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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reform Immigration for America Rally at St. Thomas Aquinas / Si se puede! = Yes we can!

Written by Anna C. Dugdale, Title I ESOL Teacher at St. Thomas-Aquinas School in South Philadlephia

Despite the ICE (Immigration and Custom) Raids of 30 suspected undocumented immigrants on Monday, January 11, 2010 which terrified many of the women and children whose homes were raided, hundreds of immigrant parents, students and their families from South Philadelphia came out this past Friday, January 10, 2010, on Dr. King’s birthday no less, to support the national campaign rally kick off event held in the St. Thomas Aquinas School cafeteria to advocate for immigration law reform. There is a nationwide call for action by our labor unions, community groups, faith organizations, civil rights groups and immigrant communities to push for comprehensive immigration reform this year in Washington. This rally advocates a legal path to citizenship for all immigrant workers so they may find the freedom, liberty and pursuit of happiness that our country has symbolized for all of us, as a land of immigrants.  

Monsignor Hugh Joseph Shields welcomed us on behalf of the Office of the Vicar for Hispanic Catholics, followed by Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who explained some of the current failures of our immigration system that leaves 12 million immigrants undocumented but who continue to work and contribute to our US economy. Thirty-year veteran immigrant attorney Jane Goldblum explained that if you do not come to the US with a 4 year college degree, it is nearly impossible to obtain a working visa. In addition, she said that it takes 5 years for a legal resident to acquire a visa for family members and during that time, many family members are compelled to work in the US illegally under the fear of deportation and the separation of their loved ones. Tswien Law, of the Greater Philadlephia Organization of Chinese Americans addressed some of the myths of immigrants and reminded us of the history of how the N. American railroads were built by Chinese American labor and that 1,000 of the 10,000 workers died on the job. Both Wayne Macmaniman and Antony Dugdale, District leader of SEIU 32BJ and Philadelphia Coordinator of UNITE HERE, Local 274, shared stories of how undocumented workers are underpaid, overworked and intimidated by the threats of deportation if they dare to speak out or stand up for fair wage and working condition civil rights. Jesus Gutierrez, a JUNTOS member, said, “Cuando se divida una familia, se divida todo el pais.” = “When we divide our families, we divide our country.”

This Southeastern Pennsylvania Campain Kick off Rally is just one of many rallies “to create awareness and build a coalition of informed people to call on the new Administration and 111th Congress to commit to: 
  • I. “Uphold family unity as a priority of all immigration policies by
    • 1.) expediting the reunion of immigrant families separated due to the length visa backlogs, 
    • 2.) changing family preference categories and per country caps to prioritize family unity and 
    • 3.) removing bars to reentry and adjustment of status for individuals seeking to reunite with their family members.” 
  • And II. “Create a process for undocumented immigrants to earn their legal status and eventual US citizenship that affordable and does not take up to 10 years to process.” (Reform Immigration for America rally hand out)
    Note: You can also read about the top 10 immigrant myths and understand the facts from the National Immigration Forum’s June 2003 sources online.   (Click here for immigrant myths and facts document.) 
On a personal note, it was heartwarming to see so many alumni of the Title I ESOL Program at St. Thomas-Aquinas school there, parents of students who are now excelling academically at local high schools and colleges. It continues to be an honor to teach and learn from these inspirational families from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, China and Mexico who bring so much to our community!

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Philadelphia NSM and related immigration events