Rallies call for immigration reform

| Patricia Zapor | April 10, 2013 | 0 Comments
Mohamed Farag, 12, is joined by adults to watch a video after receiving proof of U.S. citizenship during a ceremony in San Francisco last Jan. 30. CNS photo / Robert Galbraith, Reuters

Mohamed Farag, 12, is joined by adults to watch a video after receiving proof of U.S. citizenship during a ceremony in San Francisco last Jan. 30. CNS photo / Robert Galbraith, Reuters

Thousands of people in Miami, New Jersey, Boston, California, Illinois and other places gathered in early April to call for immigration reform legislation, to urge an end to deportation policies that separate families, and generally to open a nationwide push for immigration-focused changes aimed at Congress and the White House.

Those events — several of them held April 6 and 7 —were leading up to an April 10 rally on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. There, an expected tens of thousands of people were to call on Congress to move faster on comprehensive immigration reform legislation that is seen to have the best chance for passage since the 1980s.

Another theme of speeches at the afternoon rally, and of the messages participants were bringing to Congress in lobbying meetings that day, was to be a push to change current deportation policies, which end up separating families across borders, said supporters of the events in teleconferences for reporters in early April.

The so-called “gang of eight,” a bipartisan panel of senators working on an immigration reform bill intended to appeal to both parties had hoped to release their draft legislation as soon as they returned from a two-week break April 8. Advocates working with the senators and their staffs on the bill told reporters April 8 that the bill wasn’t quite ready but that perhaps it would be introduced by the end of the week. It’s estimated to be about 1,500 pages long.

Keeping families together is key

In a teleconference the previous week in which faith and labor leaders focused on how families are affected by current policies, Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that keeping families together is a crucial social element of the immigration system.

“We need to be mindful that family unity strengthens the social backbone” of the country, he said.

A proposal to require immigrants already in the United States to go home in order to legalize their status, for example, would be one more way the immigration system separates families, Appleby said.

“If the goal here is to get people regularized, we shouldn’t put up barriers to making that happen,” he said. “If we give people a half loaf, this issue is going to fester into the future.”

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka on that teleconference noted that labor and business leaders had come to a consensus about how to expand the number of visas available annually. But, he added, “family reunification is a core tenet of our immigration policy in the labor movement.”

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