A project of the Center for Community Change

barack obama

Keeping Families Together in our Fight for Immigration Reform

This year has been a huge one for DREAMers who earlier this year were granted deferred action status. But the fight for DREAMers is not over. Although they now have the ability to stay in the U.S. without fear, their parents and other family members do not live with same sense of security.   Keeping families together is why immigration reform leaders are meeting in D.C.

Immigrant families have contributed to our economy and are an integral piece in the framework of our American society. A coalition of grassroots organizations and The Campaign for Community Change are organizing to launch the, Keeping Families Together campaign tour. The tour will stop in New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., among others. Family stories will be told at campaign rallies, vigils, community dinners, and will be recorded and shared with policymakers.

Our families want citizenship, which is a real solution that upholds our nation’s values, and moves us forward together.  Our current immigration system is badly broken. What people don’t understand is that there is literally no way for some undocumented immigrants to become legal, including people who were here as young children. And unscrupulous employers can prey on workers and pay low wages. A path to citizenship will give immigrants an opportunity to become legal, pay taxes, and participate fully in American society.

So DREAMers and their families will continue to work toward comprehensive immigration reform, and the Keeping Families Together summit will help us achieve it.

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State of the Union: Disappointment and Determination

Last night, along with many of you, I tuned into President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address. While I was genuinely interested to hear the President speak on the full scope of the issues facing our country right now – and there are many – I was, of course, especially interested to hear what he would say about immigration reform. More pointedly, I wanted to know if he would say anything at all.

Towards the end of the speech, word 6,300 of 7,000 total to be exact, President Obama did mention immigration.

“We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system to secure our borders, enforce our laws and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.”

While I was glad that the issue was mentioned and that the President noted the current system is broken, I think I speak for many passionate immigrant rights and immigration reform advocates when I say I was more than a little disappointed.

After words of commitment at key times, after the Latino and New American vote helped put him into office, after months of  lip service to the idea of just and humane reform, after years(s) of hard work and organizing, after flexing our political muscles on the Hill, in the streets and across the country, we deserve more.

As Maegan at VivirLatino pointed out, last night was a missed opportunity to demonstrate to the American public why immigration reform is inextricably linked to the other major issues facing our country.

He failed, as so many do, in pointing out where health care reform and immigration reform intersect.

And where the economy and immigration reform intersect and where immigration reform and jobs intersect. At one point, the President said:

“In this new decade, it’s time the American people get a government that matches their decency.”

And it’s time that government produce an immigration system that matches the country’s decency too. Too many people are suffering right now at the hands of this broken system, for it to just be a passing thought in laying out the domestic agenda.

So, where do we go from here? For those of us who remain committed to seeing this through in 2010, for those of us who refuse to believe that last night was the “death knell” for reform?

First, we organize. We keep knocking on doors, holding town halls, protesting in the streets and marching on Washington. We win hearts and minds and political power the old-fashioned way: through action.

Second, we keep the pressure on Congress. Today alone, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly stated the Senate’s commitment to immigration reform, Senator Chuck Schumer noted that progress is being made on the legislation he is currently drafting and Rep. Luis Gutierrez took it to the blogosphere to remind Congress that the responsibility rests squarely on their shoulders:

Though he clearly supports the notion that our laws must reflect the contributions immigrants have made to literally build this country, it is clear to me that Congress cannot wait for the President to lay out our time-line for comprehensive reform.

Third, we raise the stakes. We start demanding reform, rather than asking. It is clear that Congress is still more swayed by their fear of the political complexity of this issue than they are of the power of the immigration reform movement and the political power of the Latino and immigrant electorate. Its time to change that.

In the next few months, there are some big things planned, including a large-scale march on Washington, DC on March 21st. Its time to show Congress that we WILL hold them accountable and its time to force President Obama to take the leadership he promised on this issue.

With this said, it’s worth noting that using one speech as the barometer for the likelihood of a huge issue’s success or lack thereof is probably not the best approach to take. While I will admit that I was disappointed and a bit disheartened last night, it has only stoked the fire of my commitment to see this issue through in a real and tangible way.

But determining the future of immigration reform on a “word count” in the State of the Union address is bad strategy. Instead, immigration advocates should keep Presidential promises in perspective, redouble their efforts and continue to hold Congress’s feet to the fire.

Who’s with me?

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Game On: Obama will Move on Immigration Reform this Year

Today, President Obama heard our cries for immigration reform, and he has responded to our calls for action! An article appeared in the New York Times breaking the story of Obama’s intention of moving on comprehensive immigration reform this year. All I have to say is – it’s about time!

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According to the article Obama “plans to begin addressing the country’s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.”  The President will speak publicly about his intentions in May and will begin rounding up a team of experts and advocates this summer, in order to begin crafting the legislation.

This news is an affirmation that Obama will make good on his campaign promises of immigration reform.

He said then that comprehensive immigration legislation, including a plan to make legal status possible for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, would be a priority in his first year in office.

This is a  politically savvy move – Latino and New American voters turned out in record numbers for Obama this past November.  But the bottomline may not be political,  it may be that this is the right move for the economy. Immigration reform is a crucial part of any plan to get our economy back on track. Not only will bringing workers out of the shadows increase wages across the board, it will increase our tax base, reward responsible employers and ensure fairness in the labor market. If  we want a level playing field where both American and immigrant workers are treated fairly and if we want to make sure everyone pays their share of taxes, we need comprehensive immigration reform.

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The article goes on, unfortunately, to cite too of the most infamous anti-immigrant groups in the country, FAIR and Numbers USA. Both groups are quoted giving reasons for why moving on immigration reform would be “politically disastrous” for Obama. But, they seem to have underestimated both the President and the groundswell of support for reform that we have been witnessing across the country.

Just last month, Mr. Obama openly recognized that immigration is a potential minefield.

“I know this is an emotional issue; I know it’s a controversial issue,” he told an audience at a town meeting on March 18 in Costa Mesa, Calif. “I know that the people get real riled up politically about this.”

But, he said, immigrants who are long-time residents but lack legal status “have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows.”

Immigrants need a way out of the shadows in order to help fix our economy. Fair and NumbersUSA clearly have no understanding about economic policy and no sense of what it will take to mend our communities and bring prosperity back to our families.  They are driven by their ant-immigrant agenda, no matter the cost.

Across the country, advocates are gearing up for May 1st, a day typically used to celebrate immigrant rights and remembered for the massive immigrants marches in 2006. Advocates, immigrants, faith leaders, community leaders and elected officials are all ready to stand with the President and make sure that immigration reform is passed in 2009.

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Anticipating opposition, Mr. Obama has sought to shift some of the political burden to advocates for immigrants, by encouraging them to build support among voters for when his proposal goes to Congress.

Marissa Graciosa of FIRM made this statement earlier today:

We endorse President Obama’s call for immigration reform and admire his courage to fight for something we all know must get done. This is the kind of bold and visionary action we expect from our political leaders.  Climbing our way out of this economic crisis means forward thinking policies that include fixing a broken immigration system that has created a servant class in our midst. America’s economy cannot recover if we allow 12 million immigrants to continue to live and work in the margins of our society.

Obstructionists will throw everything at this Administration’s attempts to create a society which recognizes the inherent value and worth in us all.  For too long we have shrunk in the face of key decisions that must be made to get our country back on track. We will not allow this to happen.

We’ve seen first hand the pain of immigrant families ripped apart by unjust raids.  Our communities and our nation have suffered long enough.

You know what that means? That means that our time is NOW. We must not only continue to fight for reform, but we have to bring our efforts to the next level.

Mr. President, you can count on us to make just and humane immigration reform happen this year. Game on!

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