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Immigration Reform “Office Hours”

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Congressional Inaction, the Fallout for Families, and the Movement Behind Immigration Reform

Relief is Coming, The Only Question is Whether it’s Administrative or Legislative

Every day 1,00 immigrants, including people who would qualify for legal status under pending legislation, are deported.  What should be done about it was the topic of today’s “Office Hours” call, where national and local advocates discussed new efforts to mount pressure on President Obama to take executive action to halt deportations as well as remind House Republicans of who pays the price when they block reform.

“The most painful part about the ongoing deportation crisis is knowing that relief is within reach, but that our nation’s leaders are failing to act,” said Rich Morales, Detention Prevention Coordinator for PICO’s Campaign for Citizenship.  “That’s why we’re launching the ‘I am Josue’ campaign to both call on President Obama to stop ripping apart our families and also remind House Members of the cost of their inaction.  Across the country, PICO’s local federations will hold rallies, vigils and meetings with Members of Congress and their staff to share their firsthand experiences with deportation and highlight the toll this takes on American families across the country.  Both the Administration and Congress have a moral obligation to act.  We’re committed to keeping up the pressure until both of them do.”

Other activists are applying pressure directly on the Administration by holding actions outside of local Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices.  This week Arizona activists have been holding a fast outside a local ICE office in Phoenix.

One of the fasters is Herminia Gallegos, a mother of a DREAMer in detention, who expressed her commitment to seeking justice for her daughter on today’s call:

I’m fasting for my daughter because she has been in detention for over 5 months. My daughter is sick and she is not getting the proper treatment she needs. I am fasting because every day that my daughter is in detention is a day that her health is in danger, if I don’t do anything she can die. We shouldn’t have to wait for something from Congress when the President could pick up his pen and give us relief today.

As David Leopold, Immigration Attorney and Past President, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), explained:

While the House GOP leadership dithers on immigration reform an unspeakable tragedy is unfolding across the Nation. Every day American families are torn apart by immigration enforcement agents who all but ignore the Obama Administration’s stated priorities. Instead of focusing on violent felons and national security risks ICE and Customs and Border Protection are going after the ‘low hanging fruit’–hard working, tax paying  undocumented mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. We can no longer sit idly by as American families are torn asunder by the failure of Congress to do the people’s business.   President Obama must use his executive authority to stop the bleeding and keep America’s families safe and together until the GOP gets the courage to turn away from the extremists in its ranks and pass immigration reform.

Advocates are also renewing grassroots efforts in key GOP districts to push lawmakers to schedule a vote on immigration.

“Activists are doing our part on the ground in Nevada by building support for immigration reform,” said Astrid Silva, Immigration Organizer for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada “We need Rep. Joe Heck to do his part in Washington to pressure leadership to bring up a bill for a vote.  Heck should know that just saying he supports a path to citizenship and trying to call out the Obama Administration for deportations isn’t enough. We demand action.”

Today, Greg Sargent of the Washington Post published an interview with Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart who made it clear that the policy-drafting is nearly done, and the only thing left is for House Republican leadership to schedule the vote.

As Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, explained:

We’ve known for some time now that the votes exist to pass immigration reform in the House today.  The only question is whether Speaker Boehner is more influenced by anti-immigrant extremists like Rep. Steve King (R-IA), or by pro-immigrant modernizers like Sen. Heller and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart?  If he wants his Party to survive and thrive, it’s clear that he has to break from the past, kick King to the curb and get busy scheduling the vote on broad immigration reform this year.

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