Friday, December 13, 2013

The mayor’s not eating; will it make a difference in immigration battle?

There’s a group that has been gathered in Washington on the National Mall for more than a month now – they’ve been engaged in a fast the entire time to try to draw attention to the stalemate in Congress that is immigration reform.

President Barack Obama made a point of visiting those protesters on Thanksgiving. Now, his one-time chief of staff seems determined to horn in to gain himself some needed attention on the issue.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL – the man who ticked off many Latino activists during Obama’s first presidential term by creating the perception that he wasn’t all that interested in having the president address their concerns – said this week he plans to fast.

Of course, he’s not going for weeks on end without eating. His fast began Thursday night and will end Friday – 24 hours without eating.

Which is probably something that 98 percent of the population of Chicago (particularly those of us too enamored with the Italian beef sandwich or stuffed pizza) could afford to do without any negative impact on our health.

Emanuel wants to make a statement on the immigration reform fight – which is stalled in the House of Representatives as the ideologue segment of the Republican majority that was more than willing to shut down federal government to spite Obama has thwarted action on this issue to express their disgust with the fact that the Latino population is growing so significantly.

HE NEEDS TO make such a statement. Because there are those among the growing Latino community who believe that the reason Obama didn’t tackle the issue during his first term in office is because Emanuel didn’t want to (as he perceived it) waste political capital on it.

I’ll be the first to admit that taking the issue on would have detracted attention from just about anything else.

Getting immigration reform approved during his final term as president will probably take up such attention levels that Obama won’t achieve any other significant accomplishments as president.

Then again, making sense of our nation’s immigration policy (by eliminating the bureaucratic mess that it has become) AND tackling health care reform despite the solid opposition of conservative ideologues might well be a significant legacy.

DENYING HIM THAT legacy seems to be the goal of the ideologues – not the achieving of anything significant!

But back to Emanuel, who began his fast while attending Catholic Mass at St. Pius Parish in the Pilsen neighborhood.

Thursday night was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – which in parishes with significant Latino membership becomes one of the significant days during the year.

It is the day that Latino Catholics recall the birth of Jesus Christ, and parishes literally reenact the search of Joseph and Mary of a place where the “Son of God” can be born.

EMANUEL, THE MAN who has had to act aggressively to overcome the apathetic impression toward Latinos he gave as White House chief of staff, is now the guy who’s going to skip a day’s worth of meals (along with several Latino aldermen who also are partaking in a fast) to try to make political amends.

Perhaps, the combination of Emanuel along with a whole lot of other officials will be what it takes to draw attention to the immigration reform battle. Because this probably will be an issue where a combination of Democratic senators along with just enough Republicans to overcome the Tea Party types who think in terms of a fight “To The Death!!!!”

With those as stakes, perhaps skipping a day’s worth of meals (which in Emanuel’s case will probably mean having a late supper Friday) is a slight sacrifice – one that is overdue.


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