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Rallying once more for immigration reform in the U.S.

March 22, 2010 |  2:42 pm

Immigration march

Tens of thousands of people rallied once more in Washington, D.C., over the weekend to press for comprehensive immigration reform, a prospect that even influential supporters in Congress say looks dim as healthcare and other domestic issues take hold of the U.S. capital's political attention. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key Republican supporter of immigration reform, said on Friday that if the Democrats' healthcare reform package passed (as it did on Sunday), "that will, in my view, pretty much kill any chance of immigration reform passing the Senate this year."

Nonetheless, the big march on Sunday attracted immigrants and their supporters from all over the country. With marchers praying and chanting, and many dressed in white, the protest resembled dozens of other demonstrations that have been staged in the U.S. since the spring of 2006. That's when more than half a million people -- some say twice that -- choked downtown Los Angeles on March 25 in what is now considered the largest protest in the city's history.

Immigration reform efforts broke down in the final two years of President George W. Bush's second term in office, and President Obama promised to tackle the issue early in his term. An estimated 11 million people live and work in the United States without proper immigration status, and a large majority are from Mexico, Central America and other parts of Latin America.

In Mexico, where "it seems everyone knows somebody who has migrated north," locals remain skeptical of the likelihood that reform will come this year, reports the Christian Science Monitor. “The North American does not value the Mexican hand of labor,” a priest in Ciudad Juarez told the paper.

Besides Sunday's march, The Times reports that immigration reform advocates are also taking less orthodox approaches to advance their cause, such as a "tacos for justice" effort:

By texting "reforma" to 20222, participants will authorize a $5 donation and send House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) a message to move on legislation. Organizers hope to get 100,000 such texts. The "tacos for justice" coupons will give users a 10% discount on selected items at more than 40 Los Angeles-area taco trucks and restaurants; the participating food vendors will donate up to $1 for each coupon received to the reform campaign, according to Antonio Gonzalez of the William C. Velasquez Institute, a public policy analysis organization.

Last week, Graham and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) published a general reform blueprint that would mend the U.S. immigration system with familiar approaches: anti-fraud Social Security cards, ramped-up border security, a temporary-worker program and a "tough but fair" path to legalization. (So far, no mention of potential solutions to the crisis in the country's deadly immigration detention centers. Harrowing specifics on ICE detention facilities are laid out at this page by the American Civil Liberties Union.)

If a comprehensive reform package isn't put forth this year, activists will be looking for a "down payment" in the meantime, reports The Times. That could include bills to grant legal status to undocumented students or grant spousal immigrant status to partners of migrant gays and lesbians.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Marchers on Sunday in Washington, D.C., hold up crosses memorializing migrants who have died along the U.S.-Mexico border. Credit: Associated Press

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