McCain Plans a Visit To Rally For Immigration Reform Plan

Via the New York Sun
02/17/2006

A Republican senator is
coming to New York to rally support for an immigration reform plan that
is winning many fans in immigrant circles. He’ll likely arrive before
New York’s Democratic senators even take a public stance on the
divisive issue.

Senator McCain, a Republican of Arizona who will likely run for
president in 2008, will headline a town hall meeting and rally for
immigration reform expected to attract 1,000 people to Lower Manhattan
on February 27. The evening will be an opportunity for him to push the
bipartisan bill he is sponsoring with Senator Kennedy, a Democrat of
Massachusetts.

He likely will not have to push very hard: Of the four immigration
reform plans in the Senate, it is by far the most popular with
immigrant organizers, lawyers, and union leaders in the city. Key to
its favorable reception is its inclusion of a legalization plan for the
nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, as well as a new
guest worker program.

More than a dozen local immigration groups, as well as the New York
branch of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Archdiocese
of New York, and various unions are sponsoring the town hall meeting.
In addition, key Democratic congressmen from New York are expected to
attend, including Rep. Charles Rangel.

New York immigrant leaders expressed frustration that their own
senators will not be standing with Mr. McCain and pushing for a path to
legal status for the city’s estimated 525,000 illegal immigrants, more
rapid family reunification, and new legal channels for immigrants to
work in America.

“We will know what Senator McCain thinks about this issue, but we
continue to be in the dark about what our own two senators think should
be done,” said Chung-Wha Hong, the executive director of the New York
Immigration Coalition, one of the groups sponsoring the event. “More
and more immigrants are asking why they aren’t taking a stance on this
issue and fighting for reform.”

In the past few weeks there has been an increase in organizing
efforts pertaining to immigration re form and criticism of Senators
Clinton and Schumer for their absence from the debate. Earlier this
month, hundreds of Irish immigrants congregated in Yonkers to organize
a campaign to promote the passage of the McCain-Kennedy bill. Taking a
different approach, dozens of immigrants from Queens on Tuesday rallied
in front of Mr. Schumer’s Midtown office, asking him to support
legalization and to take a stance against a bill that passed in the
House that would turn illegal immigrants into criminals. They then
marched to Mrs. Clinton’s office.

“They really have a responsibility to their constituency in New York
to play a leadership role in the Senate,” the director of Desis Rising
Up and Moving, Monami Maulik, said of New York’s senators. The group
has invited the senators to their own town hall-style meeting on
immigration in Queens, but Ms. Maulik said they have received no
response. “I think many immigrant communities have been disappointed
that they are not publicly saying anything,” she said.

In response to the protest, a spokeswoman for Mr. Schumer, Risa
Heller, touted his record, saying, “Senator Schumer has long been a
supporter of fair and rational immigration policy.” She said he “will
fight for legislation that both improves security and treats immigrants
fairly.” Mrs. Clinton’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

The Senate next month will take up what is expected to be a highly
contentious debate about how to solve the problems of immigration in
America. Some observers are saying Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Schumer are
biding their time to see which bill reaches the next level, a
politically savvy move considering that the McCain-Kennedy provisions
may not be included in the final bill.

“With immigration such a divisive issue in the country now, the New
York senators might not see it in their political interests to take a
stance on an issue that they may not get anything concrete to show for
later,” a visiting scholar at the Migration Policy Institute, Marc
Rosenblum, said. “Unless they’re going to come out and lead on it, it
makes sense to follow.”

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