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Immigration reform is important enough for the Senate to scrap the filibuster

By: - January 27, 2021 3:37 pm

Dozens of young community organizers, longtime activists, Latino lawmakers, lawyers, and faith and business leaders gathered on Feb. 21, 2020, at the state capitol to celebrate the defeat of the two Republican-led immigration enforcement measures. Pictured in the front row, from left to right, are Stephanie Maldonado with LUCHA; state Reps. Isela Blanc and Raquel Terán; Alejandra Gomez with LUCHA; and Alicia Contreras, with Congregations Rising Arizona Organizing Neighborhoods. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Witnessing Arizona turn its congressional representation to Democrat was electrifying to see. However, this was no accident: Latinos and other underrepresented groups in Arizona broke turnout records that favorably supported Democrats. As a Latino immigrant who has lived in Arizona since 4th grade, this feels like progress, considering we are not that far removed from the days when Joe Arpaio’s deputies raided our neighborhoods and armed citizens showed up at the border regularly. 

While Mark Kelly’s victory in November does not equate to Democratic control over Arizona, it appears as if the Arizona Democratic Party finally understands that if it wants more victories, it must support the policies and changes of their most effective supporters — the community organizations that push for progressive changes. That Democrats elected state Rep. Raquel Teran to be the party’s next chairwoman signals that we have found a formula for success.

It is also time to seize victories at the national level. Immigration has always been a divisive topic in Arizona, from xenophobic laws targeting some of the most vulnerable folks in our state to producing advocates rise to national prominence. For that reason, Democrats in Congress must advocate for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals by supporting a legislative bill.

President Joe Biden has indicated he is not going to make the same mistake Obama did when his party had complete control in D.C. and is proposing immigration reform now rather than waiting. However, we are facing one last barrier within the Democratic party: the filibuster. 

Getting rid of the Senate filibuster is not an attack to the value of compromise, as some assert. Instead, it is paying respect for the communities that have been tormented for the last four years and are in urgent need of policy changes that will allow these people to continue to live their lives. I know this because, as a DACA recipient, I am familiar with these struggles and am still hindered by them. 

I welcome Kelly to his new role and will continue to cheer for the work of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. But immigration reform for undocumented individuals is a must, and for that reason Democrats need to remove the Senate filibuster. This is not a time for Democrats to be wasting trying to be proper in a country that, for the last four years (and many other times before that), never prioritized being proper. Instead, let’s be proper by providing answers to the people that propel the Democratic Party and who want to solve problems.

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Oscar Hernandez Ortiz
Oscar Hernandez Ortiz

Oscar Hernandez Ortiz is a member of the Arizona Department of Education Latinx Advisory Board, a DACA recipient, a former TheDream.US Scholar and a former Arizona public school teacher.