Is 2014 the year immigration reform becomes a reality?

An immigration reform bill awaits action in the House, many groups are ramping up their outreach, education, and activism efforts to make sure the subject stays top of mind for members of Congress and the American people.

An immigration reform bill has passed in the Senate. As it awaits action in the House, many groups are ramping up their outreach, education, and activism efforts to make sure the subject stays top of mind for members of Congress and the American people.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is implementing several grassroots campaigns that include encouraging members to use educational materials they have developed to speak to local church groups, chambers of commerce, schools, and clients, says George Tzamaras, the group's senior director of communications and outreach.

The association is leveraging the power of social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to help push the message about why immigration reform is necessary.

Tzamaras says the organization is also working on getting radio tours set up as members continue to produce audio and video news releases.

Tzamaras adds that the association remains optimistic about immigration reform coming to fruition in 2014 because it has a proactive advocacy team keeping members informed about meetings on Capitol Hill and reporting back regularly on the day-to-day discussions and movement on the issue.

"There's a window of opportunity to get something done before the election cycle really starts to kick in later in the year," says Tzamaras. "We are moving and working as if the potential is high, even if there is no guarantee."

KEY REFORM ISSUES

The US Chamber of Commerce outlined key points it hopes to see in immigration reform legislation:

-Reforming the legal immigration system, including green card reform and implementing temporary worker programs for high- and lesser-skilled workers, an issue extremely important to the agriculture industry.

-A federal employment verification system that is usable for employers.

-A legal status for the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the country, creating a stable workforce and improving enforcement to protect borders while facilitating the flow of trade and travel.

The US Chamber of Commerce is relentless in its pursuit of what the organization calls "meaningful legislation." Chamber president and CEO Tom Donohue gave his State of American Business address, and his message was, "Let's make 2014 the year we get this done."

In terms of communications, the organization is leveraging an "all-out grassroots effort," to achieve reform, says Blair Latoff Holmes, executive director of media relations at the chamber.

Members of the organization spent 2013 working closely with the Senate's gang of eight, law enforcement, and with unions to get a bipartisan bill out of the Senate. The chamber released a statement on its website before the bill was passed, encouraging senators to vote for it to "improve US competitiveness, help attract and retain the best talent and workers, secure the nation's borders, and reaffirm America's legacy as an open and welcoming society."

Strength in numbers
In an effort to keep what Holmes calls "the best foreign talent in the world," the chamber is cooperating with members of the tech, farming, and manufacturing industries, so all parts of the business community are aware of each others' events.  

Two clients of Fenton Communications, a social change agency, want to see comprehensive immigration reform so undocumented workers can not just remain in the states, but become legal residents and even start on the path to citizenship.

Bill Hamilton, EVP of Fenton, says Farmworker Justice and Cambio are working with larger groups, such as America's Voice, to promote the necessity of reform.

One group that has stayed at the table through the entire debate is the National Restaurant Association. The trade body has done everything from holding events to meeting with members of Congress.

The association launched the site AmericaWorksHere.org, which is devoted to immigration reform and encourages members to contact their representative. It also hosts the latest news on the issue.

"The timing is right," explains Scott DeFife, EVP of policy and government affairs for the association. "The Senate has passed a bipartisan bill that's ready for further work. That is more than half of the equation right there."

"Getting through an immigration policy is critical for a lot of other workforce issues in the restaurant industry," De- Fife adds. "This is not just about the labor force. This is about the future economy."

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