Deadline for introducing immigration legislation looms

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Mehdi is telling his story because he – and the millions of families like his – can no longer be silent about the injustices caused by our broken immigration system. Mehdi is demanding change now. That’s why he joined more than 500 families like his on a bus tour that traveled the country as part of the Keeping Families Together Story Tour. 

The tour, organized by a coalition of immigrant rights groups in 30 states called the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), crisscrossed the country, visiting 19 states and more than 90 cities and 100 congressional districts. At each stop on the tour, families told their stories and demanded that policymakers in Washington pass legislation that includes a real path to citizenship for hardworking immigrants.

On March 13, these families will culminate the tour in the nation’s capital to raise their voices and tell their stories. 110 families, representing the 1100 people who are deported every day, will stand up to Congress, united in the belief that keeping families together must be the core principle of our immigration laws.

One week later, on March 21, the Senate will face a deadline from FIRM to introduce immigration legislation. Families like Mehdi’s cannot afford to wait.  We need humane and compassionate immigration reform, and we need it now.

Political leaders on both sides of the aisle are realizing that the time has come for a new plan that will keep families intact. It’s truly amazing to see so many elected officials stepping forward to embrace the idea that our country needs to change our draconian and ineffective immigration policies. 

As the election showed, no candidate is going to be elected to the White House without Latino and immigrant support. And no candidate will earn this support without being strong on immigration reform. Polls show that Latinos and immigrant voters take the issue of reform that includes a pathway to citizenship personally – opposition to reform is taken as insult to real families and community members.

The demands of our immigrant nation are clear. We are not willing to settle and we are not willing to wait. Our country needs an immigration system that will honor the sanctity of the family unit, not tear it apart. We need bipartisan support for a plan that includes a pathway to citizenship, and this plan cannot be contingent on enforcement provisions. Immigrant families should not be forced to wait while far-right extremists continually move the goal posts on border security.

The Senate must meet the March 21 deadline to introduce immigration legislation that will ensure that Mehdi and his family can realize their dreams.

Bhargava is executive director of the Center for Community Change.