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Michigan and Ohio join thousands in movement for comprehensive immigration reform


Nov. 19, 2009: More than 60,000 people gathered in community centers, churches, restaurants, union halls, and living rooms across the United States, participating in a national telephonic town hall on immigration reform on Nov. 18, starting at 8:00PM EST.


The teleconference, hosted by the Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign, featured U.S. Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), U.S. Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), and U.S. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY).


In Michigan, 35 events were held in Detroit, Pontiac, Kalamazoo, Dearborn, Grand Rapids, Sturgis, Chesterfield, New Haven, Ann Arbor, Flint, Ypsilanti, Muskegon, Gaylord, Rapid City, Battle Creek, Belleville, Jackson, Fennville, Traverse City, and Wyoming.


In Ohio, numerous events occurred in Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo. Visit: http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5691/t/5354/content.jsp?content_KEY=2968 


“This massive outpouring of support demonstrates that our communities are mobilized, energized, and ready to make comprehensive immigration reform a reality in 2010,” said State Representative Rashida Tlaib, in Detroit, “Too many families have been torn apart for too long, and we understand that it’s time to fix the system.”


Tlaib continued, “From the Motor City to Traverse City, we’re ready.  Last night’s town hall meeting should make it clear to Congress that we are informed, engaged, and united, across Michigan and the country.”


Families, Freedom, and Faith comes just days after White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano indicated the White House is ready to push for comprehensive immigration reform in 2010. 


The Reform Immigration for America- Michigan coalition is building grassroots support to make sure legislation becomes a reality and is pushing the Congress to action.


Congressman Gutiérrez outlined a progressive vision for immigration reform and told participants to continue organizing to hold their elected leaders accountable. “We need everyone on this call to take action with your churches, your families and your organizations so that we can deliver a strong message to President Obama and Congress that, hey, it has been a year...We want you to keep your promise to our families.  We'll be watching on the State of the Union to make sure you keep your promise,” said Gutiérrez.


“In 2006, we marched, in 2008 we voted, and in 2009 and 2010 we’re getting organized.”  said Congressman Grijalva. Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez said that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and its allies were committed to making immigration reform happen. “The CHC and its allies are working to ensure that comprehensive immigration reform finally become a reality.”


Leaders from across Michigan and Ohio were encourage by the town hall meeting, and called on Congress to act.


Laura Pérez, the education coordinator at Detroit’s Matrix theatre, connected the immigration issue to the lives her students, “We hosted this powerful event because so many of our students have seen their families torn apart, and watch their parents live in fear every day.  At Matrix, we’re expressing that reality through theatre, but understand that we need urgent action to protect our community and fix our broken immigration laws.”


In Ypsilanti, Margaret Harner with the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrants Rights, connected the event with their everyday advocacy, “We see the consequences of our broken immigration laws all too often in Washtenaw county.  Hard-working families that just want a chance at the U.S.-American Dream are violently torn apart, children separated from their parents, and a community looking for solutions.  We know that the only way to address this issue is through comprehensive reform—it’s fair, workable, and Congress needs to follow Representative Gutiérrez’s lead and get it done early next year.”


In Lansing, Father Fred Thelen, Pastor of Cristo Rey Church, said “The community is crying out for fair, humane, just immigration reform.  I’ve seen too many families in my congregation torn apart, too many children separated from their parents.  Now across the state and the nation, we are calling out for Congress to lead, and reform the system quickly.”


In Flint, Art Reyes, President of UAW Local 651, urged that action, “Doing the right thing, doing the smart thing, isn’t always easy.  But we elected our leaders to tackle big problems and to solve big issues, even when they’re difficult.  What we’ve demonstrated is that in Flint and across Michigan, the people are ready for comprehensive, humane immigration reform.  And we have the strength to support the leaders that stand up and do the right thing.”


In Pontiac, María Delgado, Chair of the Oakland County Hispanic Coalition, made it clear that it’s time to move on immigration reform, “Oakland County is incredibly diverse, and it’s one of our biggest strengths.  If we’re going to keep moving forward, and rebuild our economy, Congress needs to reform our immigration laws so that they’re fair, progressive, keep families together, and allow us to grow.”


In Grand Rapids, Kate Kooyman, with the Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Social Justice was encouraged by the state’s unity, “All across Michigan, we’re working together.  This shows real momentum for reform.  Michiganders understand that trying to deport thirteen million people, separating families and tearing apart whole communities, isn’t a real solution.  Michigan clearly wants a comprehensive solution, and now it’s time for our leaders to take the next step in Congress.”


In Kalamazoo, Michigan Organizing Project leader Pat Hanavan said, “In West Michigan, we understand that reform is long past due, and I think Congress got that message Wednesday night.  We’re a welcoming community, and we need laws that treat families fairly so we can grow our economy.  Focusing on raids and deportations hurts our local agricultural economy, destroys families, and sets us back as a community.”


In Belleville, Nazmul “Shahin” Hassan, President of the Bangladeshi Democratic Caucus, stressed that immigration issues affect many communities, “It is important for us to remember that the story of America is the story of immigrants.  In our own community, we have seen too many good, hard-working families who want to build lives in Michigan torn apart by the broken immigration system.  I am proud that we have united with so many other groups across Michigan to fix the system and keep families together.  The time to act is now.”


Reform Immigration for America – Michigan is:

MOSES, ACCESS, Gamaliel of Michigan, Michigan Organizing Project,  UFCW Michigan, UNITE-HERE Local 24, Detroit AFL-CIO, AFT Michigan, Chaldean Federation of America, AFSCME Council 25, American Citizens for Justice, APIA-Vote Michigan, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, Jewish Community Relations Council, La Sed Inc., National Federation of Filipino American Associations – Michigan , Bangladeshi Democratic Caucus and the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice


For more information, please visit:  www.reformimmigrationforamerica.org
A 26-page immigration resource manual can be found at www.laprensa1.com





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