Washington, DC – Capping a day of religious ceremonies and processions, visits with lawmakers, and testimonials from families who are being split up or kept apart by U.S. immigration policies, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) joined other key immigration reform allies on Capitol Hill to outline legislation they hope will move forward in the House and Senate this fall towards passage early next year.
The lawmakers – including Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chairman Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Congressional Black Caucus Member Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and other House Democrats – called for comprehensive immigration reform as a way of keeping families together, protecting the rights of immigrant and non-immigrant workers, and strengthening the U.S. economy.
More than 750 people came to Washington on busses from up and down the Eastern seaboard and as far away as Texas, Florida, and Michigan. They spent Tuesday meeting with Congressional offices before being joined by thousands of people from the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area who gathered on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol for a late afternoon program that featuring the stories of families, veterans, and children who face family disintegration because of immigration laws and deportation. The event was led by clergy, local media celebrities, and immigrant community leaders and was sponsored by the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign, the National Capital Immigration Coalition, and Families United/Familias Unidas.
Rep. Gutierrez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force, helped organize the Families United/Familias Unidas tour earlier this year, a series of vigils and community gatherings to highlight how families are affected by U.S. immigration laws. The bill Rep. Gutierrez is preparing will be designed to address the problems faced by families attending today’s event in Washington.
Specifically, the forthcoming immigration reform legislation will:
Include a rational and humane approach to the undocumented population;
Protect U.S. and immigrant workers;
Allocate sufficient visas to close unlawful migration channels;
Enhance our nation’s security and safety;
Establish a strategic border enforcement policy that reflects American values;
Keep American families together;
Promote immigrant integration;
Include the DREAM Act and AgJOBS; and
Protect fundamental rights for all.
President Obama has expressed his support for comprehensive immigration reform and news reports indicate bills are in some stage of development in the House and Senate Judiciary Subcommittees on Immigration. However, while a number of hearings have been held, no comprehensive immigration reform bill has yet received formal consideration in a committee.
QUOTES FROM FAMILIES, LEADERS, AND SPEAKERS AT TODAY’S EVENT
“We need a bill that says if you come here to hurt our communities, we will not support you; but if you are here to work hard and to make a better life for your family, you will have the opportunity to earn your citizenship. We need a law that says it is un-American for a mother to be torn from her child, and it is unacceptable to undermine our workforce by driving the most vulnerable among us further into the shadows.”
Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
“We have a broken immigration system that is taking a toll on our families, communities and congregations. Faith and fundamental principles of justice call upon all of us to respond. From communities across the country, we call upon President Obama and congressional leaders to lead this country to comprehensive immigration reform.”
Most Reverend Bishop Minerva Carcaño, Bishop of the Phoenix Episcopal Area, Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church Representative
“Immigrant communities have heard the promises and the campaign speeches, but now we want action to go with the words. Representative Gutierrez and the other Members of Congress who are standing up with him get it. The community will support those who support us as we seek our piece of the American Dream. We are here to help make that dream a reality.”
Gustavo Torres, Executive Director, CASA de Maryland, Inc.
“Immigration reform is too often discounted as just another political issue by some in Washington, but to immigrants and millions more who share this country with them, it a deeply personal issue of keeping families together. Congress must respond in a manner that holds true to our values as a nation. Today, several important Members of Congress have laid down a path toward getting this done. Expectations that President Obama and Congress will fix what is broken about our current immigration system run high and time is ticking until the next election. Congressional leaders who step up and craft bills to move us forward understand the urgency for action and the need to uncork the gridlock that has prevented progress for years.
Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum, one of the groups leading the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign
“The immigration system needs to be changed so that other families never go through what I am going through. My husband’s wishes of having our child raised in the U.S. are being denied by a broken system. The pain I have been going through is no way to honor my husband for all he did for his country.”
Hotaru Ferschke (joined by mother-in-law Robin Ferschke and son Mikey at the event) of Maryville, Tennessee, was born in Japan and married U.S. Marine Michael Ferschke who was killed in Iraq one month before the arrival their son Mikey. She is not allowed to stay in the U.S. because of a technicality: their marriage was not “consummated” in the eyes of the U.S. immigration law after their ceremony.
“Families deserve better than this from our government. We need to fix our broken immigration system so our parents who have contributed to this nation’s economy in a positive way to have a chance of reuniting with their children.”
Peter Derezinski is a 17 year-old U.S. citizen whose father was deported back to Poland after 25 years of living and working in Chicago