A hot Rayburn room packed with passion...

Rayburn room 2255 was jammed packed today with families, advocates, and community leaders from around the country speaking out against the raids in favor of a human rights and justice. I was deeply moved by the openness of the panelists and the heartfelt responses of our invited guests. This event was truly memorable for all of us present. A HUGE thank you to all of the groups who sponsored this event: Center for Community Change/Fair Immigration Reform Movement - Central Illinois Organizing Project - Chicago Workers Collaborative, a member of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights –  Hate Free Zone - Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement - Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition - Member organization of the Pacific Institute of Community Organizations, including, Congregations Building Community - Contra Costa Interfaith Sponsoring Committee - Oakland Community Organizations - Peninsula Interfaith Action - People Acting in Community Together

Press from all corners came to spread the stories of Dominga, Norma, Reverend Ana and so many others, we had great turn out and we are proud to have our stories shared with communities across the country. A special thanks goes out to the panelists who heard the stories of our panelists and joined our call for human rights and dignity: Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund, Hilary Shelton of the NAACP, Randy Capps of the Urban Institute and Rev. Robert Edgars of National Conference of Churches, and the National Organization of Women.

And here is our press overview of the event:

Minutes Before Senate Leaders Announced a “Deal” on Immigration: Real Families Caught in the Teeth of America’s Broken Immigration System Come to Capitol Hill

Immigrant Community Leaders Decry Deal Which Would End Family Immigration Rules

Washington D.C. – Today, Senator Kennedy (D-MA) is expected to announce a political "deal" with the White House and anti-immigrant politicians on immigration.  While the deal is expected to include a pathway to citizenship for millions, it would end America's family migration policy and create a new permanent underclass of workers without the same rights as other American workers.

Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, which coordinates the Fair Immigration Reform Movement – the gathering place for grassroots immigrant community groups had this to say:

"Immigrant communities around the nation fought hard for a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants.  But this deal, cut with some of the most virulent anti-immigrant politicians is unacceptable as written.  Immigrant communities around the nation will work tirelessly to fix the legislation and ensure that tough and humane immigration reform is signed into law this year.

"Today's deal ends America's family migration policy forcing parents to make a cruel choice between a life with their family or the pursuit of the American dream.  The deal also creates a new permanent underclass of workers without fundamental rights – threatening the quality of life for all American workers.

"Elements of this deal should make every parent and worker in America cringe.  The families who came to Capitol Hill today are simply moms, dads and adorable children.  They were at work one day, earning a living when federal officers took them away from their kids and subjected them to horrible treatment.  We are asking our political leaders to think twice before making deals by cutting family bonds and ensuring bad jobs for immigrants.  All Americans should ask themselves: whose dignity will they be willing to deal away next?"

Click here to see the full statement from the Fair Immigration Reform Movement on today's immigration deal.

Just minutes before the political deal was announced, parents caught in America's broken immigration system came to Capitol Hill to share their heart wrenching stories with national leaders.  The parents – many of whom brought their children to the Capitol – were separated from their children for weeks and being subjected to inhumane treatment after being apprehended in one of the Bush Administration's "immigration raids" which have devastated immigrant communities across America.

The families, from California, Illinois, and Massachusetts were joined by mayors and community leaders from California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, and Massachusetts who shared the devastating impact that these raids have wrought on their communities.  Marian Wright Edelman – President of the Children's Defense Fund, Kim Gandy – President of the National Organization of Women, Hillary Shelton of the NAACP, and the Rev. Bob Edgar of the National Council of Churches were visibly moved by the families' testimony.

Dr. Amaro Lima, a clinical psychologist who teaches at Harvard Medical School warned the panel about the emotional and mental health impact on the children affected by the raids. "These children are exhibiting classic symptoms of traumatic stress. Forced separation from parents is one of the most traumatic events a child can experience, and that trauma will have a long-term effect."

Tom Selder, the mayor of Greeley, CO and Gayle McLaughlin, mayor of Richmond, CA described what the painful impact that raids had on their communities.  And Randy Capps of the Urban Institute shares some recent research on the impact of the immigration raids on children in three communities.

Speakers fought back tears as they described their experiences. Sandra, a young mother of 15 month old girl, was taken away from her workplace in a leather factory in New Bedford, MA where she was employed making packs for the US military. She spoke about how frightened she was, separated from her baby daughter for ten days while being held in a Texas detention center. "I was so afraid that I might never see my baby again," she said.

Norma, a US citizen from Richmond, CA described how her husband was arrested and detained by I.C.E. agents last September, on the day of her fourth wedding anniversary. She spoke about how she was seven month pregnant at the time, and how her husband was the sole provider for Norma, their two-year old daughter, and their unborn child.  For two weeks Norma could not determine where her husband was being detained. Her daughter would cry and ask "When is Papi coming home?" Norma expressed her anxiety that her husband's immigration status is currently under petition but that he could still face deportation and forced separation from Norma and their children.

Lixiere and his family came to the US from El Salvador to escape severe poverty and extreme violence. His 2½ years old son suffered extreme trauma from separation when Lixiere and his wife were both detained for 8 days after the New Bedford raid. The toddler exhibited signs of trauma as he refused food and lost weight.

Maria, mother of two, from Palatine, IL, was among 17 employees who were arrested and detained in an I.C.E. raid at Cano Packing, a sweets packing factory. On that day, February 17th, Maria's daughter, Cynthia had waited anxiously for her mother to come home from work so that they could celebrate Cynthia's birthday together as a family.  Maria is now facing deportation. 

Dominga is the mother of 3 children aged 2, 5 and 7 years old. Her husband, Hector, was detained during the New Bedford raid. Since then, she has struggled to make ends meet for her children, as Hector was the bread winner of the family. Originally from Guatemala, the family came to the US looking for a better life. While Hector was only making $7.00/an hour at the factory, the little he earned could provide for his young family. Dominga expressed her anxiety about the pain, fear, and trauma that her young children are being subjected to.

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