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Immigration Reform “Office Hours” Week Eleven

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First Day of SJC Markup; Mother’s Day; and Remembering the Tragedy of the Postville (IA) Raid Five Years Later

Today, America’s Voice Education Fund and fellow immigration experts held the eleventh in a series of weekly press briefings, or Immigration Reform “Office Hours.”  Moderated by Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director at America’s Voice Education Fund, the call featured Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center; Pramila Jayapal, Co-Chair of the We Belong Together Campaign and Distinguished Taconic Fellow at the Center for Community Change; Sister Mary McCauley, Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque, IA; Yves Gomes, leader with a United We Dream affiliate, Maryland Youth Dream Committee; and Blanca Guillen, Senior Project Manager at Latino Decisions.

Today’s call covered a range of issues including the role of immigrant women in families, and the need for inclusive immigration reform as we approach Mother’s Day; the 5 year anniversary of the devastating immigration raid in Postville (IA) that tore apart hundreds of families; and new analysis of a poll of undocumented Latinas conducted by Latino Decisions.

Sister Mary McCauley, currently with the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, spoke about that horrific day that ICE agents stormed the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, IA and described the efforts community leaders are making to remember and use this terrible tragedy for good. “The purpose of our commemoration today is to remember, reconcile and reform. We are remembering the people arrested that day and the members of their families affected by the raid. We want to stand in solidarity with those people and we are calling for justice, integrity and for the highest ideals of our country to bring about reform. The Postville raid symbolizes all that is wrong with our immigration laws and today we will be delivering a letter to Senator Grassley asking him to show some compassion and to respond with justice, common sense and integrity to the current immigration laws being proposed.”

Yves Gomes, a leader with Maryland Youth Dream Committee (a United We Dream affiliate) talked about network’s “right to reunite” campaign that is working to reunite families already split by deportation like his own.  Just a few days before Mother’s Day Gomes shared his personal and painful confrontation with the deportation system and said: “We hope to remind our Senators that behind all the talks of enforcement, numbers, and security, we are the human beings whose very lives depend so drastically on their decisions. We are people, not numbers. My mother is only one of hundreds of thousands of moms who have been separated from their children because of deportation.  Too many mothers are missing today.  My challenge to our Members of Congress is to remember my mom and all our moms in immigration reform—pass a bill that keeps families together, brings my mom and all my fellow DREAMers’ moms back, and gives us all the chance to become citizens and fully part of the country we love.”

The We Belong Together campaign has been working to ensure that the needs, concerns and priorities of immigrant women are included in the immigration reform bill under consideration by Congress. “We need immigration reform that addresses women’s issues specifically.  Seventy-percent of women who have legal status actually got their status through the family immigration system and it’s an incredibly important part of immigration reform in the United States,” said Pramila Jayapal, Co-Chair of the We Belong Together Campaign and Distinguished Taconic Fellow at the Center for Community Change. “We’ve been working with a large coalition of immigration reform supporters to make sure that Congress recognizes and prioritizes the role of women in the immigration reform debate, and as Mother’s Day approaches, it’s important that we as a nation, come together, to recognize the role that women play in strengthening our families, communities and the country by their contributions both at home and in the workplace.”

To provide some data behind the real stories, Latino Decisions published a new analysis on the family relationships and occupations of undocumented Latinas, based on a poll of undocumented Latinos for NALEO Educational Fund and AVEF from last month. “With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, it’s important to know that 75% of undocumented Latinas have family members who are American citizens, and 62% have relatives who are legal permanent residents.  In fact, 71% of undocumented Latinos in general have relatives who are U.S. citizens.  Polls of Latino voters confirm this fact: in our February 2013 survey of Latino voters, 63% said they know undocumented immigrants.  Seventy-five percent of Latino voters say they are following the immigration debate in Congress, and 74% think it is “very” or “extremely” important that Congress passes immigration reform in 2013,” said Blanca Guillen, Senior Project Manager at Latino Decisions.  “These connections are a key reason why passing commonsense immigration reform has become such a core priority for Latino voters—and, in light of recent elections, why 68% of undocumented Latinos are more optimistic that reform will finally pass.”

After the first day of mark-up of the Senate bipartisan immigration bill Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center, commented: “In previous years, senators battled amongst themselves over who could be the toughest against immigrants.   Times have changed.  While there is a small group of conservatives still holding that attitude, it also is clear that several other senators — Democrats and Republicans — have clearly heeded the calls of the public to create a fair and balanced immigration system.  A majority of senators on the committee have finally heard the concerns of advocates at the Southwest border who have called for safer borders, not militarized borders, to keep our communities safe and make our economy stronger. We will remain watchful as the committee works through the dozens of amendments remaining to make sure the bill is improved, not worsened.”

And, Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, said: “As the Senate begins the process of legislating on immigration reform, we need to remind them why it is so important to do this fairly and do it right.  There are real people’s lives at stake—including millions of Moms and Dads just trying to build better lives for their families.”

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


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