Debate heating up over immigrant reform

April 9, 2009 4:25:43 PM PDT
The immigration debate is about to get heated once again, with the Obama administration attempting to come up with a new immigration policy. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Part of that plan may include a path to legal residency for illegal immigrants. It's a subject that continues to stir deep emotions from both sides of the debate.

Maria Jimenez has been at the forefront of immigration reform here in Houston for more than 20 years, long enough to see presidential promises dim after being knocked head-first by reform opponents.

Yet this time around, Jimenez is encouraged and knows any type of immigration reform would depend on community action.

"He as a person alone will not make the changes," she said. "We have to be involved, the community that needs these changes, the employers who benefit from having a legalized workforce."

President Obama promised this week to develop comprehensive immigration legislation. The proposal would include a plan to make legal status possible for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

"Partially, I think it reflects the fact that he is very cognizant of the Latino vote, particularly in swing states and continued participation of Latinos in the electoral process and he's a smart politician in that sense," said Jimenez.

Legalizing undocumented immigrants remains an emotional issue. The Central American Resource Center, called Crescen, as well as other immigrant advocates, estimate there are 400,000 undocumented workers in the Houston area.

They are people who are mixed into families where some are legal and some are not; a mix that is not healthy to the American economy, says the group Texans for Immigration Reform. The group works tirelessly to protect the American border and stop illegal immigration,

"And we think it's a grave mistake to reward people who come in illegally because it just makes more and more people come in because they know they'll get the rewards and they know the burden will be on the middle class," said Louise Whiteford with Texans for Immigration Reform.

The White House has indicated, Mr. Obama plans to speak publically about the issue next month.

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