Immigration, once a hot button issue for U.S. lawmakers, has now taken a back seat to the economy amidst the current global economic turmoil. But as the Presidential hopefuls arrive in a city of many immigrants for their final debate tonight, will the issue make it somehow into the line-up of questions?
The New York Immigration Coalition certainly hopes so, as does several immigrant journalists, whose views will be aired prior to the debate on CUNY TV. Among them is CWNN founder and immigration columnist for the Amsterdam News, Felicia Persaud, who is among the guests on `Independent Sources,` to be aired at 8:30 p.m tonight on Time Warner Channel 75.
Persaud along with Veena Merchant of India Abroad, and Marisa Cespedes of Televisa NY, a channel dedicated to Mexican immigrants, argue that the candidates are taking the votes of immigrants for granted and playing politics with the issue of immigration to soothe conservative voters.
The NYIC is also hoping the trend of ignoring the issue, which has occurred in the last two debates and at both the Republican and Democratic conventions, ends tonight, in the Big Apple, a haven for immigrants.
Advocates yesterday issued a call on both Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, to end their silence on immigration and lay out their plans on how to fix the nation’s broken immigration system during the debate at Hofstra University tonight.
`We’ve had two Presidential debates and a vice presidential debate, and there hasn’t been a single word spoken about immigration reform. Immigrant communities throughout the nation are asking, `What’s your plan on immigration?“ said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, an immigrant advocacy group based in New York City.
`Neither candidate will be able put forward a bold plan on immigration if they don’t build support for it during the campaign,` said Patrick Young, an attorney with Central American Refugee Center and board member of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance. `We know that the American people want immigration reform that’s good for families, security, and the economy. Both candidates need to discuss their plans.`
Ana Maria Archila, co-director of Make the Road New York, a community group with offices in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, pointed to the growing number of immigrant voters who are registering to vote.
`Immigrant voters are growing in number and growing in power, and this year, they could make the difference in places where the margin of victory may be very small,` said Archila.
This year, the New York Immigration Coalition and its partners have registered 275,000 new immigrant voters in New York State, and are reaching out to more than 40,000 immigrant voters in a large-scale get-out-the-vote operation.
Advocates are urging for earned legalization for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., a plan Senator Obama claims he supports. But both McCain and Obama are also promoting tighter border control, with McCain, once a major proponent of immigration reform, now saying he is for border enforcement first.
But while the candidates maintain their silence on the issue, raids continue across the country, forcing many hard working immigrants out even as others battle to survive amidst tough economic times.
Young immigrant voters are now eyeing the debates closely to see where the candidates stand on the issue close to their parents hearts. `This will be my first opportunity to vote in a Presidential election,` said Silvia Gonzales, a 20-year-old college student who immigrated from Peru ten years ago. `As an immigrant voter, this election is very important to me. It’s important to be able to have a say, because I know those who would want to vote, but cannot. I will be watching the debate closely to see who is best able to address immigrant concerns.’