This week, NCLR welcomed leaders and advocates from our Affiliate Network to Washington, DC for our Community Leaders Actions Summit. Attendees were treated to two days of workshops and trainings to prepare for a visit to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress. Legendary civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) also joined the summit to fire up and rally attendees as they prepared for their Hill visits. Below are highlights from the week’s events starting with a powerful press conference we held in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
To kick off the Summit, NCLR went to Capitol Hill to deliver a message to Congress that on immigration, the assault on families must end. We were joined by Fatima and Yeleni Avelica, whose father was detained while he was dropping them off at school. Also with us was Rose Escobar, whose husband was deported because of technical paperwork issue. He wife has been forced to raise her children on her own until she can return. The Democratic Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Robert Melendez (D-N.J.)
This week in immigration: NCLR Latino Voter Summit prepares Affiliates for November elections; NCLR joins amicus brief in support of administrative relief; and NCLR Capital Awards honor individuals for their work promoting policies that benefit Latinos and the country.
NCLR Affiliates push for administrative relief during annual Latino voter summit: 250 Latino leaders from 25 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico spent time in town this week collaborating on voter engagement strategies for the upcoming elections at NCLR’s Latino Voter Summit. At the event, administrative relief received recognition as a top priority for Latino voters this November. “It was inspiring to come together with our community leaders in committing to do everything in our power to raise our community’s voice. This is no ordinary election, and an extraordinary effort is required to ensure that changes happen,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía, in a statement. “Our nation needs to focus on initiatives vital to our future and our prosperity, including the economy and jobs, education, immigration reform, health care, criminal justice reform, and housing.”
NCLR also released the results of a poll of key Latino influencers during a Capitol Hill forum titled “Voices from Latino Community Influencers: Taking the Pulse of the Latino Vote.” The poll’s results solidified the importance of immigration reform, with respondents rating reform as the single most important issue facing the Latino community. The poll also found that 72% think Washington lawmakers do a bad job of taking the Latino community perspective into account when they pass laws and debate issues. Check out our blog post for highlights of the Latino Voter Summit.
NCLR joins amicus brief in support of administrative relief: NCLR joined 325 immigrants’ rights, civil rights, labor, and service-provider organizations in submitting an amicus brief supporting the president’s executive actions on immigration. The brief calls on the Supreme Court to affirm the President’s executive action, which would provide administrative relief to an estimated five million individuals currently residing in the United States. “The court should affirm that Republican and Democratic presidents alike have used their authority throughout the last half century to shield groups from unnecessary deportations,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR, in a press release. “Allowing DAPA and expanded DACA to move forward will strengthen our country by protecting families and increasing their contributions to the economy by tens of billions of dollars.” Current and former members of Congress, business leaders, child advocacy groups, DACA recipients, LGBTQ groups, and over 100 cities and counties also were among those who filed briefs, showing clearly that there is widespread, bipartisan support for the administration’s immigration initiatives.
NCLR Capital Awards honor individuals for education and humanitarian work: The 29th Annual NCLR Capital Awards gala this week recognized elected officials who played a key part in promoting legislation and public policies that benefit Hispanic Americans. Among those honored were Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) for their leadership in passing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This legislation has a major impact on Latino and immigrant communities, as it provides accountability provisions for schools with students learning English. “NCLR, our Affiliates and countless other advocates worked with these two senators who led bipartisan cooperation on this bill, which could fundamentally improve the way children all across the nation—including for the first time English learners—are performing academically,” said NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía, in a statement. “We are grateful for Senators Alexander and Murray’s tireless efforts to enact ESSA into law.” During this year’s ceremony, Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D–N.Y.) also received special recognition for her leadership in advancing a solution to Puerto Rico’s financial and humanitarian crisis. Velázquez has authored numerous bills designed to help ease the island’s debt woes and has been outspoken in calling on Washington to address the crisis.
Additionally, Sister Norma Pimentel, Executive Director of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, received the 2016 Capital Award for Public Service for her work with Central American refugees. Following the arrival of thousands of unaccompanied children and families fleeing violence in Central America in 2014, Sister Pimentel worked to provide relief for these individuals by opening a center for families in need of shelter, food, clothing, and medical care. Since the summer of 2014, the relief center has helped care for over 20,000 individuals.
NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguía, used her address at the gala to denounce Donald Trump’s nativism and demagoguery that “fly in the face of American values.” She addressed our community saying, “We must not stand idly by while others define us. We must define ourselves. We will not be demonized. We will not be a punching bag. And we must use the power of our voice and vote to punch back.” You can read the full text of her remarks here, and you can watch it below.
At NCLR, we strongly support our LGBT brothers and sisters in their fight for equality. We understand that immigration issues are LGBT issues, and we have been actively engaged in working towards an immigration reform bill that includes the 267,000 undocumented LGBT people in this country. According to the Center for American Progress, that number makes up 30 percent of the LGBT immigrant population. All too often, these members of our community are hidden from or left out of the ongoing conversation addressing immigration in America. This is especially troubling given that so many of the reform movement’s most vocal activists are LGBT and undocumented.
We can’t leave anyone behind in our march toward immigration reform, and we are proud to support the new campaign out4citizenship, launched by our partners over at the Center for American Progress. The website and social media campaign is aimed at building support for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, with a specific emphasis on those who are undocumented and LGBT. The site is full of news and educational resources, as well as many stories from undocumented LGBT immigrants who have had to come out of two “closets.” Our belief is that telling these stories is essential to gaining support from the public and winning the legislative battles on Capitol Hill. It is vital that we shed light on the vulnerable undocumented LGBT community.