this can happen in 2010. The best we can do is to get an outline [of a bill] out and have a couple of hearings,” said one lobbyist, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing talks. “This is a way for everyone to say, ‘We are doing something, and we are committed to getting something through Congress after the election.'”
“A legislative show is not going to be acceptable,” he [Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum] said. “The necessity here is a bipartisan piece of legislation that gets to the Senate floor, and that will be the marker that immigrant voters and others will use in November 2010 and November 2012 and beyond.”