Immigrants Speak Up to Build Support for Reform Legislation
As the first Senate hearings are held regarding the possibility of immigration reform, educational work has begun at the local level to show that the lack of a new law is dividing immigrant families. The campaign is preparing an action for April 10 in Washington, D.C., and May 1 in New York, to support Obama’s proposal.
The Hudson Valley Community Coalition (HVCC), which has gathered a group of grassroots organizations, is organizing workshops where immigrants can offer their testimony to the wider community.
At one of these sessions, on February 13, held at the Woodlands Community Temple in White Plains, testimony offered by two immigrants helped the public understand how their families have been impacted and separated.
Juana Pinyol, of Paraguayan and Uruguayan ancestry, was one of the immigrants who gave testimony. She explained how not having legal residency affects the unity of her family, in spite of the fact that she has lived in the United States since she arrived at the age of 16, and although she feels that this is her country too.
She has lived here for 26 years, but her parents got legal residency status when she was over 18, so it was too late for her to be included. Pinyol, who currently operates a successful business and has always paid her taxes on time, has a 15-year-old son who was born in the U.S., but all she can do is wait for immigration reform.
“There are thousands of people like me, who have never committed a crime, who live in this country and pay our taxes like any other citizen, and that is why I have come out to tell my story. We must speak out, be strong and motivate people to keep moving forward,” she said during the White Plains meeting.
Betsy Palmieri, the executive director of HVCC, told attendees that there is a joint program with the New York Campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which has been coordinating actions where undocumented immigrants can present their human stories about the impact their families have felt.
“We want to stress the importance of keeping families together, of offering a path to citizenship, and of protecting the rights of workers,” said Palmieri.
The coalition is preparing for a massive march on Washington, D.C., on April 10, and for another in New York City on May Day, though it is also seeking support for holding a protest in Westchester County.
Kevin Duarte, a student who is graduating this year from Mamaroneck High School, explained his family’s struggle to get ahead in spite of not being legal residents, and how regardless of all the difficulties, he has excelled in school.
“It’s important for us to lose our fear, to come out and speak up, because we have done nothing wrong and all we want to do is continue to work and study well,” said the young student, who has also supported the DREAMers campaign.
Duarte, along with the members of the pro-immigration reform campaign, called on the entire community to support a new law that will do away with the breaking up of families.