Thursday, December 11, 2008

Illinois congressman vows to push for major immigration reform

12:00 AM CST on Friday, December 5, 2008

By JOHN RILEY / The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON – Flanked by hundreds of immigrants and their family members, an Illinois congressman called for a halt Thursday to immigration raids and vowed to push for a comprehensive overhaul that President-elect Barack Obama can sign into law.

Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Chicago, the House sponsor of a 2007 bill that failed, told a crowd of more than 200 on Capitol Hill that he would work to ensure that Mr. Obama follows through on his campaign promise to sign an immigration overhaul in the first year of his presidency.

"We have a new president of the United States who has made a very clear commitment to immigration reform," Mr. Gutierrez said. "We're not going to rest on the laurels of the election."

Mr. Gutierrez said workplace raids that separate families must stop and that he is trying to build momentum for immigration change in the House, where he believes a bill can be passed more easily than in the Senate.

Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he hopes to meet with the president-elect before the new session of Congress to discuss a comprehensive reform and urge Mr. Obama to stop workforce raids through an executive order.

Mr. Baca said a moratorium would make illegal immigrants more likely to "come out of the shadows" and be active community participants because it would reduce the fear of deportation. Immigration officials and supporters of the current strategy say it has helped reduce illegal immigration and held employers accountable.

© 2008, The Dallas Morning News, Inc.

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Is the economy a bigger problem in the US than racism?