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Reformers boosted

That legislation was seen as an obstacle to just about every other legislative initiative but in its aftermath both President Obama and congressional Democrats appeared to draw renewed strength on other issues, not least comprehensive immigration reform.

"Disengagement doesn't help the American people," Congressman Joe Crowley, who had traveled to Haiti to see earthquake recovery work at first hand, said of reform in a phone interview with the Echo.

Crowley predicted that there would be hurdles in the way of reform beyond just party rhetoric. He said he was concerned that a future Senate bill - and the Senate is expected to take up the issue before the House of Representatives - might emphasize more of the punitive and security issues involved in immigration reform and do little to address the "human element."

In this regard, Crowley was referring to the plight of millions of illegal and undocumented, including thousands of Irish.

The pressures brought to bear from all angles with regard to immigration reform would be "unbelievable," said Crowley.

The stalled reform effort was given a shot in the arm during the recent St. Patrick's Day festivities. President reiterated his "unwavering" support for immigration reform, but little has been achieved during Mr. Obama's time in office to move reform forward.

"Immigration's tough, you don't have to ask anyone other than me to tell you that. It's a tough heavy lift," said Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) during his appearance on "Meet the Press" last weekend.

Graham and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) have put together a framework for an immigration reform measure that they hope will lead to a Senate bill on which to debate the issue.

President Obama released a statement praising the framework.

"It thoughtfully addresses the need to shore up our borders, and demands accountability from both workers who are here illegally and employers who game the system," Obama said.

Graham, a conservative Republican leader who threatened to walk away from any immigration reform effort if health care legislation was passed, has backed off from that earlier threat. But he has also lashed out against President Obama and Democrats for doing nothing on immigration.

"If a moderate Democrat got a phone call from the president, he wants you to come down to the White House and help him with immigration now, most of them would jump out the window," said Graham.

The House of Representatives already has legislation on immigration reform, and one of the Democratic authors of the bill, Congressman Crowley, said he would gladly welcome a call from the Oval Office on the topic.

Getting health care reform passed was huge for Obama, for the Democrats, but now it's time for the president to "bite off another big one," Crowley said in his exchange with the Echo.

Even while the final element of the health care reform legislation was being completed during an unusual weekend session, just steps away from the congressional chambers thousands in Washington rallying for immigration reform in what was dubbed the "March for America."

Rep. Crowley, addressed the crowd, noting that all four of his grandparents emigrated from Ireland to the U.S.

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