By Bert Eljera
With the government shut down and Washington D.C., focused somewhere else, immigration reform has taken a back seat in the nation’s attention.
But this has not deterred immigration reform advocates from pursuing a relentless agenda of persuading officials to open a pathway to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants and crafting comprehensive immigration reform.
On Tuesday, a rally and concert in Washington, D.C., are scheduled, as well as around the country, including in Las Vegas.
In June, the U.S. Senate passed an immigration bill that featured a pathway to citizenship for so-called illegal immigrants, raising hopes for a comprehensive reform initiative this year.
But the budget standoff and Republican efforts to tie the fight to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, has complicated the situation, with a debt-ceiling showdown looming, further pushing immigration reform from the spotlight.
Similarly, 26 Republicans in the House have endorsed a pathway to citizenship. These include Rep. Joe Heck and Rep. Mark Amodei, who reiterated their support for such a bill once Congress get back to considering immigration reform.
The initial favorable congressional actions have raised hopes for immigrant advocates after a disappointing performance by the Obama administration last year, particularly in the area of deportations.
In 2012, Homeland Security deported, 409,849 immigrants, up from 396,906 immigrants last year. More than 392,000 immigrants were deported in the 2010 fiscal year.
ICE said about 55 percent of those deported were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors.
“While the [fiscal year] 2012 removals indicate that we continue to make progress in focusing resources on criminal and priority aliens, with more convicted criminals being removed from the country than ever before, we are constantly looking for ways to ensure that we are doing everything we can to utilize our resources in a way that maximizes public safety,” ICE Director John Morton said in a statement.
But the emphasis on deportation and what advocates call the break up of families have frustrated them – and the efforts to keep families together has become a rallying issue.
In California, advocates scored a victory somewhat when Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last week that will make it harder to deport immigrants and separate families.
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