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Jose Antonio Vargas Gives Voice to Families in Immigration Reform Testimony

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013


English-language media: Donna De La Cruz, ddelacruz@communitychange.org (202) 339-9331

Spanish-language media: Ricardo Ramirez, rramirez@communitychange.org (202) 905-1738

Jose Antonio Vargas Gives Voice to Families in Immigration Reform Testimony

Senate Must Take Action Now on a Bill With a Path to Citizenship 

(WASHINGTON)—Jose Antonio Vargas today provided a powerful voice to undocumented immigrant families in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. And Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she has never seen a better opportunity to pass a comprehensive immigration bill until now.

The Senate must seize this opportunity and take action on a bill with a path to citizenship. And they must remember Vargas’s testimony and the words of other undocumented immigrants, said Kica Matos, spokesperson for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a coalition of immigrant rights groups in 30 states.

Vargas asked the Senate Judiciary Committee members “What do you want to do with us?” before recounting how he was brought to America from the Philippines by his grandfather an American citizen. Vargas is the only member of his extended family who is undocumented.

“The Senate must not let political infighting and one-upmanship derail bipartisan legislation that is humane and compassionate and will allow the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country work to become full-fledged Americans,” said Matos, also the Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice for the Center for Community Change. The Center is a FIRM member.

“The House must also remember families as they craft legislation that must include a path to citizenship,” Matos added. “We will not support any legislation that does not provide undocumented immigrants a way to become full-fledged Americans.”



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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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Who is in charge at Immigration and Customs Enforcement?

Much has been said about the lip-service that immigration reform has been given from the Obama administration and members of Congress. The continued pledges of support don’t mean anything in the face of increased deportations. The administration and the Department of Homeland Security have stated various times that deportation and enforcement practices are being aimed only at undocumented immigrants with a criminal record.

However, on March 18th:

John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, stated that his agency would be ramping up enforcement efforts against undocumented immigrants with no criminal records. Morton’s statement was in response to pressure from Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Hal Rogers, (R-KY).

Also, on March 10th, while grassroots leaders were meeting with President Obama at the White House and hearing (yet again) his pledge of support for the cause, there was a workplace raid in Annapolis, MD where Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detained 29 workers.

Talk about hypocrisy.

Then, Saturday, a story dropped in the Washington Post exposing that ICE  has issued quotas as incentives to round up and deport even more undocumented immigration without criminal records.

From Immigration Impact:

The memo stated that ICE had set a quota of 400,000 deportations for the year without regard to whether those individuals were criminals or not, and laid out strategies for doing so. In other words, it’s not about keeping us safe, it’s about achieving big numbers.

So, while families continue to suffer and communities are destroyed, ICE is trying to make themselves look good with the ‘enforcement-only, deport ’em all’ crowd.

Excuse me, but where are you Mr. Obama?

Yesterday the Reform Immigration For America campaign released a statement calling for accountability.

This is directly at odds with statements from the President and Secretary Napolitano whose purported enforcement and security goals are to focus deportation efforts on dangerous or violent criminals.  To explain the contradiction, an agency spokesman indicated that Chaparro’s memo was “inconsistent” with the administration’s point of view and inconsistent with Secretary Napolitano.  Adding to the disorder, Chapparro later issued a ‘clarifying’ memo that neither rescinded nor abandoned the controversial and ‘inconsistent’ quota system he enumerated in his memo to field.

Which is it?  Is there a quota system or not? Who is actually in charge at ICE? Whose word is to be believed?

Today, grassroots groups are gathering for a press conference to call out the administration on these inconsistencies and seeming lack of leadership.

Until we have comprehensive immigration reform, ICE is going to be saddled with an enormous list of targets, and many people watching to see how they’re going to tackle it. If they want big numbers, they can achieve big numbers. But that won’t make us any safer or make the system any better. In any case the Administration and ICE have to figure out what their enforcement strategy is, articulate it clearly and consistently, and resist the urge to change it on a dime to please “enforcement-only” types who will never support comprehensive reform. (via Immigration Impact)

In short: get it together, guys. Stop playing politics with people’s lives and start working to solve problems. After all, isn’t that what you were put in office to do?

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