A project of the Center for Community Change

immigration enforcement

Immigrant Rights Groups Welcome Rule Change to Keep Families Together

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013
Contact: Donna De La Cruz, ddelacruz@communitychange.org (202) 339-9331

Immigrant Rights Groups Welcome Rule Change to Keep Families Together

Family Unity Waiver Goes Into Effect on March 4 

(WASHINGTON)—Members of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) today praised the posting of a final rule change by the Obama Administration allowing spouses and children of U.S. citizens to stay together in the United States through stateside processing of visa applications.

Under current law, undocumented immigrants have to leave the United States and wait for years before they can re-enter the country. Often, the process to obtain a waiver can take months or even years, meaning families have to endure prolonged separations and are exposed to significant hardship. Current law also places an unnecessary burden on federal agencies.

The ‘family unity waiver’ would allow spouses and children of U.S. citizens to file their waivers in the United States and remain together while applications are processed. Last March, 160 organizations from across the nation signed a letter sent to Alejandro Mayorkas, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, urging USCIS to expand the family unity waiver to ensure more families are kept together and to implement the family unity waiver as quickly as possible.

FIRM groups and other immigration rights organizations sent hundreds of comments to USCIS urging the agency to implement the rule change.

“The family unity waiver eliminates unnecessary bureaucratic red tape and focuses on what is important: keeping families together,” said Kica Matos, Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice for the Center for Community Change. “We are pleased the rule will finally be implemented very soon.”

“FIRM members are pleased that the Obama administration is using its authority to keep families together and we look forward to more leadership as we embark on the long term solution of immigration reform,” Matos said.

In December, FIRM, comprised of the largest immigrant rights grassroots groups in the country, launched “Keeping Families Together” to advocate for immigration policies that reflect our nation’s values of fairness, justice and equality. These families will be the voice of Keeping Families Together, and they will lift the veil on the moral crisis of family separation by telling their stories of our broken immigration process to illustrate why we need change now. For more information on the campaign, go to www.keepingfamiliestogether.net.

FIRM represents hundreds of thousands of immigrant families in more than 30 states.

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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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NY Times: Local immigration enforcement is a bad idea and Dallas can prove it

I recently wrote about the Dallas, TX police officer who wrote a ticket to a woman for being “a non-English speaking driver”, and then the subsequent discovery that the agency has written 39 such tickets in the past few years. Check out the video above for more on this.

Today, the New York Times picked up on the story and had this  say:

This is a country that has repeatedly gone overboard in its reaction to immigrants who don’t speak the common tongue, but the mind still reels at this one. Where were these officers’ supervisors, who presumably reviewed and approved each of these tickets after they were filed? Where were the judges who must have encountered these language offenders in traffic court? The noxious practice was exposed and stopped only last month after one driver, Ernestina Mondragon, responded to her ticket with defiance and a lawyer.

The embarrassment is not just a problem for the Dallas Police Department. The country is in the middle of a fierce debate over how local police departments should deal with recent immigrants. Many but not all of them are here illegally but have otherwise committed no crimes.

On one side are the Obama administration and the homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, who firmly believe in outsourcing immigration enforcement to local police departments. On the other side are the considerable ranks of police chiefs and law-enforcement experts across the country who say there is no good reason for turning cops into immigration agents.

There is no question that the efforts to do so have been marred by poor training, racial profiling and other abuses — and widespread fear in the communities that the police are sworn to protect. If there is any remaining doubt, just take a look at what happened in Dallas.

Translation: immigration enforcement at the local level (287g) is a bad idea. Comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level is a good idea.

Its really quite simple, guys.

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