Sunday, November 22, 2009

Campaign to Make Immigration Reform a Top Issue in 2010

Immigration Matters

New America Media, Commentary, Rich Stolz, Posted: Oct 18, 2009 Review it on NewsTrust

Last Tuesday, October 13, immigrant families from around the country gathered to join in a vigil and rally in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., where Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez and other elected officials launched a new push for comprehensive immigration reform, building to the opening months of 2010. Our banners read “Reform Immigration FOR Families” and “Family Unity Cannot Wait.”

More than 750 people traveled to Washington on buses from up and down the Eastern seaboard and as far away as Texas, Florida, Ohio, Minnesota, and Michigan. They spent Tuesday morning meeting with Congressional offices before being joined by thousands of people from the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area, who gathered on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol to listen to testimonies from families, veterans, and children who face family disintegration because of immigration laws and deportation.

It was a beautiful warm afternoon for prayers, singing and chanting. Religious leaders from a diverse array of faith traditions around the country, some organized through Familias Unidas, were called by their faith to D.C. to lead the gathered in prayers. Families who traveled for days were joined by families from the area, sharing not only the moment, but also their personal stories that underscore the urgency for real, just, and humane immigration reform.

At the event Congressman Gutierrez outlined a set of principles for progressive immigration reform that needs to include a rational and humane approach to legalize the undocumented population, to protect workers’ rights, to allocate sufficient visas, to establish a smarter and more humane border enforcement policy, to promote integration of immigrant communities, to include the DREAM Act and AgJOBS bills, to protect rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and to keep families together.

The lawmakers who joined Rep. Gutierrez on stage, and addressed the gathering included Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chairman Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairs Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Congressional Black Caucus Member, Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Mike Quigley (D-IL), and Delegate Gregorio Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands).

In the middle of the crowd, there was a girl who had come to D.C. with her mother from a community in Ohio, devastated by the deportations tearing families apart. She stood holding a large drawing of her father and her friends’ parents who have been taken away. She came to Washington wanting to give her drawing to the president’s children, to ask them to tell their father, to plead with them, that she wanted her own father back.

This girl’s story demonstrates why so many people came to Washington, D.C., and why on the same day, so many communities held events in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nevada, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

All of these events, taken together, demonstrate a fierce urgency for change.
In 2006, across the country, immigrant families and communities mobilized and millions of us marched. Yet, we lost the fight in Congress for immigration reform. We demonstrated our numbers, but we didn’t focus our power, and though we pushed a reform bill through the Senate, our efforts ended in stalemate with the likes of Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and HR 4437. In 2007, we made another run at reform, but our energies were sapped by backroom negotiations and we were overwhelmed and out-organized by our opponents’ ability to generate calls to members of Congress by a factor of 100.

Since then, we have been fighting increased immigration raids and the expansion of failed enforcement policies that have forced immigrant communities to live in fear. Since 2006, communities have also been engaging in unprecedented civic participation. With successful voter education and voter registration efforts, immigrant communities across the country demonstrated the power of immigrant voters, accounting for the difference in key states and congressional districts around the country in the elections last year.

In June, we launched the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign. The FOR America campaign brings together a very broad coalition of community and faith organizations, labor unions, civil rights and advocacy organizations from around the country. The FOR America campaign is engaged in actions around the country, encouraging all who care to participate. Using new technological tools, anyone can get connected and participate, simply by signing up for text alerts on a cell phone. By sending the text message, “justice” in English or “justicia” in Spanish to 69866, anyone, anywhere can begin receiving campaign updates and participate in national calls to Congress or the president, to push for immigration reform.

We are building strength, and as more and more families and individuals get involved and more and more communities across the country stand together and act together, united in common purpose for our families, our friends, our communities, we will be able to end the tearing apart of our families. We will not only be able to take advantage of the opportunity to move Congress to pass immigration reform in the spring, but we will also be able to make the United States live up to its own ideals as the land of liberty and opportunity.

Rich Stolz is campaign manager with Reform Immigration FOR America.

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