By Anabel Mendoza
A sparsely attended town hall discussion on a major immigration bill intended to advance racial justice for immigrant communities showed the challenges of gaining local support for more inclusive immigration policies.
The Organized Communities Against Deportations, a local nonprofit focused on advocating against the deportation, detention and criminalization of immigrants, held the meeting late last month to spread awareness of the New Way Forward Act, an immigration reform bill.
Members from the organization said the bill would directly support Chicago’s undocumented immigrants by ending automatic deportation proceedings, mandatory detention and local police collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Over 40 people said they were interested in attending the event, according to the organization’s Facebook page, but only five showed up.
Miguel Lopez, an organizer for OCAD for about seven years, said the bill would help individuals, like his brother, who have been targeted by local and federal law enforcement. Lopez’s brother has been in immigrant detention for over eight months.
Members from the organization expressed concerns that the bill would not pass in Congress. They said immigration reform has become especially difficult to enact under the Trump Administration’s criminalization of immigrant populations.
“Given that we have the type of Senate that we have, I don’t know how likely it will be to get the bill passed unless it’s accompanied by a large mobilization,” said Arianna Salgado, a community organizer at OCAD.
But community members have been generally unaware of the bill, which has made it difficult to generate the level of support needed to get it noticed federally.
Katya Nuques is a member of the Board of Directors of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a statewide immigrant and refugee advocacy organization based in Chicago. She said mobilizing at the state level will be crucial in getting Congress to acknowledge immigration reform policies like the New Way Forward Act.
As of now, there is no proposed date for a vote on the bill, but organization members have posted status updates across social media using the hashtag #NewWayForward. They have also hosted monthly community assembly meetings to talk about the bill and other policies.