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Lawrence Benito Headshot

Why I'm Getting Arrested for Immigration

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Last week, on Oct. 1st, I celebrated my 11th year at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). My first day at ICIRR was a statewide day of action with 21 simultaneous visits to the offices of all 19 of Illinois' Congressmen and both Senators in our push for immigration reform. Eleven years later, we continue to fight for recognition of the 11 million undocumented people in this country -- mothers, fathers, students, children, workers struggling for a better life for themselves and their families.

As a child of immigrants from the Philippine Islands, this work is both personal and professional. The fight for dignity and respect was a familiar fight for my family and me as we navigated the political, social, and economic customs of the United States. Like many aspiring citizens, when their chance to naturalize and become fully American arrived, my parents proudly raised their right hands and swore allegiance to the United States of America. For our family, America is home. The American dream of meaningful work, a good education, economic prosperity, and the freedom to travel without fear has become a reality. But our family's immigration story and success cannot fully be realized when we have 11 million people living in the shadows.

We have known this immigration fight would not be easy. Yet despite all the setbacks, the empty promises, the bigotry and hatred, our communities have continued to organize, march, and register people to vote. Last November, the Latino and immigrant communities sent a clear message to both Republicans and Democrats -- we want immigration reform, and we want it NOW!

As Congress continues with their partisan gridlock over the budget, we know that bipartisan support exists for immigration reform. In fact, we believe that there are enough votes in the House of Representatives right now to pass an immigration reform bill if the Republican leadership would allow a vote to happen.

This past Saturday, advocates organized events across the country in 183 cities in 44 states to call for immigration reform. While some may argue that the mid-term elections make immigration impossible to pass at this time, I would say this: Some members of Congress will never support our efforts, and some would say there is never a good time for this vote. For certain, if we do not push, we will never get what we want. As the abolitionist Frederick Douglass once stated, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

Immigration reform IS possible, but only if we collectively demand it. That is why we must take to the streets once more on October 12th.

Like many of you, I have family and friends hurt by our flawed immigration policies. Each day Congress delays, 1100 more families are separated due to deportations. The separation and destruction of families must stop. So today, alongside 200 other people, we will engage in civil disobedience and say to Congress: the time is now for immigration reform.

It is time to get the job done. So as we get arrested in D.C., I ask you to consider joining others in Chicago on Saturday, October 12th to march for dignity and respect for our community, and demand a vote on immigration reform.