Immigration Reform 2013 Rally in Southwest Michigan
Kalamazoo (Majyck Radio)- Jose Aguilera, MOP Statewide Board Member greeted hundreds of Kalamazoo families, community leaders, church members and families from across southwest Michigan assembled at the Hispanic American Council for a rally with the national “Family Unity” bus tour for immigration reform.
The message was clear-family unity and pathway to citizenship now. “Family Unity” buses across the country are making their way toward Washington, D.C., stopping in key congressional districts to build pressure for immigration reform in 2013 and lifting up the stories of the broken immigration system. Thirty “Family Unity” riders from Wisconsin and Illinois joined southwest Michigan MOP members for last night’s rally.
Chants of, Si Se Puede, translated, We can do it, erupted throughout the evening with claps cheers and live music provided by Iglesia Evangelica Misionera Band.
The rally focused on the need for comprehensive immigration reform this year which includes a clear pathway to citizenship. MOP members criticized Rep. Fred Upton of southwest Michigan for saying “there may not be a specific pathway to citizenship”. Speakers at the rally pointed out that lack of earned citizenship would create a permanent underclass of 11 million workers, students, and family members.
Jenn Amaya, MOP member from Grand Rapids and DREAM student shared her families ordeal dealing with immigration reform. Her mother found out that she could never re-enter the United States after returning to Mexico at the advice of an immigration lawyer to “process her papers”.
At 15 years old, Jenn was left to raise her younger brother and sister of four and six years old alone. Both children are U.S. citizens. Though Jenn made the Dean’s list her first year of college, she has not been able to continue while working and caring for her siblings.
Sergio Martinez, DREAM student and member of MOP out of Detroit along with several people from the Michigan Organizing Project (MOP), a non-profit organization shared their stories. Denis Montero arriving in the United States when he was 12 years old shared how oppressive and limited his life has been for him and his family. He is also part of the bus tour from from Voces d la Frontera, Wisconsin.
13 years ago, Ivan Gomes local business owner and MOP member came to the United States. His story re-enforced the consistant struggles immigrants are facing. “In my home country, I was a third class citizen.” Because of my race and religion, I didn’t have the opportunites to go to college or get a business license. That’s what this country is about-‘all men are created equal’. But even for me as a legal immigrant, the system is so broken that in spite of being here legally for 13 years and paying thousands of dollars in immigration fees, I have no path to citizenship.”
“Without a path to citizenship, we’re telling one million people that they are good enough to work in our fields and slaughterhouses, clean our bathrooms and hotels, pay taxes, but that they are not good enough to to ever be Americans”, said Nick Boyd, a local small business owner. “Rep. Upton’s position is actually more extreme than most other members of his own party. The leaders of Rep. Upton’s party support a pathway to citizenship: Senator Marco Rubio, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Jeff Flake, even Speaker of the House John Boehner all support a pathway.”
Immigrants invoked the core American principles of Justice, freedom and opportunity that brought them to the U.S. and support their call to protect families and communities by fixing the broken immigration system.
“I want to know why my congressman won’t meet with us,” said MOP student organizer Wendy Medrano, whose family was torn apart by the broken immigration system for 18 years. “The congressman needs to know my family’s story and the stories of the other southwest Michigan families who are being affected by the broken system. He can’t hide from us forever”.
MOP and “Family Unity” members also announced a national mobilization for reform to Washington D.C. in April. Organizers plan to take several buses from southwest Michigan.
The national tour for immigration reform makes a stop in Kalamazoo
Buses on the national “Family Unity” tour for immigration reform are making their way toward Washington D.C. to build pressure for reform, make stops in key congressional districts, and sharing of stories of a much needed overhaul for immigration reform. Today, they’ll stop right here in Kalamazoo!
The national”Family Unity” tour members will meet tonight along with Michigan Organizing Project (M.O.P) members, February 25th at 7PM in the gymnasium of St. Joseph Catholic Church, 930 Lake Street, Kalamazoo, MI.
(Majyck Radio)– The United For A Better Future public meeting was hosted at the Hispanic American Council Thursday evening. Representatives from the U.S Citizen and Immigration Services presented facts about the organization and their mission. They were also available after the presentation to answer individual questions and to directly address the concerns of the community.
The coalition consisted of speakers from the Hispanic American Council, ISAAC, Association of Kalamazoo For Justice, the YWCA of Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center and the Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch of the NAACP.
Dr.Charles Warfield, President of the local branch of the NAACP, summed up the evening with, “You are not alone” repeated a total of nine times. The impact of those four words brought the almost 200 hundred people in attendence to their feet in a standing ovation of support for the energy Dr. Warfield evoked into the words.
Lorie Mercedes, Executive Director of the Hispanic Council, started her speech with a quote from the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and explained her message surrounding immigration reform. “Tonight is not only about immigration. Tonight is not only about undocumented families. Tonight it’s about unity it’s about social justice it’s about democratic principles”.
A handful of Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Officers including Rev. Denise Poise, Community Relations Specialist at Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, Assistant Chief Donald Webster, Sargeant Tim Randall, and Assistant Chief Brian Uridge were present. Uridge emphaszsed that he and his officers are not interested in your immigration status, only if you are a victim of a crime. “At public safety we have three goals. We don’t have a lengthy mission statement. We have three goals. The first goal is to reduce crime, build trust and deliver the best service possible. This is why our community is so great. I have worked here for 22 years and this is just one of the many ways that we build trust. These type of community meetings where we can sit together and discuss issues and together come up with solutions”.
Also in attendance were numerous elected officials, including State Rep. Sean McCann, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller and a representative from Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s office, City Commissioners including Stephanie Moore hosting the meeting and Mothers of Hope.
Association of Kalamazoo for Justice Meeting will have a meeting of February 7th at 6PM in the St. Joseph Library located at the Hispanic American Council.
United for a Better Future will hold a public meeting at the Hispanic American Council to educate community members what the hispanic community would like to see happen with immigration reform.
Representatives from the U.S Citizen and Immigration Services will present information as well as a host of community leaders will speak as well.
The collation is comprised of the Hispanic American Council, ISAAC, Association of Kalamazoo For Justice, the YWCA of Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center and the Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch of the NAACP.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Hispanic American Council, 930 Lake St.
On Tuesday the Michigan Organizing Project held a press conference outside of Congressman Fred Upton’s office on the Kalamazoo Mall to kick-off the nationwide Fair Immigration Reform Movement.
The coalition is forming partnerships with other statewide organizations to urge President Barack Obama and Congress to pass immigration reform in 2013.
More than 50 people including community leaders from across the state came holding signs that read “Family Unity” and “Immigration Reform in 2013” to show their support. The reform prioritizes keeping families together by establishing and implementing policies to support immigrants in achieving their full potential as active contributors to America’s social, economic and civic fabric. Deported family members will have the opportunity to reunite with families they were forced to leave and provide humane treatment and due process for people detained at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Jennifer Amaya said she hasn’t seen her mother since 2009 when she followed the advice of an immigration lawyer and returned to Mexico to file for citizenship. Despite being married to a U.S. citizen and having two children who are U.S. citizens, her mother will never be allowed to return to the U.S. because she had been previously deported.
“That news was the hardest thing I’ve had to live with,” Amaya said. “I haven’t been able to hug my mom in four years. My younger brother and sister have had to grow up without a mom.”
Kalamazoo County Richard Fuller, Kalamazoo County Sherriff sent a statement read by a M.O.P organizer, “It is my job to keep our county safe.” I have been in the public safety field for the past 28 years. Over that time I have seen ways to help make things better for everyone. One of the things we can fix to make all our lives better and safer is to work on immigration reform.”
Father Bob Creagan, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena in Portage, said we are a nation of immigrants our ancestors came here not to cause harm but to pursue their dreams to pursue a better life. This is the same dream that people seek today.
State Rep. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo, said at the conference that immigrants are essential for Michigan’s economic recovery. We need the energy and entrepreneurial spirit that the immigrant community members bring more than ever. Asian and Latino entrepreneurs and consumers add billions of dollars and ten of thousands of jobs to Michigan’s economy. Statewide there are more than 10,000 businesses employing over 18,000 people and Asian and Hispanic residents run locally over 500 businesses.
Gerardo Zamora, a student eligible for Obama’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) and a graduate of Western Michigan University with academic honors in graphic design, has been unable to accept any job offers related to his education because of his legal status.
Executive Director of The Kalamazoo Promise, Dr. Janice Brown said the Kalamazoo Promise isn’t just for Kalamazoo. SW Michigan, Kalamazoo County, St. Joe County, Van Buren County we are all striving to make sure education and higher education is a goal for our entire community of SW Michigan. We are merely a symbol of that because we pay for youth-regardless of their immigration status to go to college.
Applause and cheers erupted following the statement.
Creagan and Jose Aguilera, a board member of MOP, delivered more than 300 signatures supporting reform to Upton’s office. Aguilera said he has been unsuccessful with meeting Upton to talk about immigration reform. Staff members assured Aguilera that open dialouge is welcome when he’s available.
Upton recently met with United For A Better Future, a coalition made up of the Hispanic American Council, ISAAC, Association of Kalamazoo For Justice, the YWCA of Kalamazoo, the National Council of La Raza and the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center.
The coalition will hold a public meeting on immigration reform Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. at the Hispanic American Council, 930 Lake St., in Kalamazoo.
A plethora of community organizations are sponsoring a public meeting at the Hispanic American Council. The purpose of the meeting is to receive information from The United State Citizen And Immigration Service about current programs and how to prevent fraud with notaries. Kalamazoo Public Safety will be available that night as well to discuss their commitment to service for all people in the community.
Location: Hispanic American Council, 930 Lake Street
City: Kalamazoo, MI
Date: January 24th, 2013
Come out today and have your voice and concerns heard. Join Voices Of The People Campaign and other concerned citizens at St. Joseph Parrish gym located 530 Lake St from 6pm-8pm.