A project of the Center for Community Change

Largest Grassroots Immigrant Rights Organizations Launch Campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2013

For Immediate Release: Thursday, December 13, 2012

Contact: Beth Kanter, 202-293-6200 x 209, 773-551-7044 (cell)

Donna De La Cruz, 202-339-9331, 202-441-3798 (cell)

Largest Grassroots Immigrant Rights Organizations Launch Campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2013

Washington, D.C. – Nearly 100 families joined leaders of the largest grassroots immigrant rights organizations in launching the “Keeping Families Together” campaign today to call for comprehensive immigration reform.

The campaign was kicked off by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a coalition of the largest and most powerful grassroots immigrant rights organizations in the country. FIRM represents hundreds of thousands of immigrant families in more than 30 states.

Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, answered the question, “why now?” in his remarks. “In the early days, the idea of a path to citizenship was far outside the mainstream of political discourse in our country.  We adopted the slogan: Today we march. Tomorrow we vote.  On Election Day 2012 we more than voted.  We voted in record numbers and we changed the conversation in America.  Indeed we changed political reality.

We have been meeting for the past two days, formalizing our campaign plans and I am very excited to announce our plans for 2013.

“Today, we launch the “Keeping Families Together” campaign. This campaign will give a voice to the 11 million undocumented people living in our country and together we will fight for comprehensive immigration reform. The men, women and children who have had their families torn apart by our nation’s broken immigration system will have an opportunity to speak out about the need for reform that includes a path to citizenship,” Bhargava said.

These families will be the voice of Keeping Families Together. They will lift the veil on the moral crisis of family separation and tell their story of our broken immigration process to illustrate why we need change now.

Miguel Leal, an organizer from Massachusetts, came to the United States from Cuba when he was 10 years old. Leal is married to an undocumented immigrant from Uruguay and the couple has a 2-month-old son. Leal said his family lives in fear every day that his wife will be deported.

“There is no path to citizenship for my wife and her family because of our broken immigration system,” Leal said. “Our lives are more like a prison. I believe this nation needs to change its course or I see it ending up just like Cuba, a place where people are even afraid to talk. That’s exactly what I see in my family, even when their rights are being violated.”

Keeping Families Together, www.keepingfamiliestogether.net, will advocate for immigration policies that reflect our nation’s values of fairness, justice and equality. When families are torn apart, relationships are destroyed, inflicting psychological damage to all, including children. Communities are impacted, and immigrant families become further isolated and disengaged from civic life. And family separation can take away a breadwinner, leading to severe economic hardship.

Petra Falcon, Executive Director of Promise Arizona, echoed the importance of family stories in this debate. “Family is the first and most important foundation that connects us to the story of America itself. It’s a value that everyone in this country shares. It crosses religions, political divides, over boundaries of income, culture and race; family is the one thing that can unify us to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said this campaign will be FIRM’s most powerful campaign.

“Powerful because it will tie every element of our previous work together in a simple yet infinitely powerful message and organizing arc. The Keeping Families Together campaign will unite immigrant activists, advocates, champions and most importantly immigrant families themselves in a demand for a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. We will do this by lifting the veil on the moral crisis of family separation. Thousands of families will tell their story of our broken immigration process in ways that illustrate why we need change now,” Rodriguez said.

The Keeping Families Together campaign tour will stop in cities across the country, including New York, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., among others. Family stories will be told at campaign rallies, vigils and community dinners and will be recorded and shared with policymakers.

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