Hours before Congress passed the final version of health care legislation on Sunday, tens of thousands of people marched in the nation's capitol, pressing politicians to take on immigration reform.
"Health care was consuming all the oxygen in the room. The rally gives a big shot in the arm for possibility of reform," said Galen Carey, director of government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), who attended the rally. "If the atmosphere is poisoned where politicians might disagree because they're angry, that could be a problem. Immigration should be low-hanging fruit because a polarized Congress could do something on a bipartisan basis."
Senators Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) released an outline of a bill last week that would call for securing borders and require illegal immigrants to admit they broke the law, pay fines and back taxes, and do community service if they want a path to legal status.
"There's a sense of urgency because we have the dynamics in Congress," Carey said. "After the fall elections, we'll have a whole new cast of characters."
Graham released a statement saying he believed that passage of health care reform would probably kill the immigration effort this year. Still, Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, remained hopeful after offering a prayer at the rally.
"President Obama used the presidential bully pulpit for health care reform. Health care reform was dead in the water but he was able to resurrect it," said Rodriguez, who met with White House officials the day after the rally. "Immigration reform is a Lazarus moment for the president."
Last October, the NAE approved a resolution on immigration reform, ...1