In churches and community centers around the Tri-State area tonight in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, immigrant families and friends will hold ‘watching parties’ when President Barack Obama addresses the nation and announces his plans for executive action on immigration reform.
Families in New Brunswick, New Jersey, will gather at the Sacred Heart Church on Throop Avenue at 7:30 p.m. to hear how President Obama will use his legal authority to lift the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. Families will find out how the broken immigration system will be fixed and what will happen to rigged enforcement policies, like deportation and detention through the Secure Communities program, that has separated families.
“We are excited to hear that President Obama will finally take leadership on immigration by using his executive powers to protect the immigrant community. As an undocumented immigrant, I have been living in the United States for over 20 years with the fear that me or my spouse might be separated from our children. We ask the president to take a broad and inclusive executive action that would benefit all undocumented immigrants” said Juan Diaz, lay leader at Sacred Heart Church, member of Faith in New Jersey and father of four said in a statement.
Faith in New Jersey is a multi-racial and multi-faith network of clergy and congregations working for racial and economic justice in the Garden State.
“For our community, tonight is going to be a bitter sweet moment for us. There [are] going [to be] many millions who are going to qualify, but there [are] also going to be those who will be left out,” Carlos Rojas, community organizer with Faith in Jersey, told Latin Post.
“We are encouraged that the president has decided finally to take action and I think many undocumented families across the U.S. have been waiting to see this type of leadership from the president on immigration and we encourage him to be bold, to be broad, to give reform that is inclusive and comprehensive and really benefits as many as people as he can,” Rojas said.
Rojas, originally from Lima, Peru, came to the U.S. when he was his 12. He was able to become a permanent resident through a family petition, but his father remains undocumented.
“At Faith in New Jersey, for two years, we have been trying to convey the message to politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, that it is time to act on immigration. If you look at from an electoral perspective, our community doesn’t have the capacity to influence elections like directly voting,” Rojas said.
“However, we need to remember that undocumented immigrants are only a fraction of the immigrant population in the United States.
What we do see is there are a lot of mixed status families where, for example, a spouse or the parents are undocumented, and now we have children and young adults — and even their families — that were born here, that grew up here, and that, even though they are U.S. citizens, they are directly affected by the issue of immigration,” he explained.
“Everytime we hear a politician in the media talking about we have to deport everyone, amnesty is illegal, it really triggers emotions because for many families they experience it every day in their houses.”
Rojas said Obama’s address tonight, and the phenomenon that the rights of undocumented immigrants has become in evolving into a national issue, is the result of grassroots efforts by community groups and the Obama Administration responding to the pressure of the immigrant community in the U.S.
But Rojas said it was the courage of the many undocumented immigrants coming out of the shadows and speaking out to the nation protesting deportation at the many prayer vigils and marches for citizenship “that transformed the debate on immigration.”
New York City and New Jersey could be among the areas most affected by the pending announcement Thursday.
According to the latest study released by the Pew Research Center this week, the city is home to about 750,000 undocumented immigrants as of 2012 — approximately 3.8 percent of New York City’s total population. That number is down by roughly 60,000 from 2009. New York City’s second-largest group of undocumented immigrants hail from El Salvador at 10 percent, followed by Ecuador at 9 percent.
That same study revealed that New Jersey’s population of undocumented immigrants grew from 450,000 in 2009 to 525,000 in 2012–a 16 percent increase, higher than any in the nation.
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito will join the watch party in Queens at the Make the Road New York center on 92-10 Roosevelt Ave. She will be joined by Assemblyman Francisco Moya with immigrant families and workers from MRNY.
The Long Island chapter of Make the Road New York will have a watching party in Brentwood on 1090 Suffolk Ave. from 7:30 p.m. onward.
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