Latino Leaders Respond to President Obama's Call for Immigration Reform

For Immediate Release: 

Contact Jose Davila 917-502-6486,

New York, NY January 30, 2013 – The Hispanic Federation and its vast network of community-based organizations are committed to ensuring the passage of a broad immigration reform bill this year that is focused on family reunification, provides a clear and fair path to citizenship for our undocumented community and protects the civil rights and liberties of all Americans. The following statements from Latino leaders in our region are in response to President Obama’s speech on immigration reform yesterday.

“Hispanic Federation thanks President Obama for showing leadership on the need for immigration reform and for laying out a plan for getting us to a path to citizenship for our 11 million undocumented neighbors," said José Calderón, President of the Hispanic Federation. "The Latino community has waited far too long for Washington to get real on fixing our broken immigration laws and we look forward to working with the White House, Senate and House to craft a broad and humane immigration reform law.”

"While we applaud the bi-partisan effort that seeks to reform our immigration system, we are concerned that any path to legalization is made conditional until there is a determination of our borders being deemed secure,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. "We will also have concerns if there are any attempts to criminalize or place on probation those seeking citizenship."

“We are hopeful that our immigrant community will finally get the opportunity to achieve their American dreams with President Obama’s proposal,” said Yanil Terón, Executive Director of the Center for Latino Progress in Hartford, Connecticut. “This nation will be stronger because of them as they are models of perseverance, sacrifice and hope. No more barriers, let’s work together.”

“I have been working with immigrants for the past 20 years, I have seen firsthand the exploitation of immigrants in the shadows,” said Graciela Heymann, Executive Director of Westchester Hispanic Coalition. “The mood has shifted, the electorate has spoken and our government representatives have listened. Today marks the first step of the eradication of an underclass. Latino families will be able to be reunited. Westchester immigrants will stand tall, families will no longer be fearful, and children will no longer wonder if their parents are coming home.”

“Leaders in Philadelphia are glad to finally hear comprehensive immigration reform be part of the national dialogue, but we view the proposals with mixed feelings,” said Erika Almirón, Executive Director of Juntos. “We know that this is the result of the hard work our community has done to ensure the Latino vote was strong this past election and by changing the discourse through community action and organizing. We are glad President Obama has made this a national priority because the 11 million undocumented people who live on this land and work it deserve to be welcomed with open arms. However, we are concerned with heavy focus on security measures and with the failure to mention stopping measures like Secure Communities and E-Verify.”

“President Obama’s plan for immigration reform is long overdue and holds the promise of fully incorporating the majority of the eleven million residents and neighbors throughout the United States,” said Raymond Ocasio, Executive Director of La Casa de Don Pedro in Newark, New Jersey. “Undocumented neighbors and many of their both undocumented and native-born family members are already contributing members to our society and now might be afforded the opportunity to flourish as citizens. Past generations of millions of immigrants that came to the United States to live the American Dream have already confirmed the promise of American citizenship and the over eleven million undocumented immigrants in our midst may be one step closer to adding to America’s greatness.”

“At Hispanic Resource Center (HRC), we see mothers and fathers work day and night for below minimum wage and in hazardous and unhealthy working conditions because they believe they can achieve the American Dream,” stated Zoe Colon, Executive Director of the Hispanic Resource Center of Larchmont & Mamaroneck. “They are our low wage workforce that are filling the jobs that very few to no upwardly mobile ‘Americans’ would ever considering filling. They don't deserve to be treated as second class citizens, they don't deserve to live in fear of either exploitation or deportation--they deserve an opportunity to achieve their full potential and to continue to contribute to the socioeconomic vitality of this country.”

“We thank President Obama for his leadership in taking on this issue at the beginning of this 2nd term,” stated Guillermo Chacón, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS. “This vital immigration reform will create a system to keep hard working families together and bring justice, respect, and dignity to all of our communities.”

“As a gay undocumented immigrant, I commend President Obama for pushing for family unity in his remarks about immigration reform today,” said Carlos Vargas, Member of Make the Road New York's LGBTQ Justice Project. “Family should include all families. LGBTQ immigrant families suffer the same pain of deportation and have the same dreams for their families’ future as heterosexual couples. Additionally, many are in the United States in the first place because they have fled violence in their countries of origin, and could face dangerous situations if deported. We stand ready to fight alongside the President to ensure that any immigration reform bill includes all families, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

“I’m excited about the bi-partisan statement of principles outlining immigration reform,” said Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo, Executive Director of the Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury (CT). “Goals are stating points. The most essential element to the process of change is inclusive dialogue. Our nation’s communities are quickly changing and our policies must be part of that change. It is time to move the immigration dialogue to include the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in this nation via a fair and pragmatic approach to an earned pathway to citizenship. And with all goals, the measure of our success will be determined by the economic and social impact immigrants have historically contributed in building this nation.”

“As Congress and the White House move to reform our immigration laws, it is imperative that policymakers recognize the contributions of immigrant women and address the needs of our communities,” said Jessica González-Rojas, Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), a steering committee member of the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights. “Women’s issues have been marginalized in previous debates and discussions around immigration reform.”

“In the presidential election, the American public voted for justice for immigrants and against intolerance,” said Valeria Treves, Executive Director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment in Queens, New York. “While it is encouraging to see that this vote has moved President Obama to action, the 'enforcement-first' framework should be a thing of the past. We cannot allow enforcement demands to derail the momentum for justice and dignity for immigrant workers and families."

"Considering the years of enforcement that our immigrant families have endured, we are concerned about any additional enforcement that will continue to devastate our community,” said Angela Fernandez, Executive Director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights. “While President Obama's outline for a path to citizenship and a for a reduction in the visa backlog is hopeful, the devil will be in the details on who and how many living in our shadows will be able to successfully embark on a path to citizenship."

"We expect a comprehensive immigration bill that will keep families together and protect all human rights," stated Elba Montalvo, President & CEO of the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Inc.

"It's hopeful that the President and the Senate have announced a bi-partisan set of principles to tackle immigration reform," said Cecilia Gaston, Executive Director of the Violence Intervention Project in New York City. "I will keep an eye on enforcement. Our families have been under siege. Enforcement has been dangerous for the integrity and safety of our families."

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