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.