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art by Favianna Rodriguez

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

“ You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. ” – César Chávez, UFW

Thousands of Petitioners and Latino Leaders to Congressional Hispanic Caucus: Lead on Immigration-or Get Out of the Way

Dec. 5, 2013

Washington, DC - In the face one of the most devastating periods for Latino and other immigrants in U.S. history, thousands of community members and numerous Latino community leaders from across the nation are delivering a message to Congressman Ruben Hinojosa and the leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus: lead-or get out of the way.

The catastrophe facing immigrants in the US is undeniable: hundreds of thousands of innocent immigrants jailed for minor infractions; entire Latino communities racially-profiled by Federal ICE operatives; families and communities terrorized by daily raids in homes, workplaces, schools and churches; and continued and deadly militarization of the US-Mexico border. Perhaps the most emblematic and disturbing of all is the Obama Administration's immigration legacy: almost 2 million immigrants deported, a radical shift without precedent in US history.

Throughout this immigration catastrophe, Congressman Hinojosa and the leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have chosen to remain largely silent, preferring to protect a Democratic President instead of the community they were elected to serve. When millions were excluded from a path to citizenship in the Senate immigration bill, the CHC failed to effectively push a more inclusive bill. When the draconian Corker-Hoeven amendments to the Senate immigration bill over-militarized the US-Mexico border, the Caucus lodged only muted opposition even while some Republicans spoke out against it. In protest over the silence, Congressmen Filemon Vela courageously quit the Caucus.

When eight Congressmen stepped forward to be arrested for immigration reform -- including civil rights legend Congressman John L. Lewis -- the only CHC members to join him were Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Raul Grijalva. Four African American Congressmen were arrested fighting for immigration reform, and only two Latinos. Such a situation begs an important question: where was the rest of the Hispanic Caucus?

Presente.org and its partners delivered close to 10,000 petitions this morning to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and issued the following statements.

Statement by Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org:
“In what is arguably one of the most important periods in Latino history - a period in which thousands of Latino immigrants are being crushed daily by failed policies - our leaders must put the community before their party. The time has come for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to stop the cover up and start calling openly and boldly on the President to stop the deportations. Our leaders must do more to stop the suffering.”

Statement by Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director, Florida Immigrant Coalition:
In Florida, we are deeply disappointed with the "do nothings" in the House of Representatives, especially our Latino congressmen, including the CHC. We expect our electeds to go to DC to get things done; to represent us. We need leaders that have the courage and ability to make things happen and do what is right, not to be protective of their careers or their party. Otherwise, they don't deserve to represent us and perhaps should stay home instead.

Statement by Oscar Chacon, Executive Director, NALACC:
As a collective body, our Latino/Hispanic elected officials in the US Congress have failed to provide bold and visionary leadership on the issues most deeply affecting the life of Latin American immigrant communities. Specifically, they have failed to stop the immigration enforcement train wreck. I applaud the efforts of Rep. Gutierrez and Rep. Grijalva to press for immigration reform, but much more is needed from ALL of our Latino/Hispanic elected officials. Going with the flow is not an option, we need innovative and bold leadership from our Latino/Hispanic elected officials on a range of issues from immigration policy reform to forging a new social and economic compact.

Statement by Petra Falcon, Executive Director, Promise Arizona:
"In Arizona we have seen up close the ugly face of anti-immigrant hate, mass deportations, and foolish, expensive border enforcement. Our Rep. Raul Grijalva is one of the few members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus willing to speak out, and even be arrested with us in resistance. We call on the other members of the CHC to be heroes, embracing this moment in history in fighting for our Latino brothers and sisters, and the American values and dignity that we all deserve!"

Statement by Axel Caballero, Director, Cuentame:
"Now is the time to have real leadership that speaks for Latinos and not to Latinos. We know what needs to get done. We know that the suffering of many immigrant families needs to stop today. We need real Latino leadership."

Statement by Gustavo Torres, Executive Director, CASA Maryland:
"Congress is deadlocked on immigration reform and immigrant families are suffering from some 2 million deportations by the Obama administration. The Latino community needs its elected leaders in Congress to show much greater courage in denouncing these deportations and joining their communities in marches, rallies, fasts, and even civil disobedience in our historic fight for immigration reform!"

Statement by Christine Neumann- Ortiz, Executive Director, Voces de la Frontera, Milwaukee, Wisconsin:
"Immigrant and US workers see their wages kept low and efforts to organize undermined because Congress refuses to pass immigration reform. We are disappointed that our Congressional Hispanic Caucus members do not raise their collective voices to protect vulnerable Latino and immigrant workers and end the destruction of families through the record number of deportations by the Obama administration."