For Congress: Next Up, Immigration

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immigration rally in dc


Photo by: DCTWINKIE5500

On the same day the House passed the landmark health care bill—extending health care coverage to more than 30 million Americans—tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied on the National Mall Sunday to re-energize Congress to take up the next volatile issue on the President’s agenda—immigration reform.

President Barack Obama, who promised to make overhauling the immigration system a top priority in his first year, sought to reassure those at the rally with a video message promising to fix a “broken immigration system.” Even though the President couldn’t actually change the provisions of the health insurance reform bill that preclude undocumented immigrants from participating and require a waiting period for legal immigrants, it was enough to convince Representative Luis Gutierrez, the Chicago Democrat outspoken in favor of immigration reform, to vote in favor of health care legislation on March 21st after he had pledged to oppose it because of its immigration language.

Is the President’s pledge to move on immigration reform enough to move Congress to act? Will Gutierrez’s hopes—and those of the demonstrators at the rallies—be fulfilled or dashed in this, the second year of the Obama Administration? Every nonprofit has a stake in how our nation deals with immigrants. We at Nonprofit Quarterly dedicated our Summer 2009 issue to immigration—including articles that take apart and re-stitch the picture of nonprofits and their service, program, and advocacy relationships with immigrant populations. We hope you’ll take a look as  you keep an eye on the coming national conversation.

  • Jason Feldman

    Ironically enough, the badly needed Immigration reform is probably tied into the passage of a health care bill. A central issue of the health care and immigration bill is where do illegal immigrants fit in? People here illegally will continue to work regardless. It just makes sense for them to obtain some sort of status and pay taxes, social security, medicaid, etc. Moreover, our economy needs both educated and uneducated foreign workers to survive. Both contribute to the economy. The educated workers fill gaps in the sectors where we have dramatic shortages of qualified workers like the IT and health care field. Hard working uneducated workers still promote the economy as their taxes and earnings (even if some gets sent home) ultimately is reinvested in the U.S economy. Any economist will tell you the free flow of labor is essential to maximize production and output. And after all we are all immigrants at one time or another.

    -Jason Feldman, Attorney at Law

  • rick cohen

    Dear Jason: This was actually one of the issues that motivated us to do the special edition of NPQ on immmigration. We came across Senator Max Baucus’s adamant statements about excluding “illegal” immigrants struck us as over-the-top and pandering to the anti-immigrant populace. As the Guardian (from the UK!) said yesterday, the exclusion of undocumented immigrants was the “price” that Congress and the White House were willing to pay to keep the “yes” votes of Democrats in states such as Texas, which routinely denies much aid to undocumented immigrants and legal immigrants alike ( The final bill I believe prevents undocumented immigrants from purchasing health insurance on the insurance exchanges even if they use their own money. Then we came across the provisions in earlier versions of the bill that mandated a waiting period even for legal immigrants. I believe that the final bill still has a waiting period to be eligible for Medicaid for legal immigrants, I don’t know about its treatment of legal immigrants regarding other kinds of subsidized or mandated health insurance. That’s why I had some respect for Gutierrez’s position on the heinous, anti-immigrant provisions of the health care legislation. I am truly disappointed in our nation’s leadership in its willingness to ignore the needs and rights of immigrants when it comes to health insurance. It’s odd that this was a prime motivation behind the NPQ immigration edition–and now the federal government’s provisions on immigrants and health care are close to being enshrined into law.