Immigration Reform Groups hold Press Conference to kick-off Campaign for a Just Immigration Policy
Earlier today, several immigration groups hosted a Press Conference at the downtown campus of GVSU.
Members of the West Michigan Immigration Reform Coalition, the Micah Center, the Latino Community Coalition and AIR-MOP each had speakers to address the importance of have comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.
The Press Conference is on the heels of President’s State of the Union address, wherein the President stated that immigration reform was on the table.
Jordon Bruxvoort, with the Micah Center, also spoke from a faith perspective and addressed the realities of why most of the people who immigrate the US. He spoke about the violence, the poverty and the desire to provide for their families.
Richard Kessler, a local immigration attorney, said that even if the President spoke on immigration reform and Congress is making proposals, the policy reform needs to be pushed from the grassroots and by people who are suffering from a broken immigration policy and their allies.
Our job as immigrants and immigrant rights supporters need to force the government to make comprehensive reform a priority. Many members of Congress, according to Kessler, are saying that they don’t want to change much until they “can get the border security under control.”
Such a statement is not only misleading, but reflects the lack of understanding amongst those in power. Border agencies and those involved have virtually unlimited budgets and have been deporting undocumented immigrants at unprecedented numbers. The position of many members of Congress also ignores what people must endure to get in the US and the climate of fear they live in on a daily basis from both law enforcement and the hateful anti-immigration rhetoric of many media pundits.
Kessler said that the goal should be to make a clear pathway to citizenship easy and attainable. People are willing to take the necessary steps, but unless the government is willing to treat the 11 million undocumented immigrants as possible US citizens, it will not solve the immigration crisis we currently face.
Susan Im, another immigration lawyer also spoke at the Press Conference. She emphasized that the US can no longer afford to not pass immigration reform. She stressed that many businesses are suffering and will continue to suffer since the current restrictions they face in who they can hire limits them in employ workers who currently lack documentation.
Local labor activist and author of a recent book on labor activism, Greg Shotwell, also addressed the audience at the Press Conference. Greg made the point that work and workers should never be illegal and that immigrants are labor rights and labor rights are human rights. Shotwell made it clear that if workers were treated fairly in their own countries that they would be happy to stay in their own communities. Immigration reform needs to involve, and is connected to, global worker solidarity.
There were also several immigrants who addressed the audience and spoke about their own experience of coming to the US. Emmanuel Joshua, who is a Muslim from Pakistan, spoke about his own story and how his family has been separated for years because of the repressive immigration policies of the US. Emmanuel came primarily to flee religious persecution, but when he fled he could not come with all his family members.
Another immigrant who shared his story was Sigifredo Pizana, a young man from Mexico. His father was deported in 2011 for not having a driver’s license and one of his brothers also has been deported since then. Sigifredo talked about the difficulties of not being able to drive to work, since he cannot obtain a driver’s license under the current laws. Often he would have to walk 2 hours each way to get to work, even in the middle of the winter. Sigifredo has been involved in the campaign to get the driver’s license policy for DACA youth in Michigan, a campaign that has been successful.
One last speaker was Jose Jimenez, who was part of the Puerto Rican youth movement in the 60’s, known as the Young Lords. Jose spoke about the connection between those who struggled for justice in the 60s and those struggling for justice now. He identified what the President and Congress mean by comprehensive immigration reform, which is more border security, fines, that people need to learn English and get to the back of the line. “We want self-determination, but we have to fight for it, because they are not going to give it to us.”
Indeed, it was clear from the various speakers at today’s Press Conference, that a just immigration policy, will only come about if we organize to make it so.