A project of the Center for Community Change

obama and immigration

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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The grassroots asks Sec. Napolitano the tough questions

In an effort to truly represent the country’s concerns at today’s meeting with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, the Reform Immigratin FOR America Campaign asked YOU to submit questions you wanted Napolitano to address. The response: you sent in more than 4,000 questions in less than 24 hours.

Marissa Graciosa, immigration coordinate with FIRM said:

“Most of the questions and concerns centered around timing, on wanting immigration reform done this year, not 2010. The questions came from all over the country. This reflects the widespread effects of our enforcement-heavy approach to immigration.”

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, and a partner of the Campaign to Reform Immigration FOR America, was able to ask Napolitano two representative questions selected from the 4,000-plus entries. The first was submitted by a person in Pickerington, Ohio who wanted to know why Napolitano has focused too intently on border security and stopped advocating for comprehensive reform. Napolitano said she has been working on immigration reform, and would do more to communicate with people on her efforts on both fronts.

Noorani’s other question concerned the 287g program, which gives local law enforcement the authority to enforce immigration law. Noorani asked Napolitano to revoke the authority of agencies who have clearly violated the spirit of the agreement, and that the immigration reform community looked forward to seeing that happen. Napolitano responded, “Me, too.”

It’s amazing to see the voices of the grassroots communities speaking directly to lawmakers and the White House. FIRM has always tried to amplify the voices of communities who don’t always have a space at the table.  In 2006 and 2007, millions marched in the streets for immigrants’ rights and reform. Now, those millions are moving beyond the streets to swamp switchboards, email accounts, fax machines and the halls of Congress.

FIRM and RI4A was there to tell Secretary Napolitano that she must to take a leadership role in building support for comprehensive immigration reform on Capitol Hill and with the American public.  She told said that she understands that she has do a better job communicating and a more consistent job of leading, but we need to see action to be sure she got the message.

The President is clear that he wants immigration reform to move forward this year so that we can pass a bill early next year.  To do that, we need to see more motion from Congress and more push from Secretary Napolitano.  We hope to see detailed congressional proposals shortly after recess.

Tomorrow, the FOR America campaign will deliver the more than 4,000 questions that you asked to the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Janet Napolitano. The administration is hearing your voices and they know they must respond. We continue to build momentum and we will work with you to keep pressure on the administration.

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Groups fight “more of the same” on immigration


Last week, amidst growing frustration from immigrant rights groups and advocates, folks from FIRM groups in New York (NYIC) and Los Angeles (CHIRLA) took to the streets to protest the expansion of Bush-style immigration policies and legislation. While many of our groups (FIRM included) looked to the Obama presidency as a “New Day” for immigration, the reality of recent weeks has worn patience thin. The New York Times ran a story this week, highlighting the growing discontent and impatience.

First, there was the expansion of E-verify – a fatally flawed electronic verification system that threatens not only American workers but immigrants caught up in the endlessly bureaucratic immigration system. Then, there was the expansion of the 287g program – which gives local law enforcement the ability to enforce federal immigration law and is rife with racial profiling and abuse of power.

To be frank, we were promised a “new day” and we feel like we are seeing more of the same.

“We are expanding enforcement, but I think in the right way,” Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said in an interview.

There is no right way to expand flawed systems. They are just that; flawed. Of course enforcement has to be a part of a Comprehensive Immigration Package, but it should not be expanded outside of an entire overhaul of legislation. As Katy Vargas at ImmPolitic blog wrote:

There is a desperate need for broader oversight of our immigration policies. Escalating enforcement without reforming our immigration system comprehensively only exacerbates the problem and it will not render long-lasting solutions to our immigration chaos.

Last week, America’s Voice launched the “Enough” campaign, calling on the Department of Homeland Security to push for Comprehensive immigration reform, not an expansion of flawed and abusive programs. If you haven’t signed the petition yet, do it NOW. (Sign petition here)

President Obama promised a new day for immigration policy in America, but we have yet to see sufficient change coming from DHS. Rather than overhaul misguided Bush-era immigration enforcement strategies, DHS continues to pursue policies that have done little, if anything, to solve the crisis of illegal immigration.

These policies continue to increase fear in our communities and undermine public safety at a time when the nation is waiting to hear your plans for advancing real, comprehensive immigration reform.

While, on a personal level, I have been very disappointed with the recent moves from the administration (especially the expansion of 287g), I still have faith that the President is ready and willing to bring sensible solutions to the table to help fix our broken immigration system. I firmly believe that we need to keep up the pressure and make our voices heard in order to push for this. Obama (and the United States for that matter) can’t afford to not succeed on this issue.

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