Bringing Immigration Back to the Table

J.Smith/El HIspano

Philadelphia –     “We are equal,” declared Blanca Pacheco, a Coordinator of the New Sanctuary Movement, opening last Saturday’s immigration rally and vigil from Love Park with an unapologetic assertion that demanded attention.

   Unlike the ‘festive’ atmosphere described in some pre-rally press releases,  Ms. Pacheco’s assertion more accurately reflected the mood among immigrants and their advocates, which is one of festering impatience, as an issue that was viewed as a priority for this session of Congress has been superseded by the debris left by a government shutdown and battle over health care reform.

    Ms. Pacheco proceeded with her remarks: “We have the same dreams and the same hopes” as all Americans. Adding that the passage of comprehensive immigration reform is something “we deserve and we’ve earned.”

   The rally brought together members of  the SEIU 32BJ – a union representing thousands of immigrant workers, Juntos and New Sanctuary Movement. George Perez, a Veteran and Legislative Aide to U.S. Rep. Bob Brady appeared to be the only public official in attendance.

  “It is time to recognize the efforts of immigrant farmworkers and all immigrant workers, and to give us the rights we deserve,” declared Crescenciano Sanchez, a Pennsylvania farm-workers and member of (CATA) the farmworker rights organization.

   “The immigrant workers, especially the farm-workers, have contributed much to this economy and the (nation’s) agricultural system,” continued Mr. Sanchez, speaking in Spanish.  “Without their hard work we would not have the workers in the field who pick and produce the food for the country.”  Some 18 percent of farmworkers are undocumented immigrants.

   “We deserve the right to  to a path to citizenship, we deserve to have the permission to be in this country without fear of deportation and to maintain the unity of our families,” added Mr. Sanchez.  “Without our work the country couldn’t survive.”

    A seamstress in an Allentown factory,  Francisca Mendez told El Hispano, that providing a path to “citizenship” for the undocumented immigrants would increase their “quality of life.”

   Despite the seemingly ineluctable opposition to creating a path to citizenship in the Republican controlled House, the Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Movement, Peter Pedemonti remained optimistic,saying, “It’s definitely a challenge, but we’re hopeful because people want solutions.” Noting that deportations under the administration is approaching 2 million, he added, “the pressure across the country is building” for change.”

   “Unless there is a last minute push,” Pedro Rodriguez said he was dubious about achieving immigration reform in the session of Congress.  Nevertheless, he recommended keeping the “pressure on” to end the “equivocation” of many public officials on the immigration issue. “We need to keep it in the forefront and in the streets.”

   Both Rabbi Michael Ramberg and Bishop Dwayne Royster of POWER, spoke on behalf of the faith-based community of the need for a “path to citizenship for immigrants. Bishop Royster likened the flight of Jesus and Holy Family into Egypt to the plight of undocumented, “They didn’t ask them for a Visa.”

   “Human rights should know no boundary,” added Bishop Royster. “These folks came to America for a better life and we stand with you.”

  According to a fact sheet relating from the Regional Economic Models, Inc. and SEIU,  providing a path to citizenship would create 15, 780 new jobs by 2014 and increase Pennsylvania’s economic output by $1.4 billion. In addition, it would increase state and local taxes paid by immigrants and boost personal income of all Pennsylvanians by $2.7 billion by 2020.