LANSING –Today, Michigan’s immigrant community and supporters launched a national push for comprehensive immigration reform at a news conference on the Capitol steps. Similar events were held in Detroit and Kalamazoo, and began two weeks of press events across the country sounding the starting bell for the 2013 campaign for immigration reform.
At the event, community leaders demanded swift action by Congress and the President.
“It is unacceptable that whole populations live in the shadows of society, constantly threatened with possible separation from their families and communities,” said Father Fred Thelen, pastor of Cristo Rey Catholic Church in Lansing. “But today marks a milestone in the struggle. Today we are standing up and demanding that our law makers make the purposeful, moral choice to keep our families together.”
Advocates released principles for reform, including a provision that would allow deported family members to be reunited with their loved ones in the US. They also called for a strong, accessible path to citizenship for the undocumented.
Mariana C. is a 14-year old U.S. citizen and member of the Cristo Rey parish. “All the people in my church want to be with their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and cousins. People like to be with their family. But I’ve seen families really sad. I’ve seen them separated. They’re never the same, after someone leaves,” she said. “It’s time for the President and our congress to change these rules that hurt people and hurt their families.”
“We need lawmakers to follow the lead of the people,” said Professor Ruben Martinez, director of Julian Samora Research Institute, Michigan State University. “The last election made it clear that now is the time for our nation to truly acknowledge the human dignity of immigrant families and realize the human and social costs of the broken immigration system.”
The coalition, which included labor, faith, social service and civil rights organizations from across the region, pledged that they would conduct call-in campaigns, marches, and community action to strengthen the call for reform. They pointed out that subsequent to the surge of Latino voters in 2012 President Obama has repeatedly said that immigration reform will be a top priority in 2013. Even many Congressional Republicans like Speaker John Boehner have pointed to the need for reform.