Immigrant families will be embarking on a 19-state tour Monday in the hope of pushing for immigration policies that would help keep families together.
The tour, titled “Keeping Families Together,” is expected to feature immigrants who will speak about how current, flawed immigration laws have separated them from their deported husbands, wives, and children.
Immigrants plan to take the tour as an opportunity to push for a comprehensive reform measure that would include a pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants, uniting families overseas and here as a pillar of immigration law and more protection for guest workers, according to Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) the group organizing the event.
Organizers expect some 500 families to log more than 20,000 miles and visit more than 100 congressional districts and 38 U.S. Senate offices. On March 13, the bus riders plan to arrive in Washington, D.C.
Among the congressional offices they plan to visit are those belonging to members of a bipartisan Senate group that is working on a comprehensive immigration reform plan. The bipartisan group includes four Democrats and four Republicans.
“’The Keeping Families Together’ tour aims to put the spotlight in immigration reform squarely on the families adversely affected by the current broken immigration system,” said Kica Matos, a spokesperson for the tour. “And we want the Senate's Gang of 8 to remember the stories of these families as they craft a bill that clearly lays out a path to citizenship."
Immigration reform soared to the top of the national agenda after it helped influence the 2012 presidential debate and, to some extent, the election.
Some Republican candidates staked out hard-line positions in the GOP primaries, and presidential candidate Mitt Romney voiced support for tough state-level immigration measures and said he opposed the DREAM Act, which would allow certain undocumented immigrants brought as minors a chance to legalize if they meet a strict set of criteria.
Many polls showed that Latino voters frowned upon hard-line positions on immigration, and many experts believe that is in great part why 71 percent cast their votes for President Barack Obama.
Those who prefer tough immigration measures say they oppose a pathway to legalization for people who have broken immigration laws. They say undocumented immigrants should return to their countries and apply to come back legally.
Those who support leniency say the country cannot deport the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, and those who meet certain requirements – such as passing a criminal background check and learn English and pay taxes – should have an opportunity to legalize.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente