We are a nation of immigrants.
We come from Mexico and the Philippines, from Central America, Ireland, Ethiopia and Iraq. We come to escape poverty and violence, fear, war, discrimination, political suppression and economic hardship. We leave behind parents and children and the skies of our homelands. We bring with us languages, photographs, telephone numbers, backpacks, stories, and hopes. We have walked day and night through the desert to cross the frontera. We have waited on the far side for papers to go through. We have hopped trains, seen companions fall, have put our trust in and been abandoned by coyotes—human smugglers. We are the ones who have arrived.
We have been called illegals, mojados, aliens and terrorists. We are rounded up at work, leaving our children stranded. We are imprisoned and deported from the cities where we have lived for decades. We are guarded against at the border by barbed wire, dogs, pressure sensors and armed guards, as if we are an army to be feared. Yet often, we are the ones who live in fear.
We are math teachers and dishwashers, carpenters, translators, painters of portraits and of houses. We pick the apples in Yakima, Washington. We wash your dishes in restaurants in Minnesota. We rebuild houses in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We pay taxes out of our salaries. We send our children to school, wanting them to learn and succeed and to be safe. Neither do we forget the family members we have left in our birth countries: we work hard to support them as well. But we live here now: in big cities and small towns, in migrant camps, in apartment buildings and bedroom communities. In some places we are invisible. But look for us—we are here. We are twelve million strong.
We have sought and found opportunities in this country, and in return we have contributed our labor, our children, the rich textures of our cultures, and a chance for each of us—we and you—to learn compassion and wisdom through encountering the stranger. But we must be strangers no longer. We are your grandparents and your sons- and daughters-in-law, your past and your future. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we affirm our humanity, dignity, and value. As children of one God, as heirs of one earth, we assert our rights.
1. We have the right to be treated with respect, regardless of our documented status, and to be referred to in terms that reflect our humanity: no human being is illegal.
2. We have the right to seek employment, and to work to improve the quality of life for ourselves and our families. If we cannot support our families in our home country, we have the right to migrate to other countries in search of work.
3. We have the right not to be separated from our nuclear families. Our spouses and children should be allowed to travel with us as we cross borders in search of a living wage.
4. We have the right to earn legal status in a country to which we have contributed our labor, even if—indeed, especially if—we are low-wage workers.
5. We have a right to safe working conditions and fair compensation for our labor.
6. If we become the victims of a crime, we have the right to seek protection from the law of our new country without fear of imprisonment or deportation based on our documentation status. We have the right to prosecute abuses of our rights, including domestic abuse and abuse by employers.
7. We have a right to health care and healthy living conditions.
8. We have a right to education for ourselves and for our children.
9. We have the right to preserve our traditions and language as we integrate and learn the traditions and language of our new country. We recognize that each of us is made richer by this sharing of cultures.
10. We have the right to participate in political activities and protests without the fear of being detained for advocating for ourselves.
For this reason, immigrant and native born, we say together from the border to the Congress of the United States, “Give us just and humane legislative immigration reform!”
• For the millions of undocumented persons presently living, working and raising families in the United States, we ask Congress to provide an inclusive, straightforward and reasonably priced legislative pathway to permanent legalization and the opportunity for eventual citizenship.
• For families that live separated and divided by present immigration policy, we ask Congress to legislatively affirm the intrinsic value of family unity by eliminating the tremendous backlog of family-based petitions awaiting the availability of a visa.
• For immigrants seeking to accept available jobs and for employers seeking to fill employment positions, we ask Congress to legislatively provide a legal entry pathway for future workers and their families, especially low-skill workers, and thereby significantly reducing the loss of life and limbs, human smuggling, violence and indebtedness that the present system creates.
• For immigrants with special circumstances, we ask Congress for the passage of the Dream Act, the Ag Jobs Act, adjustment of status for recipients of political asylum and Temporary Protected Status, and adjustment of status for persons in removal proceedings who have no felony criminal records.
• For immigrants who feel obligated to live in hiding, who have lost their lives or limbs, who must risk violence and the tremendous indebtedness of paying human smugglers, due to the growing “enforcement-only approach” in dealing with immigration, we ask Congress to legislatively bring an end to the militarization of the border, the construction of walls and fences, employment and neighborhood raids that divide families, the ever increasing construction of immigration detention facilities and the detention of unaccompanied children.
• For immigrants encountering law enforcement, we ask Congress to legislatively protect and guarantee human and civil rights by ensuring due process, making enforcement of immigration law the sole domain of federal agencies, establishing a viable and independent mechanism for the review of federal enforcement agencies and the handling of complaints.
• For potential immigrants, especially those immediately south of the border, who overwhelmingly abhor having to leave their country, family, friends and communities, we ask Congress to legislatively set policies and provide foreign aid to fund economic development programs that create the kind of living-wage employment that allows families to sustain themselves and thus reduce the need for illegal immigration.
Please sign this statement and mail it to your Congressional representatives.
Annunciation House, El Paso, TX, www.annunciationhouse.org
Voice of the Voiceless 2007