“Inevitably, new and pressing issues of importance will arise, but that does not excuse the failure of a full-time Congress to also address the longstanding and critical issue of immigration reform.  Reforming our current, counter-productive system is a moral and political imperative, and Congress must place top priority on addressing this issue,” said Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).


While leaders emphasized that immigration reform benefits the nation economically, separately, they added that Congress can and must take additional action to address the growing numbers of Americans in poverty and the increasing economic inequality gap.  New data released last week bythe U.S. Census Bureau showed that the nation’s poverty rate remained stagnant and the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow. The nation’s official poverty rate in 2012 was 15.0 percent, or 46.5 million, Americans living at or below the poverty line. In 2012, 10 percent of Americans held more than half the nation’s overall individual/family income.


“The Immigration debate is really about family values. The deportation of 400,000 people is a sin against the founding spirit of America, and if left unchecked, might well undermine the very idea of the American family as we will soon come to know it,” said Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., President and Founder, Rainbow PUSH Coalition. “The Rainbow Push Coalition stands with MALDEF on this and so many issues because comprehensive immigration reform is a moral issue and summons the best in us as a nation. The Black and Brown coalition started by Caesar Chavez and Martin Luther King must endure. And as we face the twin demons of poverty and mass incarceration nothing but mass direct action will beat back the darkness and bring morning to America again.”


Civil rights leaders also questioned those in Congress who say that there has not been enough examination of the issues and that reform should not be rushed.  The United States Senate held nearly a dozen hearings and dozens of amendments to the Senate passed bill were debated and voted on. 


“After over a decade on the national agenda, the country must arrive at an immigration policy that fosters inclusion, promotes economic empowerment, and reflects shared national values. The President must reverse current deportation policies that criminalize immigrants to an unprecedented degree, and Congress must fulfill its Constitutional obligation to modernize immigration law by permitting a vote on legalization. Like other undocumented workers, day laborers have been a force to improve this country. They have performed vital services, built neighborhood institutions, reconstructed cities after disasters, and defended our constitutional rights. And yet despite their contributions, the US has been a country that accepts day laborers’ work while denying their humanity. The country faces a moral crisis, and it’s time for less politics and more action from the President and Congress,” said Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director, National Day Laborer Organizing Network  (NDLON).