9 Key Moments in the Path to Immigration Reform

PHOTO: Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., right, and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., left, join a bipartisan group of leading senators to announce principles of immigration reform during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

A bipartisan "gang of eight" senators unveiled a broad framework for immigration reform on Monday. President Obama addressed the issue in Las Vegas on Tuesday, and members of the House of Representatives are also involved in immigration reform talks. As promised, the issue has become a priority of the Obama administration and lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties in recent weeks. So how did this happen? From DREAMer hunger strikes to a Supreme Court ruling, take a look at some of the key moments in the path to making immigration reform a reality.

PHOTO: Gaby Pacheco walked 1,500 miles from Florida to Washington, DC to advocate for the Dream Act.
Washington Post/Getty Images
Gaby Pacheco's March – 2010

Gaby, an undocumented woman, walked from Miami to Washington, D.C., with three friends in 2010. They embarked on the 1,500-mile trek to draw attention to the need for immigration reform, and specifically to call on President Barack Obama to stop the separation of families and deportation of young people. A leader with United We Dream, Pacheco was a key figure in calling for deportation relief for young people, which eventually became a reality with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

PHOTO: Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
DREAMer Hunger Strike – early June 2010

DREAMers staged a hunger strike in front of Senator Chuck Schumer's (D-New York) Manhattan office. They urged the chairman of a Senate subcommittee on immigration to push for passage of the DREAM Act and demanded a meeting with him to discuss their goals. The strike lasted 10 days, ending only after police told them they would be arrested if they did not move.

PHOTO: Gaby Perez, left, hands over all her paperwork to get guidance from immigration attorney Jose Penalosa, right, in Phoenix on August 15, 2012, for a new federal program, called Deferred Action, that would help some young undocumented immigrants avoi
Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo
DREAMers Pressure the White House – Fall 2011

DREAMers took their campaign to the White House, asking for administrative relief for undocumented immigrant youth and staging a sit-in at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement prosecutor's office in Los Angeles. In the following months, they also published a letter signed by about 100 law professors in La Opinión. In it, they said the president did have the legal authority to take administrative action and staged sit-ins in Obama campaign offices demanding that action.

PHOTO: Romney speaks to Latino voters in Florida.
Mary Altaffer/AP Photo
Romney's "Self-Deportation" Comment – late January 2012

Mitt Romney's suggestion that the United States make it so uncomfortable for undocumented immigrants that they leave of their own accord was met with ridicule from both Democrats and Republicans.

"The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they could do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here," he told NBC News. "We're not going to round people up."

Obama's team jumped on the comment and used it to paint a picture of Romney as out-of-touch on immigration, and Republicans such as New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and Arizona Senator John McCain criticized the idea.

PHOTO:  In this Oct. 5, 2011 file photo, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at the Newseum in Washington.
Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP Photo
Rubio's Version of the DREAM Act – Spring 2012

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) was crafting a plan to grant legal residency to young undocumented immigrants. He met with various groups of DREAMers and lawmakers, but scrapped the plan when Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

PHOTO: On Wednesday, June 20th 2012, Neighborhood Centers Inc and FIEL partnered to bring a DREAMer Information Summit at Baker Ripley Neighborhood Center in Houston, Texas.
Neighborhood Centers/Flickr
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – June 15, 2012

The Obama administration's plan to grant some young undocumented immigrants two-year reprieves from deportation angered some Republicans, who said it was an overuse of power. But DREAMers praised it as a step toward allowing young people, many of whom have no memory of life in any country but the United States, a chance to come out of the shadows. Thousands of DREAMers around the country filled out applications for deferred action after the program began in August. Media picked up various success stories, and DREAMers put even more pressure on the White House and lawmakers to focus on comprehensive immigration reform.

PHOTO: An SB1070 protest sign
SEIU International/Flickr
Supreme Court split on SB 1070 ruling – June 25, 2012

The ruling allowed Arizona state's "papers please" provision – which allows local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of suspects they think might be in the country illegally – but struck down other provisions. The ruling affirmed that federal law preempts state law on immigration.

PHOTO: President Obama is interviewed on Univision on September 20, 2012.
Univision
Univision "Meet the Candidates" forum – September 20, 2012

President Obama admitted during a forum in Miami that he regretted breaking his promise to pass immigration reform during his first year in office.

"My biggest failure is that we haven't gotten comprehensive immigration reform done," he said, after pressure from Univision's Jorge Ramos.

Republicans attempted to capitalize on the failure by using it as evidence that the president didn't follow through on promises. And while Latino leaders and immigrants' rights organizations expressed their disappointment in the president, Hispanic voters still saw Obama as a better candidate than Mitt Romney when they cast their ballots in November. Obama won a staggering 71 percent of the Latino vote.

PHOTO: Obama
Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo
Election Day – November 6, 2012

Latinos turned out in force for the president. More than 70 percent voted for Obama while only about 27 percent cast ballots for Romney. That was far below the 40 percent the GOP had hoped to garner, and it caused some Republicans to wake up to the issue.

"There's no question that Republicans are in a hole and we're not sugarcoating that," Republican strategist Whit Ayres said in December. "But there's also no question that Republicans have enormous potential to do better than they've done."

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