Because four Republicans and four Democrats signed on to U.S. Senate Bill 744, it shows a new direction in the national conversation on immigration reform, said Fernando Mejia, director of immigrant rights for Idaho Community Action Network.
Mejia sees the bill as chance to build on the momentum from last year's presidential election, which Latinos helped swing. The Coalition for Immigrant Rights of Idaho is holding a march May 1 to promote immigration reform.
"We've been doing this work for close to 15 years and we feel that this is the first real opportunity that we have to pass immigration reform," Mejia said. "We think that the country's ready for it."
The coalition is made up of many groups, including ICAN, the Community Council of Idaho, Catholic Charities of Idaho, Center for Community and Justice, Idaho Main Street Alliance, unions, Movimiento Activista Social, Idaho Hispanic Caucus for Education and Research, law firms, radio stations, students and community leaders.
SB 744, introduced last week, envisions a path to citizenship for immigrants who entered the country illegally. That's a big step, Mejia said, though he would prefer a path shortened from 13 years to around six. He also opposes the bill's shift to an employment-based immigration system and some of its border-protection measures, such as additional border patrol agents.
But overall, Mejia said, the bill is a good thing.
"We think that it was a really good first step in the right direction," he said. "We recognize that the bill is a compromise bill."
Along the half-mile march from Julia Davis Park down Capitol Boulevard to the Capitol, police will conduct a "rolling" road closure in which officers will shut down roads as marchers approach, then reopen them after marchers pass, Hightower said.
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