We in Juntos are pleased to finally see comprehensive immigration reform be a part of the national dialogue. With Obama making a commitment to address the current broken immigration system, as well as senators from both parties delivering a framework to prioritize it, immigration reform clearly has the potential to become real for our nation this year. We believe this to be a step in the right direction. The show of power by immigrant voters and the power behind every demonstration and civil disobedience enacted by leaders in our organized communities left both parties with very little choice but to respond to our community’s demands. All of this work has catapulted immigration reform to the top of the priorities list for both Democrats and Republicans alike.
But what has been released so far by both parties have left many in our community with mixed feelings. Many of our concerns about this broken immigration system have still not been addressed by those in power. The proposed framework will not ensure an end to the unjust deportations of our family members, nor does it address the root causes of migration. Nowhere in this reform debate does either party make mention of the US foreign policies or the multi-national corporations that decimate the economy of the Global South and causes the very migration they wish to curtail. One of those policies, for example, is the free trade agreement NAFTA which allows U.S. companies to establish maquiladoras or factories on the border with Mexico. Although these sites are considered a source of employment for many, most cannot live off the poverty wage they earn of $8 per day. Families migrate for the very sake of survival; to escape war and economic devastation. We must address these issues if we want to have true immigration reform.
This administration has already invested in deporting more than 800,000 people in the last two years, spending millions of dollars to further expand the detention system, as well as the prison system. We were witness to more border-crossing deaths and human rights violations in detention centers in these past four years. All of this has happened at a time when numbers indicate a decrease in immigration. We at Juntos believe resources would be better spent in keeping our public schools open, educating our youth, and providing pathways to college and university than to spend on further enforcement. We should invest in the education of our youth and not in the deportation of our families.
Last year Juntos and many other organizations and unions worked together to fight back against state-level anti-immigrant bills that were a clear attack on the poor and working people of Pennsylvania. While E-verify was at the top of the list of bills that we fought back together, both parties and Obama have yet again cited a national E-verify system in this first attempt at framing immigration reform. E-verify has already made thousands of errors. The proposed reforms also reference allowing agricultural workers the ability to move to the front of the line as long as they commit to years of working in the fields. When labor laws granting the right to unionize were created, almost 100 years ago, it was domestic workers and agricultural workers who were excluded from those rights. So in order to move up in the line you have to commit to work in a sector that offers you very little to no protections from exploitation. Finally, we are concerned that those who do not qualify for reform will be driven further into poverty as they try to continue to provide for their families.
The stakes are high as 11 million people in our communities are still waiting for reform that allows them to live dignified and full lives free from fear. As the battle rages on for fair and humane immigration reform, we cannot allow ourselves to be blinded by a package deal that forces us to sacrifice the rights of some of our community for others. If we do not address the issue of migration and the exploitation of workers, we cannot address a broken immigration system. We look forward to more debates on this issue until we reach a place where immigration reform sits on the side of dignity and justice. Any immigration reform that is being debated must hold our families as a priority and the voices of those most affected should be at the forefront of the solution. We in Juntos will continue to fight until we see that happen
On January 21, Senator Lloyd Smucker announced his plans to introduce the Pennsylvania DreamAct in the senate. We at Juntos along with members of PICC (Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition) met with the senator weeks before his announcement when he reached out to us to meet with community members around drafting the bill.
Juntos applauds Senator Smucker’s initiative on this important piece of legislation that will benefit our community and we are committed to working very closely with the Senator and his team as he drafts the bill to make sure that it is as inclusive as possible to most members of our community.
Below is a copy of Juntos’ press release with our reactions to the senator’s announcement along with recent press coverage about the issue.
Al Dia: Republicano de PA propone matrícula baja para “dreamers”
Philadelphia Inquirer: Bill would reduce college costs for undocumented youth
Download (DOCX, 33KB)
On Wednesday, September 19th, Juntos held a Truth Commission in Norristown to address concerns within the Latino community regarding worsening relations with the local Norristown police. With close to 100 people present at the event, Juntos Leaders read aloud written testimonies from Latino community members from Norristown from a “white paper” report which included 8 individual cases ranging from incidents of racial profiling, harassment and unjust detention by local police and ICE officials.
The report ended with a list of community recommendations that were put out as a path to build better relations with officials and the Latino community. Some of the recommendations are as follows;
- “We ask that the Norristown Police Department immediately stop racial profiling community members and asking for “papers.” There is no law in the state of Pennsylvania that allows for this, and it is a clear violation of peoples’ civil and human rights.”
- “We ask that local checkpoints not be used as immigration checkpoints.”
- “We ask that the Norristown Police Department undergo training on how to best work and build with Latino and immigrant communities.”
- “We ask that the information of family members detained be released to loved ones as soon as possible to avoid confusion and fear in the community. Families have a right to know where their loved ones are located.”
- “Almost 1 in every 3 people in Norristown is Latino and we ask that the Norristown Police District support hiring practices that allow the force to be reflective of that population in race and language.”
To read the community White Paper in it’s entirety CLICK HERE
Taking these recommendations into account, Municipal Councilwoman Linda Christian and town administrator David Forrest, who were both in attendance at the event, committed to look into the reported cases of abuse and also committed to have a follow-up meeting with Juntos and community members to build working relationships between the Latino community and Norristown local police.
In the meantime Juntos has created a hotline where people can call in and leave a message documenting their own personal experiences of abuse with police and ICE officials.
The number people should call is
Here is a report done by Univision 65 on the event