politics

Protesters urge Young to support immigration reform



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Indianapolis residents Leticia Corona (far left) and Arturo Viruete (right) hold posters in support of workers' rights during the rally outside Congressman Todd Young's office in support of comprehensive immigration reform Tuesday at City Hall. SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana/Missouri/Kansas and Fast for Families planned the rally and wrote a letter to Congressman Todd Young. Michaela Simone Buy Photos

Local and Indiana residents gathered outside the office of Rep. Todd Young, R-9th District, Tuesday to pressure Young to support what they call common-sense immigration reform. But no one was there to listen.

Young’s office, located in the City Hall building on North Morton Street, was closed. The lights were off, and the blinds were drawn.

About 20 demonstrators signed a poster that read “workers’ rights for all in immigration reform” and a letter expounding their call for Young to take action. They settled for sliding the literature under the office’s door.

The Bloomington office is closed Tuesdays, and Young’s spokesman Trevor Foughty said they weren’t notified of the demonstration.

Bill Regan, organizer for Fast For Families — an immigration reform advocacy group that staged the demonstration — said they assumed the office would be open, adding they should be able to reach Young any time.

“This takes ‘do nothing Congress’ to a new level, doesn’t it?” Regan said to the demonstrators.

Had the office been open, members of Young’s staff might have heard the demonstrators’ calls for Young to help enact comprehensive immigration reform. The demonstrators wanted a broad, clear path to citizenship that would lead to full legal status, according to the letter slipped under Young’s office door.

Some demonstrators said they wanted broad immigration reform because enfranchising undocumented immigrants could bring economic benefits, and others said reforms are needed because the current immigration is causing a humanitarian crisis.

Fast For Families organizer Rudy Lopez said his cousin died when trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. If a path to citizenship existed, Lopez said, his cousin might have avoided the lethal journey.

In 2012, U.S. Border Patrol caught about 356,000 immigrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border — about half of all attempts, according to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, about 11 million undocumented immigrants were living in the U.S. in 2011, and about 81 percent of them were born in Latin America.

Demonstrator John Cowery, a Bloomington resident and former IU educator, said he thinks providing those millions of undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship could have far-reaching economic benefits.

A bill awaiting a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives could provide some of the immigration reforms the demonstrators seek, but Republican House leadership has said the bill is unlikely to see a vote this year. The bill, called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, was passed by the Senate in June.

According to the Immigration Policy Center, the bill reforms almost all aspects of immigration policy and practice. Undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. would see due-process protection and be provided full legal status.

Republican House leadership, however, has balked at the bill’s far-reaching reforms, indicating they’re more interested in piecemeal reform.

Foughty said in an email that because the issue of immigration is so broad, Young also prefers a multi-bill approach to reform instead of one comprehensive bill.

“We anticipate the House will begin by tackling border security and perhaps cracking down on employers who hire those here illegally,” Foughty said in the email. “We must ensure border security will be enhanced and existing laws enforced before addressing other aspects of immigration reform.”

But under current immigration policies, border-crossings are taking lives and deportations are separating families, Lopez said — so House Republicans, including Young, need to enact comprehensive reform now.

It’s not clear how Young defines border security, Cowery said. He added he has never heard or read about how Young intends to achieve border security, or how much it might cost.

“He needs to tell us what he believes,” Cowery said to the crowd. “The congressman could act as a leader.”

Follow reporter Gage Bentley on Twitter @gagebentley.

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