Immigration Rights Advocates Host Organizing Event in Fight for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
Earlier today about 50 people gathered to discuss strategies and tactics in the national campaign to change immigration policy that would allow the estimate 11 million undocumented people to apply for citizenship.
The movement for comprehensive immigration reform also includes to changes in the current immigration law that would prioritize family reunification, demilitarize borders, protest labor rights, stop ICE quotas and eliminate immigration detention.
Members of the Michigan Chapter of the Alliance for Immigration Reform (AIR) and the Michigan Organizing Project (MOP) hosted the organizing event. A team of facilitators broke down the 3 hour organizing session into several areas.
First, people discussed recent history of immigration reform, which began with organizing in opposition to the reactionary legislation proposed by Rep. Sensenbrenner in 2005. There were several large gatherings in Grand Rapids, which culminated in a demonstration with roughly 10,000 participants in late March of 2006.
The facilitator talked about the hope many in the Latino community had in 2008 after Barack Obama was elected. However, there was no follow through from the new administration to fulfill its commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. The issue was ignored, so people began organizing again around this issue with major marches in 2010.
People discussed how the government is not going to make the necessary changes in immigration legislation unless the people pressure them to do so. It was encouraging to hear people acknowledge this fact and to see people organizing from the premise that it is social movements that make changes, not the government.
After, recent immigration organizing history was covered, the group discussed a larger strategy for passing comprehensive immigration reform. People talked about the need to pressure legislators to adopt policies that the community wants. This kind of political pressure will involved getting all kinds of sectors to support comprehensive immigration reform, such as labor, faith communities and other civil rights sectors.
AIR and MOP are planning meetings with Michigan members of the federal government, educate them and get a commitment from them by whatever means necessary. People are organizing meetings in Michigan, community forums and a major march in Washington on April 10.
One other aspect of the strategy discussed was the need to both educate and mobilize larger numbers of the general public. People stated that we needed to counteract the misinformation from most media outlets and anti-immigration groups all across the country. This campaign will involved numerous ways of communication and education, but the tactic that this morning’s group spent most of their time on was the importance of having immigrants tell their stories.
In order to find effective ways to tell these stories, people broke into small groups and everyone in attendance told their own stories. Most of the people there were immigrants and many were undocumented. All of their stories were powerful and many of them were quite emotional, sharing stories of violence and constantly living in fear. The group agreed to share these stories on social media, in writing and at community forums in order to highlight what people have endured and why it is important that we see the human element of comprehensive immigration reform.
At the end of the organizing session, it was clear that people were motivated and passionate about this issue. People demonstrated their clear desire to be part of a movement that is urgent and will not be won without sacrifices.
For anyone interested in getting involved in this issue in West Michigan, you can contact AIR-MOP on Facebook.