Florida’s immigrant communities welcome the first real step towards a new immigration system

MIAMI – Floridians join the nation today to welcome the introduction of a bi-partisan immigration reform bill as a historic moment in our movement for equality and opportunity.

While we are grateful to our Senators in the Gang of 8, including the efforts of our own Senator Marco Rubio, the true thanks go to all the families who marched, testified, protested and prayed. Their resiliency and resistance to unfair criminalization, detention and deportation build a movement for relief and respect that has yielded this moment where family unity and a path of citizenship seem to be within reach.

The Senate’s Gang of 8 has made a serious step forward towards creating a new immigration system. We hope that this effort is supported by all of our Florida Members of Congress, across party lines.

We celebrate as significant the fact that the proposed bill may keep some families together and give the opportunity of citizenship to millions. Addressing the family backlogs is key and celebrated. Fast tracking DREAMERS and farmworkers is reasonable and fair, and should be extended to those who are currently under Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Reform should simplify and streamline the system, removing existing barriers for citizenship and supporting immigrant integration to maximize their contribution to the United States. Families should be able to apply for legal permanent residency as the first step, and they should be expected to fulfill the existing requirements for citizenship. But, creating a new probationary status and making permanent status contingent on border triggers defeats the purpose of reform and holds families hostage to moving goal posts or insincere political agendas.

Family is family. Siblings and adult children should not be excluded from reunification with their families. Gay and lesbian couples should not be discriminated against. Africans, Asians and Latin Americans should not be denied an equal opportunity due to the end of the diversity visa. Nor should low income, single mothers, unemployed or day laborers be excluded with onerous work requirements that will make legal permanent status unreachable. We are concerned that reform may damage the basis of our immigration system, putting corporate interests over family.

While there is broad consensus on the broken system, there needs to be a moratorium on deportations now. We must immediately stop the bleeding of 1,100 families pulled apart every day by brutal deportations that lack due process. It is unconscionable that ICE continues to carry out raids, terrorizing communities and placing people who should qualify for relief under the bill into deportation proceedings. The administration should stop the raids and dragnet policies like “Secure Communities” and help communities come out of the shadows.

Liberty cannot be legislated. Regardless of what happens in Capitol Hill, we need to build a healing process for our nation. Our movement will continue growing until the value of all families and the dignity of all workers is recognized and celebrated.

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