April 17, 2013 –
Miami, FL – Florida New Majority leaders joined a coalition of immigration activists in welcoming the introduction of a Senate bill looking to reform our nation’s immigration system and reiterating their priorities for comprehensive reform.
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, introduced by a group of Senators that have come to be known as the “Gang of Eight, ” would establish a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants.
FNM Miami Fellow Keren Frederick was among several leaders that spoke about the bill for giving about the bill at a Wednesday press conference assembled by the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC).
“It is not an easy road and it will take some time,” said Frederick. “It cannot be confused with amnesty, especially since we have to earn our permanent residence status, both with our behavior and with our wallets.”
“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” said FLIC in statement released to the press. “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.”
Frederick praised the bill for give a immigrants a permanent chance at the American Dream. However, she echoed the concern of many that the high fees associated the legalization process, including the $500 penalty fee, would stop many from being able to become permanent residents. She also worried that the lack of resources, including affording English classes, would make it difficult for immigrants to gain the proficiency needed to renew their conditional visas at the six year mark.
“When I came to this country in 2006, English school was free in North Miami,” said Frederick. “However, today, if you don’t live in the city, there’s a fee in order to be registered. It’s hard to imagine immigrants becoming proficient in English with adult education classes costing so much or not even being available in some areas.”
Other organizations included the American Civil Liberties Union, Service Employees International Union, the League of Women Voters and Fanm Ayisyen Nam Miyami.
Jose Machado, a High School Senior whose mother was deported said “I’m really optimistic, hopeful and eager… I’ve very happy they’re giving me the opportunity to see my mom. He continued, “The reason things changed today is because we changed it.”
FLIC urged an immediate end to deportations while the bill is being considered, calling on the administration to do more to help communities come out of the shadows, however, they all agreed that it was a good start to a long overdue bill.
“Americans this past November sent the message to Washington that they wanted a new immigration system. Of course, as we have seen with the gun control issue, overwhelmingly public support for an issue or legislation is only one part of the legislative path of success in the Congress, especially the Senate,” said FNM Executive Director Gihan Perera. “It’s going to be a tough fight, but we are hopeful that the bipartisan support that we find in communities all across the country will translate into a bill that prioritize family bonds and that helps strengthen communities and local economies.”