United to Keep Our Families Together
Since the election the headlines have been all about immigration reform and the urgency for Congress to finally get serious about it. As someone who works on immigration policy, I’ve been excited about the momentum that is building. But more importantly, as an advocate for children and as a daughter of immigrants, I’ve been mostly humbled by the way whole communities are beginning to unite around one shared goal: keeping our families together.
As Americans, we strongly believe that families belong together. The family unit is at the heart of who we are as a country, and most of us would agree that our government should work to strengthen families. Yet, the reality is that we have an immigration process that often forces families to wait extremely long periods of time—sometimes decades—just to be reunited, and our current immigration enforcement policies are tearing mothers and fathers away from their children in record-breaking numbers.
The time has finally come for the discussions on immigration policy to focus on what is truly at stake for the children and families who have been part of our American family for quite some time now. Yes, I’m referring to the 11 million mothers, fathers, laborers and churchgoers who live, work, dream and struggle alongside us everyday. While hateful rhetoric may attempt to demonize and criminalize individuals who are here without proper immigration documents, the truth is that their story is the American story.
I have met countless mothers and fathers over the years who weep when they talk about the difficult journey they undertook to come to this country yet also beam with pride when they talk about their children’s accomplishments. I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside countless undocumented youth leaders, like Julieta Garibay and Lorella Praeli, who have fought relentlessly to bring undocumented youth out of the shadows just so that they and their families can have a shot at pursuing the American Dream. I’ve worked with many young children, who are among the 4.5 million U.S. citizen children living in mixed-legal status families, who want nothing more than to stop living in fear that their parents may not arrive to pick them up after school. Each and every one of these extraordinary individuals represent a member of our American family, and it’s time we recognize them as such.
Thus, I believe we have reached a critical moment. Just over the past two weeks alone I have witnessed leaders of the DREAM movement as well as business, faith, and law enforcement leaders commit to fighting for a solution for all of our undocumented mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. And this week I will have the opportunity to accompany a delegation of youth to Congress to deliver 10,000 letters written by children around the country to demand that our policymakers stop tearing families apart and finally work to pass a solution that will keep families together.
As has been stated by our nation’s leaders time and time again, we are a stronger America when we stand united. Immigrants have and always will be a part of the American success story. Standing united as an American family, we can finally make our immigration system work for families instead of against families and together achieve a brighter future for our nation as whole.