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Immigration Reform “Office Hours”

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Rep. Polis Joins Youth Leaders to Discuss Key State Level Immigration Victories This Week, New Political Reality on Immigration in Swing States

As House Republicans continue to offer weak excuses for their failure to lead on immigration reform, pro-immigrant policies are being enacted in key swing states and evidence of the pro-immigrant majority in this country continues come into view.

Today, the Florida state house approved tuition equality for DREAMers by a vote of 84 to 32 — prompting ecstatic cheers from DREAMers, advocates with the Florida Immigrant Coalition and others, who have been working tirelessly this push this across the finish line.  Now, the bill moves to the desk of Republican Governor Rick Scott, who has already committed to signing it into law.

Said Evelyn Rivera, South East Regional Organizer for United We Dream based in Florida:

After an eleven-year battle of organizing around in-state tuition we are now one signature away from having a dream become a reality for undocumented youth in Florida. After twenty-two years of living in Florida I am thrilled that I will finally have the opportunity to an affordable education. This victory is one for the history books.

Additionally, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also announced this week that recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will now have access to in-state tuition in Virginia. This victory for the immigrant community caps off a hard-fought campaign by Dreamers of Virginia and many other local organizations.

As Dayana Torres, a DACA-mented Dreamer from Virginia and Computer Science student at George Mason University, said on today’s call:

Virginia has been experiencing great changes in the past few months.  In September of last year, Representative Goodlatte began considering a pathway to citizenship for dreamers, and even Eric Cantor went on-record supporting the immigrant population. Although they have blocked many of our attempts to make even more changes that would help the undocumented population become recognized Americans, it is significant that leaders are behind the issue, even if it is solely publicly and we still have to work hard to persuade them to act on these claims. Attorney General Mark Herring’s announcement is a tremendous win for our community, and one that we should celebrate. Of course, there is much great work to be done locally such as gathering support to extend in-state tuition to dreamers lacking DACA, and getting access to financial aid, but we have come a long way from a year ago, and even a few months ago.

And in Colorado, numerous Colorado counties this week announced that they will no longer honor Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests, a huge victory for the local immigrant community.

Said Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) about this news:

As the House Republicans continue to block the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, individual states and counties across the country are being pressed into making tough decisions on how to balance enforcement of the law with the protection of civil liberties and the unjust separation of families. In Colorado, we are now seeing counties come to the realization that immigration detainers are simply requests.  Across Colorado thousands of families have been torn apart when a mom or a dad gets pulled over in a traffic stop and local law enforcement holds him or her for ICE. I hope that as DHS Secretary Johnson conducts his review of deportation policies, he will address the need to enhance due process protections, save federal dollars, and prevent the unjust separation of American families that so often occurs under existing federal detainer policies.

Meanwhile, the costs and consequences of House Republicans’ inaction were on full display across the country.  This week several activists risked arrest in front of the House Office buildings this week to remind Congress what’s at stake for both the community and the GOP’s political future.

Elias Gonzales, 15-year-old youth leader from Nevada who participated in this week’s youth-led civil disobedience in Washington, D.C. and profiled in the Washington Post, said:

I joined with other young leaders this week to send one clear message to Congress: Stop separating families. We protested laws that work to separate families like mine every day – they tear our lives apart. All of us will take this energy to our home states, and we will continue expanding our fight until our leaders do what’s morally right and stop destroying families.

Concluded Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Local activists are winning huge victories throughout the country on issues such as detainer reforms, drivers licenses and in-state tuition.  Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C. House Republicans continue to block action on immigration reform, despite the fact that the majority of the American people and the majority of members of Congress support it.  If the House Republicans don’t act, and soon, President Obama is expected to step in and find ways to protect low-priority undocumented immigrants from deportation and to provide them work permits.  The bottom line is that Republican inaction won’t stop the movement for immigration reform, and we will work at all levels and with all actors to advance the cause of equality and dignity for undocumented immigrants.

For recordings and resources from prior Office Hours calls, click here.

To listen to a recording of today’s call, click HERE.

Days since the Senate passed their immigration bill: 308. (See more at http://thecostofinaction.com).