Immigration Reform 2013: Looking Back, Moving Forward

In the late 1990s, many leaders and organizations including PCUN, CHIRLA, and our own NWFCO, among others, lay the foundation of our current movement and of what would eventually be known as the Fair Immigration Reform Movement. Almost fifteen years later, the immigrant rights movement has a chance to pass immigration reform in 2013.

It has been a long, sometimes painful journey getting here. Our dreams of passing immigration reform early in 2001 were shattered by the tragic events of 9/11. As a result of that day, fighting for reform was replaced by the fight against racial profiling. Our Muslim community was attacked and suffered racial discrimination. Organizations like Hate Free Zone (now One America) responded by telling the stories of the contributions that the Muslim community has made to the US.

Around the same time, the DREAM act was first introduced in Congress. Many states began passing in-state tuition bills that allowed undocumented youth to go to college by paying the in-state tuition rates. For the first time, many young people came out as undocumented. Their stories painted a different immigration story. It was a story of suffering, of struggle. But more importantly, it was a story of hope. It was a story of dreams, of the willingness of the young to risk deportation for the first time.

Then, in December of 2005, HR4437 passed in Congress. This proposal criminalized immigrants; it even criminalized people who gave water to an undocumented immigrants. In the spring of 2006, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights launched a massive mobilization in Chicago to protest against this proposal. Over one hundred thousand people came out to march in the streets of Chicago saying “No to HR4437.” On April 10 of the same year, over one million people came out throughout the country, culminating with a massive mobilization of 5 million people in the streets on May 1st. This would become the largest mobilization in the history of the United States.

Just as the momentum seemed to swing back to meaningful reform, President Bush launched a massive fear campaign to divide our efforts. Communities were raided. People would wake up in the morning to realize that their neighbors were gone. Hundreds of children didn’t see their moms or dads come home from work. Families were held in detention facilities and some died there because immigration officials would not provide basic healthcare to undocumented immigrants. The Southern Poverty Law Center released reports of hundreds of new anti-immigrant groups in the country.  English-only laws, policies denying public benefits, and the police-ICE collaboration 287g programs were enacted, creating a space for anti-immigration laws like SB1070 in Arizona and HB56 in Alabama.

But each time immigration reform has been threatened, our movement has fought back, and because of that, we have made a profound change in the way we talk about immigrants. The current fight is no longer about immigrants as the ultimate victims or the ultimate criminals. This fight is about recognizing our full humanity.

This past week, immigrant rights groups throughout the country met at the FIRM meeting to reflect on our trajectory and to launch Keeping our Families Together, a campaign that aims to win immigration reform with a path to citizenship. One compelling story from that campaign is Alicia’s, who is a Washington Community Action Network member that came to the United States from Mexico in 1996 to escape dire poverty. You can read more about her story and the work of Keeping Our Families Together by visiting their website at this link:

At the meeting, Alliance for a Just Society’s affiliates made strong commitments to help win immigration reform with a path to citizenship in 2013. Make the Road New York will lead an effort to push back on enforcement-only approaches at the state level. Washington CAN will support the work led by One America to enhance the current in-state tuition bill which would provide state financial support to DREAMers. In Nevada, PLAN will fight against the devastating impacts of the infamous Secure Communities program. In Idaho, ICAN will work hard to move Congressman Raul Labrador and Senator Mike Crapo to support immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

Over the last 15 years, there have been many lessons learned. The movement for immigration reform is maturing, but the fight for liberation and a path to citizenship must continue. We cannot longer afford thousands of deportations. 2013 is the year to pass immigration reform.

Media Clips:

Largest Grassroots Immigrant Rights Organizations Launch Campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2013

Nearly 100 families joined leaders of the largest grassroots immigrant rights organizations in launching the “Keeping Families Together” campaign today to call for comprehensive immigration reform.

The campaign was kicked off by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a coalition of the largest and most powerful grassroots immigrant rights organizations in the country. FIRM represents hundreds of thousands of immigrant families in more than 30 states. Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, answered the question, “why now?” in his remarks. “In the early days, the idea of a path to citizenship was far outside the mainstream of political discourse in our country.  We adopted the slogan: Today we march. Tomorrow we vote.  On Election Day 2012 we more than voted.  We voted in record numbers and we changed the conversation in America.  Indeed we changed political reality. We have been meeting for the past two days, formalizing our campaign plans and I am very excited to announce our plans for 2013. “Today, we launch the “Keeping Families Together” campaign. This campaign will give a voice to the 11 million undocumented people living in our country and together we will fight for comprehensive immigration reform. The men, women and children who have had their families torn apart by our nation’s broken immigration system will have an opportunity to speak out about the need for reform that includes a path to citizenship,” Bhargava said.

These families will be the voice of Keeping Families Together. They will lift the veil on the moral crisis of family separation and tell their story of our broken immigration process to illustrate why we need change now.

Keeping Families Together Launches

Pictures from the launch:


‘Keeping Families Together’ Campaign Kicks Off in DC

New America Media

A coalition of immigrant rights groups today launched its “Keeping Families Together” campaign in Washington, D.C., to call for comprehensive immigration reform. The campaign is led by Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a national coalition of grassroots immigrant rights organizations in more than 30 states that includes the Center for Community Change, Promise Arizona and the Florida Immigrant Coalition. At the center of the campaign will be the stories of families that have been separated by the country’s immigration policies. The Keeping Families Together campaign tour will stop in cities across the country, including New York, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Citizenship Becomes Focus of Immigration Fight

Wall Street Journal

Both parties are promising to use 2013 to advance long-stalled immigration legislation, but an early dispute on whether to give 11 million people in the country illegally a path to citizenship—or a legal status that stops short of that—could complicate the effort. President Barack Obama, most Democrats and advocates for the Hispanic community are pushing for citizenship. But many Republicans are wary, saying citizenship would amount to a reward for those who broke the law to come to the U.S.

“You can have a legal process where people know they can be here for a long period of time, renew their visas, but you don’t need a pathway to citizenship,” said Rep. Raul Labrador (R., Idaho), who supports granting a legal status short of citizenship.

Tell your story here:



President Obama’s next historic act: Immigration

Simon says the White House feels it has a win-win situation on immigration


To the winner go the spoils. The spoiled political system. The spoiled economy. The spoiled machinations of a spoilt Congress. Yet we elect our president to do things, to produce silk purses from sows’ ears, and President Barack Obama intends to add to his legacy and make history in his final term. knowledgeable with Obama’s 2013 legislative agenda paint the picture of a man emboldened by his recent success at the polls, freed from the need for reelection and convinced he must take a more activist role in the shaping and passage of legislation. First, the raising of tax rates on the wealthy is very much on the table. Obama campaigned on raising taxes “on the wealthiest Americans” and feels his reelection gave him a clear mandate to produce that.



Democrats Declare Checkmate in Fiscal Cliff Negotiations

National Journal

“In the ongoing fiscal cliff chess match playing out on Capitol Hill, Democrats have a message for Republicans: checkmate.” “Democrats look at the political landscape and see a win whether a deal gets cut now or after the country goes over the cliff. Worst-case scenario, they say, the House will approve legislation the Senate passed in July extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone but the rich, an idea that Republican House Speaker John Boehner has flatly rejected.” “If Boehner refuses to pass the Senate bill before the end of the year, Democrats say their hand only gets stronger in the new year when the Senate will have 55 Democrats and at least five Republicans who have signaled they could vote to extend the middle-class tax cuts.”  Philip Klein: “The time for Republicans to win the tax debate was during the 2012 election. They lost. That doesn’t mean they need to give away the store, but it does mean that they’ll have to make some accommodation for reality.”



Immigration waits in the wings

Immigration reform is waiting quietly in the wings. President Barack Obama promised top Latino leaders on a conference call Tuesday afternoon that once a deal is reached on the fiscal cliff, the focus of the call, he’ll throw the full force of the White House behind overhauling the country’s immigration laws.

Comprehensive immigration reform campaign announced by National Latino Organizations


Arizona has become ground zero for the immigration debate and for that reason the League of United Latin American Citizens picked the state’s capitol to announce a massive, multi-tiered nationwide campaign that will “ensure the support from Congressional leadership for comprehensive immigration reform.” “The reason why we are here in Arizona is because this is where it all started and this is where we are going to start the beginning of the end of getting comprehensive immigration reform passed,” said LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes.

Children of immigrants ask to end deportation

NBC Latino

Kids as young as four years old are asking for one wish this Christmas – that the government end deportation proceedings that threatens to separate them from their parents. Children like Anthony who’s dad is currently in a detention center. “I wrote that they help free my dad. That they don’t do this because it’s wrong, there are kids who are alone,” says Anthony Pena. Saul Merlos, from New Orleans arrived with his daughter Amy, with an ankle monitor and a deportation order in hand. “I want us to be heard, it’s not fair because our children need us here in the United States,” says Merlos.

The kids personally handed hundreds of letters from 27 states to Democratic and Republican congressional offices. Not far from the capital, Latino Organizations gathered, announcing they would use the same strategy that got record numbers of Latino voters to the polls to push for immigration reform.

Fewer Healthcare Options For Illegal Immigrants


For years, Sonia Limas would drag her daughters to the emergency room whenever they fell sick. As an illegal immigrant, she had no health insurance, and the only place she knew to seek treatment was the hospital — the most expensive setting for those covering the cost.

The family’s options improved somewhat a decade ago with the expansion of community health clinics, which offered free or low-cost care with help from the federal government. But President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul threatens to roll back some of those services if clinics and hospitals are overwhelmed with newly insured patients and can’t afford to care for as many poor families.

To be clear, Obama’s law was never intended to help Limas and an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants like her. Instead, it envisions that 32 million uninsured Americans will get access to coverage by 2019. Because that should mean fewer uninsured patients showing up at hospitals, the Obama program slashed the federal reimbursement for uncompensated care.


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