DETROIT - Last week's unprecedented march on Washington D.C. to "Keep Families Together" through immigration reform has borne its first fruit, immigrant rights activists are saying, as members of the U.S. Senate today announced legislation that with a clear path to citizenship and that would help keep immigrant families from being split apart.
"We have been marching, organizing, and struggling for years to get to this moment," said Adonis Flores, a board member of Michigan United, an immigrant rights group. "Now, the Senate has finally realized the urgency of keeping our families together and creating a clear path to citizenship. This is a major breakthrough, but we still have a lot of work left to do."
Advocates hailed the inclusion of a path to citizenship, as well as the right of certain deported immigrants to return home and reunite with their American families. The bill also includes important protections for immigrant workers, such as the right to join a union and the protections of U.S. labor laws.
Saying the bill is not "perfect," however, immigrant rights leaders vowed to work to improve it as it goes through the committee process.
"The Senate has taken a major step forward, but we still need to make sure that this is the best piece of legislation possible," said Chris Michalakis, president of the Detroit AFL-CIO. "We need to make sure that immigrant and American workers are protected, and that the path to citizenship isn't an obstacle course. That's why we're urging supporters to call their Senators at 1-866-563-5608, and let them know that this is great first step, but we need to keep moving forward."
Asian American advocates for immigration reform also called for lawmakers to produce the best possible protection for immigrant families.
"Asian immigrants make up about half of the current visa backlog," said Therese Q. Tran, president of APIA Vote-Michigan. "Our community looks forward to being part of the conversation about the details of the bill to ensure that reform calls for a meaningful system of family-based immigration. Comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue and we hope that strong and just legislation is passed this session."
Photo: Michigan United