Immigrant advocates made a fruitful visit to the offices of Nevada’s U.S. senators Thursday, delivering a basket of sweet apples to Sen. Harry Reid and sour lemons to Sen. John Ensign.
The idea was to thank Reid and chide Ensign for their respective votes on proceeding with a bill to deal with illegal immigration last week.
Democrat Reid pushed for the bill, which was backed by President Bush, while Republican Ensign was among the majority of senators who voted not to go forward with the legislation, killing its chances.
One of those making the delivery in Las Vegas, however, wondered if Ensign would see the point.
“It might be the wrong message, because he might actually like lemons,” said George Ossavou, an immigrant activist with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.
A spokesman for Ensign, Tory Mazzola, said the senator wasn’t exactly making lemonade but would be putting the fruit to good use, donating it to a food bank.
The liberal umbrella organization PLAN supported the legislation, which would have created a process for illegal immigrants already in America to eventually become citizens, and lamented its demise despite Reid’s efforts.
“We have a system that’s broken right now,” said Ossavou, 47, a native of the African nation of Gabon. “We need immigration reform that takes into account the needs of this country in terms of employment, but we need to deal with it in a sensitive, humanitarian manner.”
Ossavou entered the country legally 20 years ago and is now a citizen, but said he sympathizes with the plight of all immigrants, legal and illegal.
“The real concern here is the humanitarian crisis that’s ongoing. Families are literally being ripped apart,” said PLAN spokesman Launce Rake.
Rake called on Reid not to abandon the issue. “This issue isn’t going to go away. The situation is only going to get worse.”
A Reid spokesman, Blair Hinderliter, said Reid feels “pressure to get something done, but he’s already given three or four weeks to the issue, and the president couldn’t even get his own folks in line.”
Hinderliter said Reid feels strongly that immigration needs to be addressed but doesn’t see any room on the Senate schedule in the near future.
Mazzola said Ensign was “hopeful for an immigration bill that is good for America,” but said, “chances for an immigration bill coming up again soon are slim.”