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PICO Launches “Separated Families Supper Table,” About Immigrant Families Torn Apart By Broken System

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picoFrom one end of Washington to another today, business and faith leaders spent time joining the growing chorus of groups calling on Congress to quickly pass immigration reform.  PICO National Network, with its Campaign for Citizenship, today brought faith representatives, community leaders, and DREAMers from across the nation together in DC  for the “Separated Families Supper Table,” a representation of what life is like for the millions of American families who have been separated from their loved ones thanks to stringent deportation policies.

Said Gordon Whitman, Policy Director for PICO National Network:

When Americans sit down for dinner tonight, millions of chairs will be left empty because too many families have been torn apart by our broken immigration system. While we are encouraged that President Obama has made new immigration legislation a priority, for millions of families legislation will be worthless unless it contains a clear, fair and just roadmap to citizenship. Two-thirds of aspiring Americans have lived in the U.S. for more than ten years – they are our neighbors, friends, and they worship in our faith communities. It’s time to create an immigration process that values their American dream.

The Migration Policy Institute recently released a report finding that the US spends $18 billion every year on immigration enforcement—more than we spend on all other federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined.  Much of this money goes toward deporting hundreds of thousands of mothers, fathers, and family members, leaving thousands of children to be raised in foster care rather than by their families.

Representing some of those separated families today at the Supper Table were Lucas Da Silva,an aspiring American who was unable to attend his father’s funeral because of his status; Fr. Jesús Nieto-Ruiz, a Roman Catholic priest and pastor of St. Anthony’s Parish in Oakland, California who spoke about one of his parishioners; and Alejandra Gomez, a DREAMer who has had two brothers deported.  Each of them shared their personal stories of deportation and separation, and asked Congress to pass legislation that ends the suffering of families and creates a roadmap to citizenship.

As Lucas da Silva said:

There are millions of families—like mine—who will sit tonight at a dinner table with missing brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers and that’s why I plan to spend this year working for a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans, who also just like me, are ready to take on the responsibilities, privileges and freedoms of citizenship.

The Campaign for Citizenship represents Americans of faith who believe that full citizenship rights for 11 million aspiring Americans is the only moral response to our broken patchwork of immigration laws that is consistent with the American values of freedom, fairness and family.