The Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform joined over 4,000 marchers on Saturday July 27 in West Chicago, IL the home district of Congressman Peter Roskam (R- IL) to call for a vote on immigration reform.

Roskam is number four in the House leadership of the Republican Party and is a key vote. Up until now he has been mostly silent on immigration reform and he along with the party leadership has not allowed a vote on a bill in the House of Representatives.

Outside his congressional office the Irish led a colorful march with tricolors and a bagpiper as it snaked its way through the sleepy Chicago suburb to Easton Park. 

Leaders from the Latino and Asian communities took to the stage to demand that Congressman Roskam respond to the will of the American people who overwhelmingly support comprehensive immigration reform as shown in poll after poll.

At the same time thousands rallied outside the offices of Speaker Boehner in Springfield, Ohio and Congressman Eric Cantor in Richmond VA to demand a path to citizenship for the undocumented.  Momentum has been building since the Senate passed its immigration bill last month as a direct result of aggressive organizing and coalition building. 

Just last week GOP Congressman David Valadao stood on a stage in Bakersfield, California and affirmed his support for immigration reform, in part due to recognition of the changing demographics in his district but also because he knows it is the right thing to do for the country.

The following day, on the eve of a massive civic engagement push by multiple immigrant groups and a visit by Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado published an op-ed announcing his support for immigration reform.

Cyril Regan, President of Chicago Irish Immigrant Support, added his voice to the chorus demanding action. “Congressman Roskam must act. The border has never been more secure with over $17.9 billion being spent on border and interior enforcement.  That’s more than the combined budgets of the CIA, NSA, FBI and Secret Service and has resulted in over 1.5 million deportations since Obama took office”.

The Chicago Celts and other pro immigrant groups want a path to citizenship for the undocumented, which estimates suggest would generate $1.5 trillion in economic gains for the US over the next ten years.  Compare that with the cost of $2.6 trillion, which is what it would cost the US economy to deport 11 million workers.

Immigration reform would be a must needed boost to our economy and would generate $48 billion in federal tax revenue over the next ten years.  Undocumented immigrants already pay $11 billion in state and local taxes every year, including $500 million in Illinois.  Sales tax account for $8.4 billion of the $11 billion.

Immigrants who gained legal status under the 1986 Immigration and Reform Control Act earned an average of 15 percent  more after five years, which means any reform today likely would result in more consumer spending.

The Republican Party in the House controls the fate of immigration reform at the minute and all eyes are on them.  As Congress breaks for summer recess in a week’s time the pressure will mount in their home districts as the Celts and immigrant groups call for a vote.  The question is whether the

Republican leadership will cave to the extreme right in their own party or rise to meet the will of the American people who want sensible reform.

*Breandán Magee is the Executive Director Chicago Irish Immigrant Support.