02/12/2013 04:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Immigrant Workers Want A Say In Immigration Reform To Stop Their Families From Being Torn Apart

Josefina Mora, a mother of three U.S. citizen children, said her family was torn apart last November when her husband was detained during a traffic stop and was put in deportation proceedings.

Urbano Olmedo Lopez, 37, first came to the United States when he was nine years old. After being deported during his youth, Lopez came back to the country. He has been living in Illinois for 12 years during which he has stayed out of trouble with police and immigration authorities.

Mora said the toughest part of having her husband detained is seeing her children—who are ages five, eight and 10—miss their father. Another struggle has been keeping up with her children’s medical needs. One of them has hernia and another has an ear problem.

“It’s been very difficult for my children,” she told VOXXI. “Every night they ask me where their father is and when he is coming back.”

Immigrant workers weigh in on immigration reform

As the national debate over immigration reform continues, there are thousands of immigrant families who are going through a similar situation as the one Mora and her children are facing. In fact, about 1,000 undocumented immigrants are deported each day.

On Tuesday, Mora and her three children will join about 250 immigrant workers and their families in Washington, D.C. They will be there to participate in a two-day event to ensure that immigrant workers take part in shaping immigration reform and are included in the debate over immigration reform.

The group consists of day laborers, domestic workers and guest workers from different states including Arizona, Illinois, New York and Wisconsin. Many of them are currently in deportation proceedings because of immigration raids, such as the one in the Chicago Pallet Factory last November.

The two-day event is being organized by a coalition of groups. Among them are the National Day Labor Organizing Network, the National Domestic Worker Alliance and the National Guestworker Alliance.

On Tuesday, the group of immigrant workers will gather in Washington, D.C., to watch President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and will release their own principles for immigration reform. Some of their principles include an immediate end to deportations, a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and strong labor protections such as protection against employer exploitation and retaliation.

On Wednesday, they will attend the Senate Judiciary Committee’s first hearing on immigration.

Unlike last week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration, the panel of witnesses for the Senate hearing includes an undocumented immigrant. Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who came out about his undocumented in an article published June 2011 in The New York Times Magazine, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The group of immigrant workers will also meet with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) on Tuesday to discuss how deportation policies have impacted their lives. Gutierrez has invited his colleagues to join him.

“The 11 million people who will be taking the risk of stepping forward out of the shadows are central to the effort to fix our broken immigration system,” Gutierrez said in a statement.

He added that immigration reform “is not just about the process of passing a law.”

“It is about the millions who have suffered terribly because our system is decades out of date and they have no avenue for relief unless our laws are changed,” he said. “Their bravery to speak up is why I want to hear from them and why I want my colleagues to hear from them.”

‘We are not criminals’

The group of immigrant workers will also meet with members of Congress on Tuesday to share their stories and highlight how more than 1,000 undocumented immigrants are deported every day. Among the families who will be participating in the congressional visits are Mora and her children.

“I want them to acknowledge that we are not criminals—like they call us,” she said of members of Congress.

“We are parents who have children. We are human beings.”

B. Loewe, a spokesperson for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said he hopes other members of Congress will join Gutierrez to meet with immigrant workers and the families of those facing deportation.

He added that members of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network are “working very hard” to ensure that undocumented immigrants have a chance to testify during an immigration hearing.

“When we are talking about immigration reform, we should include undocumented immigrants in those conversations because they are the ones who are most affected,” he told VOXXI.

Immigrant families separated by deportations

Originally published on VOXXI as Immigrant workers want to help shape immigration reform



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