A group of civil rights groups is urging community members to mobilize in support for immigration reform. (Photo/Getty Images)

Civil and labor groups: “Let’s organize for immigration reform”

A coalition of racial, labor, and religious groups announced today they are encouraged by the Senate bipartisan plan on immigration reform, but at the same time made a call for “action,” announcing a massive rally in Washington on April 10th in support of reform.

“We need to have the same compass, and the compass is a path to citizenship,” said labor leader Hector Figueroa, of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ, who then said “a vessel cannot move without the wind driving it – we want to create that wind,” urging communties to get involved in supporting reform through upcoming “Day of Actions” and the big rally in April.

Eighteen-year-old Veronica Saravía, from the organization CASA de Maryland, is a DREAMER who helped organize the effort in Maryland which led to voter approval of a “Dream Act” in the state.  She was at the press conference accompanied by her 10-year-old sister Diana.  “I come from a typical family,” explained Saravía, one in which her little sister is a citizen, while she is a Dreamer who has applied for Deferred Action.  Her mother is an undocumented nanny, her father is on temporary status and her grandmother is a citizen.

“I hope to study psychology and nursing without the fear of being deported, and I want to see my mother retired happily without a struggle,” said Saravía.

Another group which came out in support was the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP.   “Four out of five African-Americans support pushing for comprehensive immigration reform,” said the NAACP’s president, Ben Jealous. “This is an issue that black voters see as a basic humanitarian need; it does not improve for any workers for us to exploit any workers,” said Jealous, adding ” we in the black community understand what it’s like to be mistreated, and we understand the pain of migration.”

Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, says her group has been fighting for reform for 20 years, and they have one main concern: “I’m here to talk about families – the fear of being separated from their loved ones is the number one concern,” said Hong.  “Why must we see any more children whose parents are taken away in the middle of the night in shackles?”

Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, said the faith community understands this is not about a special interest group; “we all know immigrants who are suffering because of our broken system,” said Campbell, who is a Catholic nun. She said she was at a Safeway supermarket when she started talking to the young woman behind her, who said she was a Dreamer and was worried about what was going to happen.

“We the people know this is not working  – let’s make a change,” Campbell said.

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