Nearly 200 Kids Urge Congress to Pass Immigration Reform Now to Keep Their Families Together
For Immediate ReleaseThursday, November 14, 2013
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Kids Determined to Fight Harder for Reform In Spite of Boehner’s Remarks
Civil Rights Activists Inspire Kids to Never Give Up
(WASHINGTON)—Nearly 200 children marched on Capitol Hill today to bring their heartbreaking stories of family separation directly to House GOP leaders, urging Speaker John Boehner act on immigration reform now.
The children, part of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement’s ‘Keeping Families Together: Youth in Action’ events this week, were not deterred by Boehner’s remarks yesterday that he has no intention of going to conference committee with the Senate bill on immigration reform, or even considering passing legislation since the GOP leadership is now discussing drafting principles instead.
In an appearance last night on the MSNBC show "All In With Chris Hayes", the two teenagers who spoke with Boehner on Wednesday as he ate breakfast said they won’t let his remarks stop them.
"This movement is made up of people who are so resilient. It's not going to stop now,” said Jennifer Martinez, 16, a volunteer with OneAmerica in Washington state. “You really think they're going to stop any time soon just because one man says, 'no way'? This is just an extension of the civil rights movement. It never ended, and it's going to continue until we get what we want, which is comprehensive immigration reform.”
During their breakfast encounter with Boehner, 13-year-old Carmen Lima of California asked Boehner if she could count on his vote for immigration reform. Boehner told the girls: “I’ve made it clear since the day after the election it’s time to get this done.”
Hours later, Boehner told reporters just the opposite. So today, the kids, inspired by meeting with four members of the 1963 Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, Alabama, converged on House office buildings to tell lawmakers why not acting on immigration reform now is a huge mistake.
“I am an American citizen and I am 16 years old, nearly old enough to vote,” Martinez said. “Republicans will need to show me, and millions of other youths like myself who know firsthand how the broken immigration system has torn families apart, why they deserve our votes in future elections. But their actions right now show me that they don’t care about representing us.”
Nine-year-old Ariana Vivas of New York spoke of the night Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials knocked on her family’s door. They were looking for another man but when they did not find him, took her father into custody. He was deported in 2012.
“My dad is a good man and I miss him very much,” Ariana said. “I wish Congress would let him come back to us. I don’t know if I will ever see him again.”
Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, a FIRM member, praised the children who came to Washington this week for being brave enough to speak up.
“Today we share our stories and tie together 50 years of courage and hope,” Bhargava said, referring to the 1963 Children’s Crusade in Birmingham where children had to endure attack dogs, fire hoses and arrests. “As we summon our courage together to confront injustice and to convince the politicians to pass immigration reform, we can learn from our elders in the movement.”
Gwendolyn Gamble, who took part in the 1963 Children’s Crusade, said she remembered being forced to sit in the back of the bus, having substandard textbooks at school and being called derogatory names.
“All those things did not discourage me. That made me decide to join the movement, I was inspired,” Gamble said.
The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) is a national coalition of grassroots organizations in 30 states fighting for immigrant rights at the local, state and federal level. For more information, go to www.fairimmigration.org