Family Unity Campaign Leading Pressure for Immigration Reform in the first 100 days

Posted on December 1, 2008


The campaign to stop the separation of families, which formed in 2001 after the arrest of Elvira Arellano, has moved to a new level in recent weeks and now spearheads the drive for an immediate moratorium and immigration reform in the first hundred days of the new Congress and the new President.

Emerging from the Ya Basta Coalition, which formed with over 60 organizations in Chicago before the Democratic Convention to demand immigration reform, the family unity campaign moved quickly after the election to put the issue of the separation of families on the national agenda.

Under the leadership of Congressman Luis Gutierrez a mass congressional hearing was organized at St. Pius church in Chicago’s Pilsen community, inviting U.S. citizens with undocumented members of their family to come forward and give the details of their cases and explain the emotional and economic impacts of their threatened separations. Following moving testimony, over 450 families sat down with trained volunteers to record the facts surrounding their family situations.

Congressman Gutierrez has taken these cases to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Caucus has formally requested a meeting with President elect Barack Obama and has met with key Democratic leadership in the Congress.

Propelled by the compelling issue of U.S. citizens facing the deportation of their wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, Gutierrez is optimistic both about a moratorium, now formally supported by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and a streamlined immigration bill which would focus on 1) family unity, 2) legalization of the 12 million, 3) acceleration of visas and 4) an acceptance of e-verification only if linked to a far reaching legalization program.

This focus would leave troublesome issues such as border control and guest worker programs to be negotiated separately in the context, perhaps, of new approaches to trade agreements like NAFTA.

“The new energy is a tribute to the commitment of families fighting to preserve their unity, families which courageously moved from being victims of a broken law to witnesses to the struggle for Justice,” according to Emma Lozano, President of Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras, which is Co-chaired by Elvira Arellano and Flor Crisostomo. (Flor has taken Elvira’s place in sanctuary in Chicago, defying an order of deportation.)

“We are of course looking forward to an economic stimulus bill from the new administration. We are just as adamant that economic recovery not be built on the separation of families,” Lozano continued. “ If the U.S. is to recover from its current economic, moral and spiritual crisis, it must put FAMILIES FIRST. We will ask the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to withhold support from any economic stimulus package which does not also stop the separation of families.”

Congressional Hispanic Caucus members seem enthusiastic about holding mass public hearings for U.S. citizens with undocumented family members in their own district in order to increase the momentum. Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras has urged community leaders across the country to work with their congressman to duplicate the mass hearings.

According to Lozano, “The partnership we formed between the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Latino leaders in 22 states after Elvira Arellano’s courageous decision to leave sanctuary is bearing fruit. Combined with the powerful demonstration of the Latino vote and the unity of the Latino community in opposition to the separation of families, we may well have found the route to the moratorium we seek and the streamlined immigration reform we have called for in the first 100 days.”

Congressman Gutierrez will hold two more hearings in Chicago on December 6th and 7th. The hearing on December 6th will join with the leadership of Latino Evangelical Pastors and churches and the December 7th hearing will be held in a large Catholic Church in the growing Latino Suburb of Melrose Park.

The campaign to stop the separation of families, which formed in 2001 after the arrest of Elvira Arellano, has moved to a new level in recent weeks and now spearheads the drive for an immediate moratorium and immigration reform in the first hundred days of the new Congress and the new President.

Emerging from the Ya Basta Coalition, which formed with over 60 organizations in Chicago before the Democratic Convention to demand immigration reform, the family unity campaign moved quickly after the election to put the issue of the separation of families on the national agenda.

Under the leadership of Congressman Luis Gutierrez a mass congressional hearing was organized at St. Pius church in Chicago’s Pilsen community, inviting U.S. citizens with undocumented members of their family to come forward and give the details of their cases and explain the emotional and economic impacts of their threatened separations.  Following moving testimony, over 450 families sat down with trained volunteers to record the facts surrounding their family situations.

Congressman Gutierrez has taken these cases to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Caucus has formally requested a meeting with President elect Barack Obama and has met with key Democratic leadership in the Congress.
Propelled by the compelling issue of U.S. citizens facing the deportation of their wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, Gutierrez is optimistic both about a moratorium, now formally supported by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and a streamlined immigration bill which would focus on 1) family unity, 2) legalization of the 12 million, 3) acceleration of visas and 4) an acceptance of e-verification only if linked to a far reaching legalization program.

This focus would leave troublesome issues such as border control and guest worker programs to be negotiated separately in the context, perhaps, of new approaches to trade agreements like NAFTA.

“The new energy is a tribute to the commitment of families fighting to preserve their unity, families which courageously moved from being victims of a broken law to witnesses to the struggle for Justice,” according to Emma Lozano, President of Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras, which is Co-chaired by Elvira Arellano and Flor Crisostomo. (Flor has taken Elvira’s place in sanctuary in Chicago, defying an order of deportation.)

“We are of course looking forward to an economic stimulus bill from the new administration. We are just as adamant that economic recovery not be built on the separation of families,” Lozano continued. “ If the U.S. is to recover from its current economic, moral and spiritual crisis, it must put FAMILIES FIRST. We will ask the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to withhold support from any economic stimulus package which does not also stop the separation of families.”
Congressional Hispanic Caucus members seem enthusiastic about holding mass public hearings for U.S. citizens with undocumented family members in their own district in order to increase the momentum. Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras has urged community leaders across the country to work with their congressman to duplicate the mass hearings.

According to Lozano, “The partnership we formed between the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Latino leaders in 22 states after Elvira Arellano’s courageous decision to leave sanctuary is bearing fruit. Combined with the powerful demonstration of the Latino vote and the unity of the Latino community in opposition to the separation of families, we may well have found the route to the moratorium we seek and the streamlined immigration reform we have called for in the first 100 days.”

Congressman Gutierrez will hold two more hearings in Chicago on December 6th and 7th. The hearing on December 6th will join with the leadership of Latino Evangelical Pastors and churches and the December 7th hearing will be held in a large Catholic Church in the growing Latino Suburb of Melrose Park.

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Posted in: Statements