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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Campaign Launched to Spearhead National Immigration Reform Effort

June 3, 2009

Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign Launched to Spearhead National Immigration Reform Effort

Coalition joins forces to push for immigration solutions in 2009

Katherine Vargas: (202) 641-5198
Shuya Ohno (202) 309-5645
Germonique Ulmer (202) 339-9331

Washington, DC - A national campaign to help President Obama make good on his promise to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2009 was unveiled at a press conference in Washington today. The event was part of a week-long series of activities across the country to demonstrate broad national support for comprehensive immigration reform and a commitment to win the legislative battle expected later in the year. The campaign announcement comes just days before the President is slated to meet with Congressional leaders at the White House on June 8 to discuss plans to move legislation forward this year.

At today's press conference, leaders of labor unions, business coalitions, civil rights and religious groups, and pro-immigrant advocacy organizations announced the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign. It is an effort to focus the political power of these diverse constituencies and give the American people a way to communicate their broad support for comprehensive immigration reform directly to lawmakers in Washington.

The campaign's organizers pointed to what they described as "a new political reality for immigration reform." With a united labor movement and a President committed to comprehensive reform, unprecedented voter mobilization and turnout in immigrant communities last November, polls that consistently show at least 60% of the American people supporting comprehensive immigration reform, and the impossibility of rounding up and deporting 12,000,000 undocumented immigrants, the campaign's organizers are quite optimistic about the chances for legislative success in 2009.

Furthermore, the campaign announced it was deploying new technologies such as a national text messaging system and various on-line organizing strategies to direct messages from constituents directly to Members of Congress. This is combined with a national campaign staff of organizers and policy experts, as well as the powerful networks of the 200 organizations participating in the campaign.

Ali Noorani, the Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, one of the leaders of the campaign said, "America voted for change and for leaders to tackle and solve tough problems. The broken immigration system is a symbol of how Washington has been avoiding tough problems for too long. It's time for leaders to do what a majority of Americans want done - fix our immigration system."

"For far too long, we have allowed a can't-do minority to block progress and manipulate this issue to tear out country apart, said Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and one of the leaders of the campaign. "It is time to say to those blocking the progress America needs on this issue: 'no more.' We need a system that restores dignity and the rule of law, and we have the ability and the opportunity to make that hope a reality."

"The time to act is now," said John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a leading progressive advocacy organization, who spoke at the press conference. "It's our collective challenge and responsibility to develop and advocate for common-sense immigration reform," said Podesta, a former White House Chief of Staff and a co-chair of President Obama's transition team.

"Families are the bedrock of our society, and a system that keeps hard-working, tax-paying, legally present immigrants apart from close family members for years and even decades is bad for America and calls for immediate repair," said Karen K. Narasaki, President and Executive Director of the Asian American Justice Center. "Across the country, momentum is building in the Asian American community for comprehensive immigration reform. Addressing the family immigration backlog and bringing undocumented families out of the shadows are top issues for our community and we're excited to join the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign to get common sense immigration reform passed this year."

AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker said at the press conference, "Our nation's broken immigration system isn't working for anybody -- not immigrant workers who are routinely exploited by companies, and not U.S. born workers whose living standards are being undermined by the creation of a new 'underclass.' As a part of broad-based economic recovery, we need a comprehensive solution -- and soon."

"This launch marks the beginning of an historic campaign to achieve immigration reform that is long overdue and desperately needed if we are going to rebuild our economy and make sure the American Dream is alive for our children and grandchildren," said Eliseo Medina, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who also represented the Change to Win labor federation at the event.

Robert J. Dolibois, Executive Vice President of the American Nursery & Landscape Association represented the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, a coalition of business groups that supports comprehensive reform and have been working with labor unions in the agricultural sector and Members of Congress to pass the AgJOBS bill, which is expected to be a component of comprehensive reform. He said at the press conference, "Opponents of immigration reform somehow think that the mass expulsion of millions of hearts and souls living among us merely seeking to better their lives will somehow make us a better nation. One must wonder how 'biting the proverbial hand that feeds us' is in the national interest."

"At the end of the day this is not a political issue but rather one of a moral and spiritual imperative," said Rev. Sam Rodriguez, Jr., President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, an evangelical leader at the event who represented the faith community, which will play a substantial role in the national campaign. "Every day that passes without comprehensive immigration reform tarnishes the soul of our nation as children are separated from their parents, immigrants hide deeper in the shadows and over 12 million people live in a land without the opportunity of ever experiencing the fullness of life, embracing the hope of liberty or pursuing the promise of happiness."

"Some may ask, why now? Plain and simple, the U.S. immigration system - as it currently exists and operates - no longer works. Fixing it will be a challenge, but action must be taken sooner rather than later. The time is now to do the right thing and fight for practical solutions that benefit all of us and are rooted in the restoration of the rule of law, earned citizenship, united families, and fair treatment of workers," stated Angelica Salas, Executive Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

Salas' organization led a press conference in Los Angeles on the steps of City Hall on Monday that included Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. It was one of more than 40 events in 35 states earlier in the week to launch local entities of the national campaign.

Nationally, more than 200 organizations have signed on to the campaign and a national summit of more than 700 advocates and allies of the campaign is taking place today through Friday at Gallaudet University in Washington. A town hall meeting with Members of Congress - likely to be among those to meet with the President at the White House on Monday - takes place Thursday (9:50 a.m. at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capital Hill). This is followed that day by hundreds of meetings between campaign representatives and Members of Congress. Campaign organizers said the bulk of the week would be spent preparing to take the campaign and its message back to their communities and to make Members of Congress aware of the strong support for comprehensive immigration reform in their states and districts.

For more information on the Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign, please visit or



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