As the discussion about US immigration reform begins to formulate, the initial battle lines are being formed around the expected, traditional ones. From the left to the right there are many special interest groups formulating their strategy to protect their special interests. But where are the documented immigrants?

On the conservative right, the immigration reform rhetoric is formulating from outright xenophobia from the far right to the notion of “fairness” for those who have followed the immigration rules closer to the center of the political spectrum. While, the left is outwardly supportive of the immigration initiative so far, they are nonetheless hunkering down to protect the special interests of the “worker’s rights” groups.

Although the far-right still wields political influence, the Republicans are starting to accept the notion that in order to remain relevant in the upcoming elections they need to curtail and segment the xenophobic rhetoric of their far-right cousins without alienating them too much. It is a tight-rope of keeping the far right happy while drowning out their rhetoric with a more moderate tone.

Likewise the left, led by President Obama, must look like they are appreciative of the support they received in the last election from the Latino electorate, they must keep the “workers’ rights” groups happy. The Obama administration wants to keep two opposing interests together while making each feel appreciated. The Unions are afraid of the realignment of the workforce and they still wield power over the Democrats. The Latinos are divided between worker rights and immigration reform although most do not realize it.

The problem for both groups is that the Latino population is a mirror of the American identity, one that ranges from the far-right, the Cubans for example, to the far-left. It is a mistake to assume that the Latinos will support immigration reform as one or even at the extent they supported Obama in the last election. Latinos in America range from US-born multi-generational to recent arrivals, both documented and undocumented who face the same problems as America in general; education, finances and housing. These problems continue to dominate the realities they face and their ability to engage and participate in the immigration debate is left to the fringe groups who have vested interests in the outcome.

The group that stands to benefit the most from immigration reform continues to largely remain in the shadows because of fear and the inability to engage. The undocumented immigrants, estimated at around 11 million, is unable to shape the discussion, although small and very brave enclaves across America have added their voices to the discussion under the threat of deportation by exposing themselves to the system. Unfortunately while they remain in the shadows their ability to engage is nonexistent, at best.

Those of us who are documented immigrants are too busy with our lives to help our undocumented brethren with our own engagement. We know the stories, we have witnessed the crushed dreams and the fear of the shadows but we are too busy to participate. We too face the difficulties of a difficult and uncertain economy and the realities of raising our families and truth be told, remaining silent is far easier than bringing attention unto ourselves.

This leaves us with the voice of immigration reform being shaped by the politicians and the advocates of special interests, instead of those who should be leading it.

Is this right?

As difficult as it is to expose ourselves, to stir-up our quiet lives we owe it to destiny to be a part of something for the future of the country.

Hispanics, Latinos or however we identify ourselves are awakening to the reality that we can and should participate on the American scene. Our voices, both in Spanish and English should be part of the conversation, a conversation derived from our own experiences and not one shaped from the special interests that surround us.

We have a choice and the choice for the Latinos needs to be made now. We can choose to remain silent, followers or we can choose to lead and blaze our own political futures.

The time is now to rise up and be counted as equals in deciding public policy or continue to allow others to be our voice.

Compañeros, ya es tiempo de salir de la oscuridad y participar en nuestros futuros. Es tiempo de participar en la escena política con nuestras propias voces.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...