A Look Back at Our Fight for Immigration Reform in 2013

Together with our Affiliates, we have fought tirelessly to make immigration reform a reality, relentlessly working over the course of the year to urge Congress to pass immigration reform legislation. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but as we reflect on the past twelve months, it is clear that our combined efforts have gotten us to where we are today:

  • A bipartisan bill passed through the Senate,
  • A House proposal with 190 cosponsors,
  • Thirty House republicans publicly stating support for a path to citizenship, and a vast majority of Americans supporting reform.
  • An unprecedented civic engagement and education campaign centered around reform which included registering voters, calling and visiting our representatives in Congress, holding demonstrations and prayer vigils, and participating in acts of civil disobedience.

That work will continue until House leadership gives America a vote and an immigration reform bill gets to the President’s desk—because it is in the best interest of the country, our economy, and American families.

As the year winds down, let us take a look back at the year that was 2013 to reflect on our successes and consider where we go next. 

Together with our Affiliate network, we kicked off 2013 with a burst of action, calling on Congress to get to work on immigration reform.  Groups met with their elected officials, organized phonebanks, appeared on local news stations, and otherwise let Congress know that we wanted them to work on fixing our broken immigration system.

Early 2013
In the early spring, we brought nearly 300 Latino community leaders to Capitol Hill for National Latino Advocacy Days.  These leaders carried out over 150 congressional visits and held a press conference calling on Congress to give us a solution to fix our broken immigration system.

JM_yearinreviw_pic1Our President and CEO, Janet Murguía, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee twice on the importance of a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans. NCLR experts also testified at three other hearings on the importance of reform for women and families and the problems with flawed immigration enforcement legislation.  After months of pressure from activists and negotiations on the Hill, the Senate “Gang of Eight” unveiled its immigration reform bill on April 16, 2013. Shortly after, we got busy writing op-eds, meeting with members of Congress, bombarding legislators with letters, and generating thousands of phone calls in support of the bill’s passage.  AllInRally2NCLR staff on the way to the April 10, 2013 rally for immigration reform that includes a road to citizenship on the National Mall.

Our First Victory

Click to enlarge

On June 27, our hard work paid off when the Senate voted 68-32 to pass S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.”  Though the final bill passed was far from perfect and included excessive enforcement provisions, S. 744 would still do much to fix our current broken immigration system. As passed, it would provide most of the 11 million undocumented aspiring Americans with a way to earn the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

NCLR wasted little time celebrating this historic achievement and immediately turned its attention to the House of Representatives. During the NCLR Annual Conference in New Orleans this past July, we hosted a panel of top-notch speakers that spanned the political spectrum and made the case for immigration reform.  Check out our videos below from the NCLR conference- Affiliates stating why they are working to pass immigration reform and a compilation of conference speakers on immigration reform.

August Recess
We took advantage of the Congressional August Recess to launch a flurry of activities – including marches, rallies, town halls, congressional visits, letters-to-the-editor and op-eds, letter-writing campaigns and phonebanks – to pressure the House to get to work on immigration reform.

AffiliateAlbum8_RepGaryMillerClarissa Gallegos, daughter of Luz Gallegos, Executive Director of NCLR Affiliate TODEC Legal Center,  presents 1,023 letters calling for immigration reform to Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31) on Thursday, Aug. 22nd (photo: TODEC Legal Center).

Here’s what we were busy doing in August together with  with the NCLR Action Fund, and our  Affiliates:

  • Organized an effort for 37 partner organizations to send or hand-deliver letters calling on 27 members of Congress on Thursday, Aug. 14 to support immigration reform legislation
  • Directed 1,215 grassroots phone calls and 1,023 letters in support of immigration reform to House members;
  • Made 11 in-district visits with House members or their staff
  • Held or helped organize 12 public events calling on members of Congress to give reform a vote, including marches, rallies, vigils, community forums, and press conferences;
  • Spoke out at town halls across the nation in favor of immigration reform.

Todec_legalcenter_yearinreviewNCLR Affiliate TODEC Legal Center conducting a phonebank into Rep. Gary Miller’s office on Thursday Aug. 15, 2013 (photo: TODEC Legal Center).

Summer Ends, Fall Activity Kicks Into High Gear
Despite continued inaction from House leadership, we and our Affiliates kept up the pressure on Congress throughout the fall and winter.

For example, on Sept. 12, more than 100 women were arrested in front of the Capitol after they sat down and blocked traffic in protest of the House’s inaction on immigration reform.  Among these brave women were representatives from Emerging Latino Communities (ELC) grantees Lideres Campesinas and ACTION Institute NC, as well as participants from our Affiliates CASA de Maryland, Latin American Coalition, Make the Road NY, and TIRRC (Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition).

YearInReview_womenarrestedSome of the more than 100 women who were arrested on Sept. 12, 2013 for protesting the House’s inaction on immigration reform.

On October 8, representatives from our Affiliates CARECEN, Latin American Coalition, and Make the Road NY were among the over 160 advocates who, along with 8 U.S. Representatives were arrested in an act of civil disobedience in front of the Capitol:

Abel Nuñez, Executive Director of NCLR Affiliate CARECEN (Central American Resource Center), preparing to be arrested for protesting the House’s inaction on immigration reform.

Winter Escalation
As the year drew to a close we refused give up fighting for reform in the face of Congressional inaction. Together with our Affiliates and our coalition, we called on House Republicans to sign on to the immigration reform bill HR 15. We saw some early victories when Representatives including Jeff Denham, David Valadao, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen co-sponsored the bill in late October. Coalition members and our Affiliates continued visiting with their members of Congress, calling their offices to urge action on reform, holding public events highlighting the need for reform, and otherwise making the case for Congress getting to work on immigration reform.  As the courageous example of the “Fast for Families” participants – several of whom abstained from food for 3 weeks in front of the Capitol – demonstrates, our fight for immigration reform is stronger than ever as we enter a new year.

NCLR and our Affiliates stand ready – on to reform in 2014!

NCLR’s Janet Murguía presents faster Eliseo Medina with a t-shirt signed with messages of support from NCLR staff.

NCLR’s Janet Murguía meets with Fast for Families participants on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

Check out our Facebook photo album for more pictures.

You might also be interested in: