Standing FIRM Summit Pushes for Immigration Reform

New America Media/Naomi Briley[[February 8, 2007]]/ link

WASHINGTON--Last week over 200 immigrant rights leaders from across the country joined together, building strategies for immigration reform. The three-day conference, hosted by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), was held at the Galludet University in Washington, D.C.

Quotes Ana Amaral, an immigrant worker justice organizer

Amaral, who works to expose and resolve prejudices in the workplace, said she benefited greatly from the ‘Black Brown and Beyond' work sessions that were offered at the conference. These group strategy sessions explored the commonalities of people of color in America. Attendants discussed alliance building strategies between different ethnic groups in the United States.

Josh Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, led a group discussion about developing a civic participation strategy for the 2007-08 elections. Community-based groups, representing immigrants from around the world, shared goals for promoting immigrant and refugee voter participation. Some groups made goals to register entire communities to vote while others hoped to open democracy schools, which teach citizens and activists how to gain rights through self-governance and confrontation of corporate control.

Quotes Christine Newman-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera of Milwaukee.

Newman-Ortiz, who also attended the ‘Black Brown and Beyond' sessions said immigrants face similar struggles to African Americans shortly after slavery. "The proposed entry tests for immigrants are similar to the poll tax and literacy tests that kept African Americans from getting voting rights," she said. "We want to make a statement that we oppose making these tests more difficult. We want to encourage more people to get involved."

Highlights of Standing FIRM included a session with civil rights leader, Reverend James Lawson and, on Feb. 1, a visit by attendees to Capitol Hill where a letter, signed by more than 300 immigrant rights organizations, was presented to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV). The letter lists 11 elements for a fair and just immigration bill in the 110th Congress.

FIRM plans to continue its push for a comprehensive immigration reform package through rallies, teach–ins and events across the country.