Massachusetts Delegation Joins Launch of Immigration Reform Campaign for 2013

Largest Grassroots Immigrant Rights Organizations Announce "Keeping Families Together" Campaign in D. C. Today


December 13, 2012 WASHINGTON, D.C. —Nearly 100 families joined leaders of the largest grassroots immigrant rights organizations in launching the “Keeping Families Together” campaign today to call for comprehensive immigration reform.

These families will be the voice of Keeping Families Together,, a campaign that will advocate for immigration policies that reflect our nation’s values of fairness, justice and equality. They will lift the veil on the moral crisis of family separation and tell their story of our broken immigration process to illustrate why we need change now.


Fitchburg's Miguel Leal (left) meeting IL Rep Luis Gutierrez last night 


Miguel Leal, an organizer from the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center in Fitchburg, MA, came to the United States from Cuba when he was 10 years old. Leal, a veteran of the U.S. military, is married to an undocumented immigrant from Uruguay and the couple has a two-month-old son. Leal said his family lives in fear every day that his wife will be deported.

“There is no path to citizenship for my wife and her family because of our broken immigration system,” Leal said, speaking on behalf of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) and the Massachusetts delegation that MIRA represents. “Although I fought for our nation's freedom, our lives are more like a prison. I believe this nation needs to change its course or I see it ending up just like Cuba, a place where people are even afraid to talk. That’s exactly what I see in my family, even when their rights are being violated.”

The campaign was kicked off by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), a coalition of the largest and most powerful grassroots immigrant rights organizations in the country. FIRM represents hundreds of thousands of immigrant families in more than 30 states.

Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, answered the question, “why now?” in his remarks. “In the early days, the idea of a path to citizenship was far outside the mainstream of political discourse in our country.  We adopted the slogan: Today we march. Tomorrow we vote.  On Election Day 2012 we more than voted.  We voted in record numbers and we changed the conversation in America.  Indeed we changed political reality. We have been meeting for the past two days, formalizing our campaign plans and I am very excited to announce our plans for 2013.

“Today, we launch the “Keeping Families Together” campaign. This campaign will give a voice to the 11 million undocumented people living in our country and together we will fight for comprehensive immigration reform. The men, women and children who have had their families torn apart by our nation’s broken immigration system will have an opportunity to speak out about the need for reform that includes a path to citizenship,” Bhargava said.

Eva Millona, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, spoke at the breakfast before the official launch. "I am very proud to be part of a campaign where immigrants like our own Miguel Leal are stepping forward to tell their personal stories and ask our nation to live up to its highest ideals of compassion and fairness. Miguel is a naturalized citizen and veteran of 8 years with the U.S military, with a U.S. citizen child, yet his family lives every day with the fear of being torn apart. This year, we will all work together to finally fix this critically flawed system, to keep families whole, and to keep our nation strong."

The Keeping Families Together campaign tour will stop in cities across the country, including Boston, New York, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., among others. Family stories will be told at campaign rallies, vigils and community dinners and will be recorded and shared with policymakers.