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California immigration reform group banks on grassroots support for legislative victory

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

As immigration reform advocates seek to shift to a more state-oriented strategy that combats the tough immigration language coming from Republicans in the 112th Congress, the chairperson of a California immigration reform group believes that the movement's grassroots supporters have a pretty good chance of holding officials accountable in more progressive states like California.

     "California voters sent a strong message this past election that we want hardworking, inclusive and responsive governance, not buck passing and scapegoating. Even some candidates who won seem to have missed the memo. Immigrant families and our growing coalition of supporters stand ready to remind them," wrote Angelica Salas, chairperson of Californians for Humane Immigrant Rights Leadership and Action Fund (CHIRLA), in an exclusive op-ed for the San Jose Mercury News.

Salas particularly took issue with the immigration stances of California congressmen Dan Lungren and Tom McClintock, Republicans representing the 3rd and 4th districts who strongly support the efforts of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to reform the birthright citizenship definition in the 14th amendment.   Both congressmen came out against the notion of birthright citizenship back in April 2009 when they co-sponsored H.R. 1868, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009, which amends sec. 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act to specify individuals in the United States who are nationals and citizens of the country. 

Rep. King is set to take the reins of the House immigration subcommittee when the Republicans take control of the House with the new session beginning Wednesday. It's widely expected that he will take up the issue again, which was referred to the subcommittee on immigration back in May of 2009.   

Also in the hardline immigration mix, Salas says, is newly elected California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who is aligned with the Minutemen. The movement made headlines way before Arizona's controversial immigration law for forming a citizen force that patrolled the border because of their belief that the federal government wasn't coming through on immigration. 

Despite the setbacks to the immigration reform cause by some Republicans like Donnelly, who supported Arizona's law, Salas along with her group of supporters are ready to defend their turf from hardline Republicans by using a bottom-up political strategy in which state and local activists carry the momentum of the immigration reform movement.

     "They mean to instill fear in immigrants and our supporters. But they should heed a warning themselves. In my travels from Crescent City to Calexico, no issue has united students, parents, administrators, faith leaders, police officers, union activists and business owners the way that opposition to Arizona policy has."

Efforts from grassroots organizers like Salas demonstrate that the fight over immigration reform is far from over.

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