In Chicago today, families torn apart by the US immigration system gathered to launch the Keeping Families Together Story Tour, which will highlight the voices of those who have been separated from loved ones due to deportation. Over the next three weeks, more than 500 family members will join the tour and travel more than 20,000 miles to demand immigration reform.
The Keeping Families Together Story Tour is a project of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a coalition immigrant rights organizations which has issued a March 21st deadline for the Senate to introduce immigration reform legislation that includes a path to citizenship.
“For the 25 days from February 25th to the March 21st deadline, Senators will hear stories of separated spouses doing their best to raise their families, children left in foster care because their parents were deported, families who don’t know when they will be reunited again,” said FIRM spokesperson Kica Matos. “Senators need to hear the voices of people, not just politicians, when they are crafting this extremely important bill.”
The stories will be highlighted daily on the Keeping Families Together website and the FIRM Facebook page. Families who cannot travel with the bus are encouraged to participate in a virtual bus tour by sharing their stories at www.keepingfamiliestogether.net or www.familiasunidasahora.net.
Those participating in the storytelling project include Jennifer Martinez, a young mother from Wisconsin whose husband was deported last year. Martinez is now working two jobs to support her four young children.
“It breaks my heart to see my kids pray every night for their father to come home,” said Martinez. “I hope that President Obama is successful in his goal of providing a path to citizenship – but I also have learned that it’s hard to have faith in the same people and policies that broke my family. This tour is an opportunity to share our stories with both elected officials and our own community.”
The tour will travel through seven regions and 19 states: Southwest (California, Arizona, Nevada), Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana), Mountain West (Colorado), Great Lakes (Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio), New England (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island), Mid Atlantic (New York) and the Southeast (Florida, North Carolina). Artists and poets will join the tour as well, including astronaut Jose Hernandez and singer-songwriter Ricardo Arjona.