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We’ll miss Ted Kennedy, the immigration reformer

Created: 04 September, 2009
Updated: 13 September, 2023


 Sen. Ted Kennedy did right by immigrants — and by Barack Obama.

 I met Kennedy in 2005, when a group of activists in the immigration reform movement went to Washington to huddle with the staff of our staunchest ally.

 As new citizens working to pass comprehensive reform, we felt his commitment and passion for the cause at our Washington meetings.

 His bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, offered a path to citizenship to the millions of immigrants who had worked here for years.

 Later, however, McCain withdrew his critical support from the bill to curry favor with the right wing of his party. And by doing so, he crushed the hopes of these immigrants and returned them to the shadows, where they must live in daily fear of detention and deportation.

 But Kennedy, in spite of his failing health, did not give up on his crusade to pass the comprehensive reform act.

 When he announced a few years ago that he would step down from the Senate Judiciary Committee and give up his gavel as chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee, Kennedy said: “I remain deeply committed to civil rights, equal opportunities and immigration reform, and I will always be involved in those important debates and discussions.”

 And so he was.

 “Kennedy for 40 years has been the engine driving immigration legislation in Congress,” concedes Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies.

 In the last few years of his life, he poured his energy into health care reform and the presidential candidacy of Obama.

 Looking back, without the pivotal, early, enthusiastic support from Kennedy, President Obama would still be called Sen. Obama. But Obama found the best possible mentor at the best possible time.

 I’m sure Obama misses the support of his mentor in Washington right now. We, the activists on the ground, also miss him dearly.

pmproj@progressive.org.