Serious immigration reform cannot take place without the support of those it would most affect.
That is the message millions of demonstrators have been sending over the past several weeks.
April 10 was a National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice, and large rallies occurred around the country.
These come on top of massive protests in Milwaukee, Boise, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles and Dallas.
We are witnessing the largest civil protests in this country since the 1960s.
The debate concerns the rights and well-being of immigrants.
Although the Senate recently came up with a bipartisan compromise, the effort fell through because of political grandstanding on the part of both parties.
Even though this bill would have created a path to legalization, it was one fraught with one-way streets, detours, fines, police and other obstacles.
Under the failed proposal, an undocumented immigrant present in the United States for more than five years could gain legal status as a guest worker. He or she could then be employed in the United States for six years, and could eventually apply for a green card, though there would be no guarantee that one would be issued. What's more, these workers would have to wait another five years, at the minimum, before they could become citizens.
An undocumented immigrant present in the U.S. from between two to five years would have to leave the country before jumping in line for legalization. An undocumented immigrant present for less than two years would have no relief.
Instead of hoops and hurdles, what the 12 million undocumented people living in the United States need are fair reforms that recognize the positive contributions millions of immigrants -- undocumented or otherwise -- have on the United States.
Legalization must be offered equally to immigrants across the board. Employer sanctions, which make it illegal for undocumented immigrants to hold gainful employment, need to be eliminated. And criminalization of immigrants and heavy-handed enforcement measures must be rejected.
When Congress returns from recess, it must get back to work and resolve this debate by passing a legalization program that upholds the rights of all.
Christopher Punongbayan is advocacy director at Filipinos For Affirmative Action, and a current Ford Foundation New Voices Fellow. He can be reached at email@example.com.