Minnesota immigration activists gather at Capitol todayby Sasha Aslanian, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Local groups that support changing the nation's immigration laws, including a path to citizenship for those here illegally, will gather at the state Capitol Wednesday.
The issue has scaled the priority list in Washington with proposals from a bipartisan group of senators and President Barack Obama. Minnesota groups that have been pushing for immigration reform for years say there's finally a ray of hope.
"We're putting together a broader and broader coalition every day that recognizes that the common sense thing to do is pass immigration reform, but the political standstill in Washington just meant that it wasn't getting done," said Javier Morillo, president of SEIU Local 26, who adds that workers, employers, law enforcement and faith communities have a shared interest in fixing a broken system.
Bill Blazar of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is calling the federal proposals "a good start."
"In the last two days, we've seen more leadership on comprehensive immigration reform than we've seen for many years. So it's a good start. Now the challenge is for organizations and individuals who support reform to speak up," he said, adding that new Americans are vital to many sectors of Minnesota's economy.
Sticking points at the federal level are likely to include a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, and tightening border security with Mexico.
Besides the citizenship and border security provisions, the Senate legislation may allow more temporary workers to stay and crack down on employers who would hire illegal immigrants. The plans are still short on detail, and all the senators conceded that months of tedious and politically treacherous negotiations lie ahead.
Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is co-sponsoring legislation designed to help legal immigrants with advanced skills in technology and science continue living and working in the United States.
Obama outlined his own ideas in a speech on Tuesday.
"The question now is simple," Obama said during a campaign-style event in Las Vegas, one week after being sworn in for a second term in the White House. "Do we have the resolve as a people, as a country, as a government to finally put this issue behind us? I believe that we do."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.