This Week in Immigration Reform — Week Ending Jan. 23

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Week Ending January 23

This week in immigration reform: President Obama defends executive action in annual speech to the country; House to vote on border security bill; states propose legislation affecting DREAMers; and Elle Magazine profiles the story of Anabel Barron, an immigrant mother and staff member at a NCLR Affiliate.

NCLR kept the community informed on immigration with staff quoted in Las Américas, El País, andMSNBC.

President Promises to Protect Administrative Relief in the State of the Union Address: In his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined a plan to promote the economic vitality of the middle class, to improve access to education and workforce training, and to ensure the progress made over the past six years isn’t reversed by partisan policies. Additionally, the president promised to block any legislation seeking to end administrative relief for millions of families. NCLR issued a press statement responding to the speech, including a statement by President and CEO Janet Murguía: “We are pleased to hear the president reiterate his plans to defend administrative relief regardless of any attempts by Congress to backtrack on this issue. His executive action will make our economy stronger, our country safer, and millions of American families more stable. The new Congress now has a choice to make on immigration—improve the situation, or make it worse. We hope they’ll choose to be agents of progress by finally delivering sensible and effective immigration legislation.”

House Republican Leadership to Bring Enforcement-only bill up for a vote: A border security bill, the “Secure Our Borders First Act,” will come to the floor for a vote next week in the House. The bill, sponsored by Congressman McCaul (R-Texas), would impose penalties for federal agencies that fail to meet certain requirements, like achieving “operational control” of the border in five years. “Operation control” would mean preventing every single illegal border crossing. NCLR opposes this enforcement-only approach which sets up unrealistic measures and wastes taxpayers’ dollars by throwing more money at flawed programs.

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard chosen to manage Homeland Security budget bill:  House Democrats tapped Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) to oversee the annual Department of Homeland Security budget bill, the first Latino to serve in that role. APolitico article highlights how critical it is to have a Latino voice in the DHS funding debate, especially one that understands the human aspect of immigration with a dedication to protect the children of immigrants. “I have young Dreamers who because of the president’s policy have been able to go to college and get education and they come back to the community as teachers and attorneys. There’s tremendous value,” Roybal-Allard said. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protect our borders, but I think everything depends on the premise, where we start.”

Nebraska and Virginia take action on policies regarding DREAMers: This week, a bill was introduced in Nebraska to allow DREAMers to obtain driver’s licenses in the only state with a policy barring DACA-recipients from getting a license. According to an Associated Press article, the bill has support from not only immigrant advocates, but business interests as well. The Nebraska Cattlemen Associate and the Nebraska Restaurant Association have both voiced support for the measure, emphasizing the economic benefits of immigrant workers in a state facing a labor shortage. “This is about growing Nebraska and being pro-business,” said Kristen Hassebrook, a lobbyist for the Nebraska Cattlemen Association. “We’re looking for people who want to live in rural Nebraska, who have the requisite skills to work with us, and who want to do the work that we do. And often, the folks at the top end up being from an immigrant background.”

In Virginia, a bill barring DREAMers from receiving in-state tuition failed to pass the Senate, partially as a result of immigrant advocates and protestations by undocumented immigrant students. A Washington Post article notes that, even if the bill passed the Virginia Legislature, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) said he would veto the “counterproductive and mean-spirited” legislation.

NCLR Affiliate staff member and advocate profiled in Elle magazine: Anabel Barron was born in Mexico, but grew up in a large family in San Antonio. She eventually came to live in Lorain, Ohio with her four U.S. citizen children. One day on her way to work, she was stopped for speeding and, unable to provide a driver’s license, was picked up by Border Patrol and placed in deportation proceedings. With help from community based organization, HOLA, support from her local church community and pro bono assistance from a local attorney, Anabel was granted a stay of removal, providing her with work authorization and a temporary Social Security number, enabling her to get a U.S. driver’s license. Anabel now works at NCLR Affiliate, El Centro and is hoping to go back to school for a degree in social work. Her story has a happy ending, but millions of families are still under the threat of deportation. President Obama’s executive action attempts to ease those fears. However, a comprehensive solution to a broken and harmful immigration system is needed to protect families, to grow the economy, and to ensure America stays true to its ideals. Read the entire profile.

Remembering Moms Who Can’t Be With Their Families This Mother’s Day

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Anabel Barron of Lorain, Ohio is facing deportation and being separated from her children.

While mothers across the country are celebrated this weekend, we must also remember that for many, this day is bittersweet for the myriad families that have been ripped apart because of a broken immigration system. For many of these families, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of all the work left to do to fix our immigration system so that not one more family is separated.

One individual working to fix immigration is Anabel Barron from Lorain, Ohio. Barron, 33, is a mother of four U.S. citizens, a social worker, and a Ohio resident. She is also undocumented and in the middle of deportation proceedings that could very soon result in being separated from her own family.

We caught up with Barron after a rally in North Carolina to talk about her own story and about what she’s doing in the fight for immigration reform so that no more families are broken up.

NCLR: Why is immigration reform important to you and why do you think we need it?

Barron: It’s important because it’s affecting me. I’m a single mother of four US citizens. If immigration reform doesn’t pass, I’m going to be sent back to Mexico. I don’t want to go back. I came when I was 16 y/o and now I’m 33. I don’t feel like there’s anything for me in Mexico anymore. It’s important because 12 million people will benefit from this. These are innocent people, not criminals.

NCLR: What kind of difficulties did you face in getting to the United States? When did you find out about your deportation?

Barron: I came to the United States with my parents when I was 16. Shortly after arriving in San Antonio, I met my future husband and got married. I started my own life, my own family. My mom decided to move back to Mexico and I stayed in the US with my husband.

In December 2001, I was living a normal life. It’s also the time I got a call that my mother had passed. I was then faced with a difficult decision, the toughest one of my life. It was a shock to me. It took me at least five hours to decide to go to her funeral. I had two small children, citizens, who I also had to think about and I knew I didn’t have the documentation to get back here.

I went to Mexico by myself. I only went for one week. It took me another week just to get back to cross the border. At first I was detained and sent back. I was determined to get back, though. I had my two girls to get back to. After trying to cross again, I made it and my husband was in San Antonio waiting and we drove back to Ohio. After returning, I applied for a green card, with the help of my brothers who were citizens. I received a letter saying it was approved, but I was told that I had to wait for them to make it official. I’ve always carried that letter with me because I knew sooner or later something would happen and I felt like the letter would protect me.

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In May 2013, as I was going to work, I was stopped for speeding. The police officer started asking me questions unrelated to a routine traffic stop. She didn’t ask for insurance, registration, nothing like that. Instead she was asking questions about my English, asked how long I was in this country. I had to be honest and told her 16 years. Her reply, “Well, I don’t know what to do with you.” She called another officer who then called the border patrol. I was detained for about four hours at the police station. I drove my car there, but it was eventually taken away. I was given the option of going home, but I was also told that the border patrol would be there waiting. I didn’t want that to happen because my kids were there, so I decided to just deal with it at the police dept. It was a nightmare, though they were very nice to me. They told me that since I was “clean” and had no prior problems that I could go back to my kids. I was processed and that’s when my deportation proceedings began.

It’s all very tiring. Right now I just try to spend as much time with my kids as I can. If immigration reform doesn’t pass, sooner or later they’re going to deport me. And, every year I have to apply and I know one day they won’t approve it.

NCLR: You have been in the U.S. for quite some time, and by all accounts you’re American. What is a typical day like for you as an undocumented immigrant?

Barron: Well, right now, I get up at 6 a.m., wake up my kids and get them fed and then to school by 7:15. Then I get ready to go to work at El Centro de Servicios by 8:30. I’m a caseworker and I work with the Latino community. I’m there until about 4, go home, make dinner for my kids, and afterward, we usually take a walk. I try to enjoy as much time with my kids as possible.

NCLR: Your children are American citizens, yet the government wants to tear you all apart. How do you explain to them what is happening with their mother?

HouseImmigrationBill_pic_newBarron: They already know. They’re a part of HOLA. I involve my kids in HOLA, so they know it’s not just me. There is a whole community suffering. They’re not embarrassed because I’ve told them there is nothing to be ashamed of, we’re not criminals. They understand. And, I’ve told them that if I get deported, I want them to be their best. I don’t regret coming here. I’ve had a beautiful life here and my kids are going to have an even better one. I’ve told them not to give up on their dreams. My kids also know that they’re going to stay here with a family member in Texas if I get deported.

NCLR: How are you involved in the fight to pass immigration reform in Congress? What is your message to others to get involved?

Barron: I sit on immigration panels, I go to universities colleges, I go to schools, I go to rallies, I go to Mayors’ offices. I do whatever it takes to get people to understand. I’m very involved. We need to do a lot of education. I’ve discovered that doing this is my passion. If I can help others speak up, I do it. I do this with all my heart.I’m willing to do whatever it takes to pass immigration reform.

NCLR: On this Mother’s Day, what message do you have for House Republicans who don’t want to vote on an immigration reform bill?

Barron: My message is for them is this: I know they’re very busy. I know they’re working on a lot of issues, but they should just stop for a minute and think about how many families are impacted by this issue. We are a part of this community [Ohio], but they just don’t want to admit it. I want them to think about the kids and the families that are being hurt. How can they go home and have a meal with their kids when they’re separating families? I felt like my life was ending when they told me I was getting deported. Without my kids, I don’t have a life. It’s time for them to pass immigration.