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Immigrant Action Goes to D.C. to Push for Reform

Cross-post with the New York State Immigrant Action Fund blog

Authored by: May Chen is Chair of the Baord of the New York State Immigrant Action Fund.

It was an exciting Wednesday (Sep. 21) in Washington, DC, as I accompanied Chung-wha Hong to a meeting of immigrant advocates who are all members of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM, website: standing-firm.com), with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) at the U.S. House of Representatives! Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), a key Congressional leader for immigrant rights, and CHC Chairman Charles Gonzalez (D-TX) convened the meeting along with a dozen staff representatives of other CHC members. We had a great team of immigrant leaders from Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Los Angeles, Maryland, Washington (state), Washington, DC, and (of course) New York! Chung-wha Hong and Jacki Esposito from the New York Immigration Coalition had brought a sampling of the 10,000 letters and pens (“Stroke of a Pen” for President Obama), but could not get them past security. Many large boxes are now in the mail to the White House…

Rep. Gutierrez expressed his support for President Obama’s Memorandum to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use “prosecutorial discretion” in reviewing thousands of current and future deportation cases. President Obama is responding to the voices of concern from the immigrant communities, DREAM students, and supporters. Advocates urged the Caucus to press for more systematic guidelines and timelines for the case reviews of some 300,000 deportation cases now in the pipelines. Case examples and feedback from various regions were shared and discussed. Other topics of discussion included E-verify, currently making its way through Congress, Secure Communities, and the need for relief for immigrants facing 3 or 10 year bars to legal immigration.

Gutierrez and Gonzalez encouraged the advocates to continue to share examples, cases, and concerns on immigration issues, and everyone agreed to hold more regular meetings. Rep. Gutierrez had special praise for the advocacy work in New York – where he attended many community-based meetings and activities this year. His next visit will include a Town Hall meeting on October 1 in Staten Island. His continued passion and commitment to the issues of immigrants was so wonderful in this meeting.

Later in the day, at the U.S. Senate, we attended the Citizenship and Constitution Day Celebration hosted by the New Americans Citizenship Collaborative. In 2010, more than 6.5 million immigrants became U.S. citizens, including more than 832,000 in New York State! Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, spoke about the significance of American citizenship, and a recent citizen told her story of struggle, determination, and achievement as an immigrant from Latin America. In the grand setting of Capitol meeting rooms and the vast hallways of Congress, immigrants and new citizens (especially potential VOTERS) are making an impact.

Quite a day in the beltway – encouraging us to keep organizing, mobilizing, and moving forward!

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