The Immigration Reform Train Is Moving. Are You On Board?

Today the president unveiled his much-anticipated proposal for immigration reform.  It comes on the heels of a Senate blueprint outlined yesterday by a bipartisan group of eight senators.  In each, the principle of citizenship is at the core, a very encouraging development in this debate.

Together, both proposals also underscore the fact that 2013 is the year to get immigration reform passed.  The American people want a solution, and it behooves us to take advantage of the energy and leadership that has emerged since the November election.

“Immigration reform was central in the president’s conversations with the Latino community throughout his 2012 campaign, and it is certainly heartening to see him push firmly to fulfill that promise,” said our President and CEO, Janet Murguía, in a statement.  “His announcement today, coupled with yesterday’s Senate blueprint, has turned the corner on this issue, building momentum and motivating lawmakers to put politics aside and get this important work done.”

Let’s be clear, though:  this is just the first step.  The most critical time in our struggle is now upon us as both Congress and the White House begin hashing out actual legislation.  We’re committed to working with both branches on crafting a bill which has at its centerpiece a pathway to citizenship and is inclusive of all Americans, including our LGBT brothers and sisters.  To do this effectively, though, we’re going to need to your help.

JM_Inauguration_PPT Slide_FINAL-02-01

It is absolutely crucial that Congress and the White House hear your support for immigration reform.  You can start by clicking here to demand that your senators support this push for reform.  You can also tell them to support reform by calling (877) 746-2575.  You’ll be patched through to your senator’s office.  In fact, why don’t you do both?

The immigration reform train has left the station folks, and now it’s time for action!  Let’s show our leaders that this is a priority for our community—indeed, for our country.  Join the fight!

Unity: The Solution We Are Searching For

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

Marlene Sept. 7 Rally (3)

 “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.”

Standing in front of hundreds of thousands of people, with millions more watching throughout the country and across the globe, President Obama once again reminded us that there will be no more stalling, that the time to pass comprehensive immigration reform is now. The journey so far has had its ups and downs. As a community, Latinos were unquestionably frustrated when the promise of immigration reform slipped through the president’s fingers in his first term. At the same time, Mr. Obama has proven himself an ally, fighting against anti-immigrant state laws and granting deferred action to thousands of hopeful dreamers.

But with a second term comes a renewed faith that we will see this through. In his inaugural address, it was no mistake that the president mentioned the word “together” not once, not twice, but seven times. If there has been one thing lacking in Washington over the past four years, it has been a willingness to work together—and both parties share in the blame.

It would be wise for our elected officials to remember that solutions are found in bipartisanship and compromise, and the only way for our nation to move forward is to work together.

Our leaders have a lot on their plates in the coming months, and immigration reform is the main course. But thanks in part to the strong Hispanic turnout in the 2012 elections, it looks as if both parties are finally ready to come to the table and deliver meaningful reform that will once and for all address the deep problems with our immigration system.

We cannot let this momentum die. It’s not going to be easy, and it would be naïve for either side to think that they are going to walk away 100% satisfied. But this is a real opportunity for Congress and the Obama administration to show the American people that they can work together and deliver the solutions that this country needs to get back on track.

The saying may be cliché, but it’s wholly appropriate in this case—united we stand, divided we fall. There will be tough legislative battles ahead on everything from the federal budget to gun violence, and they will test whether our elected officials truly plan to put partisan politics aside and do what’s best for the economy and the American people.

Fighting Hate through Humor: NCLR Affiliate Latin American Coalition

Bananas While the Latin America Coalition, an NCLR Affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina, is no stranger to threats and extreme xenophobic opposition, its response to a nativist Neo-Nazi/KKK rally creatively fought hate with humor.

Supporters of the Latin American Coalition and other pro-immigration organizations dressed as clowns, wore giant banana suits, and honked horns at the racist rally, easily outnumbering the KKK protesters by five to one.

Their message?  Racism is ridiculous.

For a little pick-me-up, check out this wonderful blog post by the Coalition’s Executive Director, Jess George, on how her organization deals with hate mail and the negativity they receive on a daily basis.  Sometimes you’ve just got to “Laugh to Keep from Crying.”

Laugh to Keep From Crying

By Jess George, Executive Director, Latin American Coalition (Charlotte, North Carolina)

Last Friday was an exciting day. We got two hate mail letters. Continue reading

Comprehensive Immigration Reform a Priority as Republicans and Democrats Alike Heed Mounting Calls for Solutions

Marlene Sept. 7 Rally (20)After Latino leaders gathered in December and called for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2013, a rapidly growing number of individuals and groups across America echoed their calls for reforms that will help families, workers, and the economy.  Politicians from both parties—heeding the critical role of the powerful Latino electorate in reelecting President Obama and noting Hispanics’ wholesale rejection of Governor Romney and his adoption of the “self-deportation” ideas of the fringe right—have recognized that the time to pass comprehensive immigration reform is now.  The American public long ago came to this realization, and in poll after poll they support the president and Congress moving to fix our broken immigration system by providing the 11 million Americans-in-waiting with a road to become legal residents and eventually earn citizenship.

Republicans and Democrats alike are finally acknowledging the public’s demands.  Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, and John Boehner are leading the GOP in advancing comprehensive immigration reform.  Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa traveled to Washington, DC to press for reform, and Republican Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen hosted immigration reform forums in South Florida, with Mr. Diaz-Balart promising to work hard to get solutions from Congress this year.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has identified immigration reform as a top priority.  At the state level, where only two years ago anti-immigration bills were a dime a dozen, Republican legislators have resisted passing immigration legislation by arguing that comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level is needed.  Latino voters announced in November that immigration reform cannot wait, and the political powers are now not only listening, but acting rapidly.

Hispanics are front and center in the national push for Congress to finally pass long-needed solutions to fix a system that serves no one well.  As we push for enactment of an immigration reform bill, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) is joining with its network of nearly 300 Affiliates across the county to gather the strength of the Latino community by conducting voter registration and citizenship programs, informing Hispanics of congressional action on immigration reform, and uniting to educate our legislators on the issues most urgent to Latino voters.

Two Communities Finding Common Ground

By David Castillo III, New Media Manager

Union=Fuerza Latino Institute

In 2012, Latinos voted in record numbers and provided decisive victories all over the country. It’s safe to say that we have arrived, politically speaking. In recognition of this power, we have mobilized in myriad ways to make it known to other that our community is a force to be reckoned with. It seems other communities have taken note.

Consider the LGBT rights movement. Like others, the LGBT community has realized the importance and the value of having Latinos on their side in the fight for equality. Outreach has been made to find ways to work together and NCLR is proud to be joining in the fight.

One place where this outreach is evident is at the 2013 Creating Change conference in Atlanta this week. Creating Change is the premier conference on LGBT equality hosted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. This year, for the first time ever, Creating Change is hosting a Latino Institute, dedicated to exploring the intersection of the two communities and to finding ways our communities can work together.

Judging by the standing-room only crowd, it’s clear that LGBT Latinos are also very interested in having these conversations. Topics ranging from marriage to immigration to family acceptance and the transgendered community were discussed at length today. The Latinos present understand the importance of this day-long gathering, but it’s important you understand why, too.

  • The LGBT community has had tremendous success in advocacy. Their efforts have resulted in legislative victories that are changing people’s lives for the better. Working with them and in tandem, our communities can learn from each other which can bolster our ability to be a truly positive force for change.
  • LGBT Latinos live at the intersection of two communities. They deserve the support of an organization that represents more than 300 community based organizations and should ensure that all Latinos, regardless of who they love, are protected from civil rights abuses that demean their existence.
  • Immigration reform. The LGBT rights movement has identified it as an important policy issue that affects not just gay Latinos, but all LGBT people. Presenting a united front with the LGBT community can only enhance our work to finally get immigration reform passed.

Check out Daniel Hernandez, our youngest LGBT elected official, talk about why he thinks it’s so important for the Latino and LGBT communities to work together.

So where do we go from here? That’s what we’re here to find out. At least on the immigration front, we have an idea. Not only is talk of reform a big part of the Latino Institute, but the Task Force has also made it a prominent part of the entire conference in general. This is a very positive move for the Task Force and we intend to continue the conversation with them and anyone else who wants to work together on getting this done. Will you join us to create change?

Don’t Believe the Detractors: We Can Fix Immigration Now

You’ve undoubtedly heard by now about the president’s plan to push for immigration reform in the first year of his second term.  This is a fast-moving train, to be sure, but members of both political parties have already indicated that they are ready to bring something forward.  For the first time in more than a decade, it looks like we might pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Detractors of reform, however, have recently started claiming that Congress must “get its priorities straight” and focus instead on shoring up the U.S. economy.  The idea is that the immigration fight (and a host of other issues that the president has prioritized) is not one we can afford to wage at this point.  It should be put on hold…again.

Naturally, we disagree.  If American families can focus on more than one issue at a time, so can Congress.  We sent our very own Clarissa Martínez-De Castro to Thom Hartmann’s The Big Picture to drive this point home.  Representing the opposition was conservative columnist David Selig.  The interview is tense at times but well worth watching.  The segment in question begins at 15:00 and lasts about ten minutes.

The Immigrant Experience as Told Through Pop Music

Happy Saturday!

Immigration reform is kicking into high gear and for the first time in more than five years, our leaders in Washington are talking seriously about making reform a reality.

In that spirit, we offer you a new video from the recording artist, IMMI featuring Gray Devio. “Immigrant” sends a powerful message about who we are in America and why people from around the world flock to be part of our grand experiment.


Fewer Dreams Deferred in California Thanks to New Law

Photo: Office of Antonio Villaraigosa

For undocumented students in California, 2013 brings a new blessing.  As of January 1, California has started letting undocumented students access the state’s public financial aid system.

From the Riverside Press-Enterprise:  “The law covers students who attended high school in California for at least three years and graduated from a California high school.  It also benefits U.S. citizens and legal residents who attended California high schools but later moved out of state, making them previously ineligible for state financial aid.”

The projected number of students expected to apply for the grant is 20,000, less than 1% of the state’s college students.  Still, a contentious debate ensued upon the bill’s introduction in the legislature.  Relentless advocacy, however, from thousands across the state helped ensure the bill’s passage.  NCLR’s Affiliates were among that number.

TODEC Legal Services, an NCLR Affiliate, and its community programs director, Luz Gallegos, helped organize instrumental lobbying trips.  More from the Riverside Press-Enterprise:

“Luz Gallegos, community programs director for TODEC Legal Services, a Perris immigrant-assistance group, said that when immigrants obtain higher-paying jobs, they contribute more in taxes.

“Under an Obama administration policy that went into effect in August, young undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements can obtain temporary work permits.

“In 2011, Gallegos traveled three times with a busload of other Inland residents to Sacramento to lobby for passage of the Dream Act.”

We congratulate all the dedicated activists and organizations that were instrumental in this legislative victory.  DREAMers in California are one step closer to fulfilling their potential.

We Need Immigration Reform to Keep Families Together

Janet MurguiaBy Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

(This post is part of the Moms Rising blog carnival, “Protecting Family Unity, Strengthening Communities and Ensuring a Thriving Economy with the Contributions of Immigrants.” Be sure to visit the site and read the contributions of more than 30 Congressional, non-profit leaders, and advocates from around the country.)

Every morning in this country, mothers and fathers focus on getting their children ready for school and then get to work themselves. But imagine having to do all this knowing that at any moment your family could be separated thanks to outdated immigration policies. This is the reality for nearly one in ten American families, in which at least one parent is a non-citizen and one child is a citizen.

One example of this kind of family is Liz and Jose. Liz, a U.S. citizen, is married to Jose, an undocumented immigrant, and they have three children who are also U.S. citizens. In addition to providing for the family and sharing household responsibilities, Jose has been supportive of Liz as she advances in her career and pursues new opportunities as a medical support specialist. Liz and Jose have established deep roots in their community. They bought a home and they attend their local church every Sunday, going out for tacos after.

However, shortly following a camping trip, Jose was detained by the police and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE initiated removal proceedings and Liz was told to purchase a one-way plane ticket for Jose to return to Mexico, a country he had not seen in years. Liz contacted an attorney and a local advocate to help keep her family together. She wrote, “I want the love of my life back home with his family, our children, and me so we can continue to live the life and the future that we had planned for our kids. My babies Zarrianna, Osvaldo, and Esteven want daddy back home.”

There are millions of children and spouses who have been separated from their loved ones in this way. They are now enduring tremendous pain and struggling to survive without their support. We hear their stories all too frequently. Families should be able to thrive together and provide the best that they can for their children. Instead of a process that tears families apart, our country deserves a common-sense immigration policy, one that includes a roadmap for people who are working hard and desperately want to be full members of our great country. We need Congress to pass immigration reform that reflects our strong American values of family, hard work, and opportunity.