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To attend
Vigil for Immigration Reform
3:30-6:30 p.m. Sunday, Allen County Courthouse Green

Process as important as outcome on immigration bill


Just take a vote.

That’s what Max Montesino and the Hispanic Leadership Coalition of Northeast Indiana are asking the U.S. House to do.

The bill they’re talking about is comprehensive immigration reform, not the government shutdown/default battles now going on in Washington.

Overshadowed by those shenanigans are the other important issues that Congress needs to be resolving. Immigration reform is certainly one of them.

By a 68-32 vote in June, the Senate passed a sweeping reform package that specified a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States. This seemed to put House Republicans, many of whom hope to win Hispanic support in the future, on the spot. Would they vote against an eminently sensible bill that had the support of 14 eminently sensible Republican senators, including Arizona’s John McCain?

Granted, 32 Republicans opposed the measure, including Indiana’s Dan Coats, who said he wanted to see border security issues dealt with before he could support reform. Third District Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman has made similar statements.

But for the Hispanic Leadership Coalition, at least, that is not the issue.

“We support the concept of strong border security,” said Montesino, president of the Hispanic Leadership Coalition board. In fact, he said, the House could strengthen that aspect of the measure without weakening the main thrust of the bill. “It was just an excuse not to vote for it.”

Montesino also believes that the best way to build support for the bill and pressure the House to take action is to inform more people about the issue.

To that end, the coalition will carry on a “peaceful vigil” for immigration reform in front of the Allen County Courthouse this Sunday.

Montesino stresses that the speakers’ list at the three-hour event will be diverse.

“This is not just a Latino event,” he says. “This is a community event.” And, he said, those with doubts about immigration reform are welcome.

It’s quite possible that immigration reform could pass the House.

But as with the government shutdown, the chamber’s Republican leadership has been willing to keep the question from reaching the members at large. “The challenge,” said Montesino, “is just to bring it to a vote.”

That kind of open, Mr.-Smith-Goes-to-Washington approach is refreshing in a time when some of our elected representatives would rather hide from issues than deal with them.

Even if the reform measure fails, Montesino said, “we will be fine with the result if the vote is counted.”

“That,” he said, “is democracy.”