DREAMers On the Frontlines of Immigration Debate Make History

Having earned a place at the forefront of the debate over immigration policy, young immigrants are making history and speaking out on behalf of their families and communities to set the terms of the debate.

Julieta Garibay, a United We Dream leader, was in attendance at the State of the Union, as the guest of Congressman Marc Veasey (D-TX) and several other DREAMers and undocumented immigrants were also be in the gallery.  On Wednesday, Jose Antonio Vargas, a well known DREAMer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on immigration, the first time on record an undocumented immigrant has appeared before a Congressional committee.  Last week, Cristina Jimenez, Managing Director of United We Dream, represented the immigrant youth movement at a meeting with President Barack Obama on immigration, alongside other nationally prominent immigrant rights’ advocates.

Julieta is a founding board member of United We Dream, the largest and first immigrant youth-led network in the country, and currently serves as United We Dream’s Legislative Affairs Associate and DREAM Educational Empowerment Program Coordinator.  She was invited to tonight’s State of the Union addressby Congressman Marc Veasey (D-TX), a champion of immigration reform who represents Texas’s 33rd Congressional District in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be invited to the State of theUnionand to make history along with fellow DREAMers,” said Garibay. “Our country has an unprecedented opportunity to pass immigration reform legislation that will allow me—and our entire community—to become citizens of the nation we’ve called home for so many years.  Too many immigrants live in uncertainty and fear and too many families have been divided by senseless deportations.  It’s gone on too long.”

After the game-changing November 2012 election, politicians from both parties are scrambling to shore up their standing with Latino voters and DREAMers are leading the immigrant rights’ movement in putting pressure on elected officials to deliver a real and lasting solution that reflects American values of opportunity, fairness, and family.

Last week, United We Dream released a 20-point plan for immigration reform (http://www.unitedwedream.org/principles), demanding a path to citizenship in less than 7 years, without any unreasonable or unfair requirements. The principles also push for an end to the artificial quote of 400,000 deportations per year—deportations that separate families and harm our communities—and challenge aggressive and costly enforcement practices, as well as advocating for full equality for LGBTQ immigrants.

United We Dream’s sophisticated mobilizing effort hand-in-hand with legal and policy analysis paved the way for President Obama’s announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in June 2012.  Now, the network is once again showing their strength not only in grassroots organizing and building a national movement but also in crafting specific legislative proposals that offer relief to the entire immigrant community and uphold our shared American values.

“DREAMers are on the frontlines of the immigration debate, having demonstrated our power and clout and winning a major victory with the deferred action policy,” said Cristina Jimenez, Managing Director of United We Dream.  “We won’t take ‘no’ for an answer—it’s time for the President, the Senate, and the House of Representatives to work together to pass immigration reform that reins in out-of-control enforcement agencies and puts 11 million undocumented immigrants on the path to citizenship.”

Latinos Demand Immediate Halt of Deportations

Following an afternoon of discussions with experts on immigration reform – including Oscar Chacón from the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC), Ana Avendaño from the AFL-CIO, Donald Kerwin from the Center for Migration Studies, and James Ferg-Cadima from MALDEF, over 50 Latinos representing over 10 states reached consensus about their three priorities to support immigration reform legislation:

* The immediate halt of deportations of immigrants whose sole infraction is residing in theU.S.without authorization, and the release of detained immigrants without any violent criminal background.

* Reunification of families, including elimination of waiting times greater than one year in the family visa petition system.

* Legislation must include a swift, fair and humane access to legal permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

The organizations gathered in DC under the umbrella of NALACC, visited congressional offices to voice their priorities as immigrant communities and strong voting bloc in the nation, as well as to share the alarming realities caused by our broken immigration system in their particular states.

“Immigrants fromMexicoand Central American countries make up the vast majority of people being placed in detention and subsequently deported at the rhythm of over 1,100 people per day,” expressed Oscar Chacón, Executive Director from NALACC. “The community demands a halt on deportations while immigration reform is debated in Congress. We cannot continue living in fear and watching our families being torn apart whileWashingtondecides to update our immigration policies,” added Mr. Chacón.

“In recent years our country has increased expenditures for immigration enforcement and border control to unprecedented levels. We urge policymakers to recognize that effort and move away from the outdated notion that we must devote even more resources to enforcement,” said Angela Sanbrano, NALACC’s board president. “A much better way to spend precious tax payer dollars and increase public security would be to ensure a swift and fair access to legal permanent residency status to pending applicants, as well as for those residing in the U.S. without status,” concluded Ms. Sanbrano.

The organizations participating come to Washington, DCfrom: California, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Nevada, Nebraska, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Texas and Virginia. 

“Our dozens of members are ready to educate our policymakers by putting a human face to immigration debate,” concluded Chacón.

To increase the understanding of the need of updating our immigration policies, NALACC, a network of community-based, Latino and Caribbean immigrant-led organizations across the United States, has put together a document to explain, “What is Wrong with Current Immigration Policy and How Can we Get it Right.” The document will be distributed to congressional offices and it is currently found on NALACC’s website: http://nalacc.org/getting-immigration-policy-right/


Massive Petition Drive on Immigration

As the immigration debate continues to steal the spotlight this week—at the President’s State of the Union  and Senate Judiciary Committee hearing—nearly 300,000 Americans are making their voices heard and calling on Congress to ensure that citizenship for all 11 million is at the heart of the new immigration reform law.  Led by a coalition of immigration, labor, Latino and progressive groups, the petition effort shows that the pro-immigrant reform movement is expanding and activating hundreds of thousands of Americans in this legislative battle following a similar mobilization around the November elections.

The 265,213 petitions were entered into the official Senate hearing record, marking a significant victory in the fight for citizenship for the 11 million.

Unlike previous years when Congress debated immigration reform, the pro-immigration community is large and organized—while the anti-reform contingent has grown increasingly shrill and impotent when it comes to influencing national elections.

The petition drive was led by a wide range of immigration, Latino and progressive organizations, including CREDO ActionPresente.orgReform Immigration FOR America (RI4A)Daily KosNational Council of La Raza (NCLR) and America’s Voice Education Fund (AVEF).

CREDO Action played a leading role in this effort, collecting over 100,000 petitions. “Over 100,000 CREDO activists are urging Congress to pass real immigration reform that will provide a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans,” said Becky Bond, CREDO’s Political Director. “Any plan to reform our disastrous immigration laws must focus on making sure that the 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. who want to fulfill the requirements for citizenship are given the opportunity to do so on an accelerated timeline that is both practical and humane.”

“Latino voters are pleased the country is discussing and debating immigration reform. Latino voters are also profoundly concerned that as currently discussed in the Senate and White House, proposals for immigration reform will likely end up excluding millions from among the 11 million,” said Arturo Carmona, director of Presente.org. “Multiple traps — unrealistic language requirements, exorbitant fees, unfair employment requirements, and other obstacles — will guarantee that millions of immigrants are excluded. We are calling for real immigration reform that includes all 11 million undocumented immigrants, no less.”

“The legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants is a matter of when, not if,” said Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of Daily Kos and himself an immigrant fromEl Salvador. “Republicans and xenophobic Democrats can either pout and stand in the way, or they can embrace the dreams and aspirations of hard-working immigrants who simply aspire to call themselves ‘Americans’.”

According to Clarissa Martinez, Director of Immigration at NCLR, “As Americans, we believe that ‘Out of Many, One’ is not just a motto—it is what makes our country what it is.   And that is why the majority of Americans support a roadmap to citizenship as integral to immigration reform—because the alternative of relegating a whole group of people to second class status fundamentally contradicts the principles that this nation is built upon.   The American public understands it, and our lawmakers must push politics aside to deliver it.”

“Well, Americahas spoken and the people want citizenship,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director atAmerica’s Voice Education Fund.  “With our partners and the AVEF network of over 120,000 advocates, we’re ready to make immigration reform that puts 11 million Americans-in-waiting on the road to full citizenship a reality.  This is our moment.”


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