WASHINGTON – Illegal immigration has put a strain on schools across the country and the immigration reform plan being debated will invariably have an impact on the education system.

If this is any indication about the direction talks are heading, SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina says in an email, “The President is with us on this one.”

Only a year ago, the President announcing a plan for commonsense immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship would have been politically unthinkable. This week, we saw it happen.

We were very encouraged by his profound reminder that our greatness as a nation comes from the people who built it, the workers who sustain it, and our children who will be the future leaders. The president also warned against framing the discussion in term of ‘us’ and ‘them’ by reminding that many of us were at some point ‘them’.

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But Medina, a leader of the Democratic Socialists of America, has a different objective.

Speaking at a 2009 “America’s Future Now!” conference, he said:

Now as you know, the negative tone of the immigration debate has created intense interest in the Latino and immigrant community. We in the last election had the largest turnout of Latino voters in our history. And everything tell us these voters fully intend to become engaged into the elections in the future. They have tasted what it is like to participate and win and they are not going to go away. Because their involvement is basically because they feel that they are being taken advantage of, they are being singled out and they are being scapegoated.

Now, when they voted in November [2008], they voted overwhelmingly for progressive candidates. Barack Obama got 2 out of every 3 voters that showed up and so I think there’s two things, very quickly, that matter for the progressive community:

1. If we are to expect this electorate to win, the progressive community needs to solidly be on the side of immigrants. That will solidify and expand the progressive coalition for the future. And let me tell you, when you are in the middle of a fight for your life, you will remember who was there with you. [intelligible]

2. We reform the immigration laws, it puts 12 million people on the path to citizenship and eventually voters. Can you imagine if we have even the same ratio – two out of three – 8 million new voters that care about our issue and will be voting. We will create a governing coalition for the long-term, not just for an election cycle.

Is this the real purpose of immigration reform? Building the progressive base of voters so SEIU and other unions have a bigger say in schools and other sectors of government?