Advocates in Massachusetts Applaud Passage of Immigration Bill out of Committee

Senate Judiciary Committee passes bill with 13-5 vote on same day president meets with impacted family members for first time

Families_meet_obamaWEBMay 22, 2013 BOSTON — Two historic events yesterday demonstrate the growing official recognition that the current immigration system must change.

In the morning,  President Obama met with a group of families impacted by the broken immigration system, including Fitchburg resident Miguel Leal, Community Organizer at the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center (a member organization of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, or MIRA). Later in the day, the Senate Judiciary committee approved, with bipartisan support, S. 744, the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act."  The 13-5 vote included the support of three Republican Senators, and positioned the bill for strong bipartisan support in the full Senate.

"I'm glad the bill passed, but my meeting at the White House had nothing to do with this political process," Miguel Leal said. "The President and Vice-President came to hear me and six other immigrant family members tell our personal stories. I'm a veteran and a Cuban immigrant, and yet my wife and the mother of my children -- who came to this country with her family in the search for a brighter future, just like I did – lives in fear every day just because of her immigration status. The Comité de Vecinos at the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center, we see many, many families who face this cruel fate every day, and so we believe we must pass immigration reform to keep these families whole, and to heal our entire nation."

Across the state, immigrant advocates reacted to the news of the bill's passage out of committee with words of hope and encouragement.

"We are thrilled that the Senate Judiciary Committee has chosen to move closer to finally fixing our very broken immigration system," said Hilary Greene, Director of the Berkshire Immigrant Center. "Although we will continue to advocate for some changes within the bill, we need to stay focused on advancing as a country, and America needs comprehensive immigration reform to do that."

"It's important to celebrate this major milestone," said Frank Ramirez, Executive Director of the East Boston Ecumenical Community Council."This bill doesn't have everything that immigrant families need, especially in regards to reunification, but it presents a road map to citizenship for millions of men, women and children who have had no way to come out of the shadows. It's also a testament to the incredible power that Latino voters demonstrated last November. We must now work together, Latinos and all immigrants, to ensure an even better bill passes out of the Senate."

"This is the first big achievement for immigration reform" said Eva Millona, Executive Director at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. "Over twice as many Senators supported the bill as opposed it, and we now move into the full Senate with the momentum to improve the bill and pass it with a clear bipartisan majority. It's what American voters want, and what our best values and our economy demand."