FORT WAYNE – Max Montesino knows opposition and compromise lie in wait for immigration rules proposed this week by President Obama and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators.
“There will be ideas added and subtracted. The important thing is that the ball began rolling,” said Montesino, president of the board of the Hispanic Leadership Coalition of Northeast Indiana.
The coalition “is delighted, thrilled and hopeful about what can come out of it,” he said Tuesday in a phone interview.
The framework produced by Obama and the eight senators would beef up border security while offering a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the country.
“We are not fighting for granting undocumented workers American citizenship right away,” Montesino said.
“Eventually they could become American citizens, but they have to earn it. It should be a process, like with any immigrant in the United States,” he added.
Asked how many undocumented workers live in northeast Indiana, Montesino said: “We have thousands of them. It is impossible to count.”
A Dominican Republic native who came to the U.S. on a student visa in 1989, Montesino is a professor of organizational leadership and supervision at IPFW. He said he has been advocating changes in immigration policy for a dozen years.
The general plan by Obama and the senators “is exactly what we wanted,” Montesino said about the Hispanic Leadership Coalition. “It is as comprehensive as we wanted, and it’s as useful for the country as we wanted.”
One difference between the proposals is that the senators want a secure border before offering a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. Obama’s plan doesn’t make that stipulation.
Border security is a priority for congressmen representing northeast Indiana.
“I believe that our nation’s broken immigration system cannot be fixed with amnesty,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, said Tuesday in a statement. “An actual solution must place real border security first and only when this is in place can we address those who are in the country illegally.”
Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said in a statement, “Securing our nation’s borders and fixing our deeply flawed immigration system continues to be an issue that Congress must address.”
Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said in a statement, “While there is no legislation yet, I am pleased that the initial proposal supports heightened border security and electronic verification of employment status, both of which I have supported in the past.”