Author Archives: bstansbury

FIRM leads thousands in Montgomery march against HB-56 at conclusion of Immigrant National Convention

On Saturday, December 17, more than 2,500 people gathered at the Alabama State Capitol and marched to the Governor’s Mansion to denounce HB56 and support its repeal.  The march marked the conclusion of the Immigrant National Convention, organize by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) and hosted by the Alabama Immigrant Justice Coalition (ACIJ).

FIRM coordinator Marissa Graciosa speaks on Al Jazeera

No hope for Hope Karekezi and her family under Obama Administration’s Deportation Mess

“According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as of May 23, 2011, the U.S. government has deported 1,026,517 immigrants since the beginning of fiscal year 2009.  That figure includes noncriminal immigrants and DREAMers who are victims of our outdated immigration system.” From

This striking fact doesn’t make any sense. During Obama’s presidential campaign, Obama emphasized the need to reform our country’s immigration system. If his way of following through is deporting over 1 million immigrants, who have not even committed any wrongdoings or are simply just attending school, we need to seriously reevaluate the true intentions and potential of our president.

Recently, an immigration case has caught headlines in Atlanta, Georgia. Hope Karekezi fled Rwanda in 2007 with her mother and three children, seeking refuge due to death threats she received from radical South Africans, who have had a long-time grudge against Hope’s husband and father-in-law, who were affiliated with the Rwandan army in the 1990’s when the country was facing genocide. America was the hope for Hope.

She only wanted the best for her family and in her heart, the best solution was to bring her family to the US. Just imagine how life for Hope was back in Rwanda and put yourself in her situation. How you can live in fear every single day, from sunrise to sunrise, for not only your own life, but for every single member of your family. What has angered activists was what happened on July 26, 2011, when Hope’s eldest son, Andy Mathe, was deported from the US. The shocking news did not sit well with Atlantan immigration organizations, including the Dream Activist as well as the church the Karekezi family attended, which has been supporting the family ever since news spread that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had detained Andy on counts of theft, which were eventually dropped. He was kept in detention, but soon after, was deported. It is said now that there will be possible deportation of Hope and the rest of her family. This will be determined on August 2nd, when ICE will review Hope’s asylum claim.

Obama claims to sympathize with the millions of immigrants in the US who are all terrified that any day now, they could be sent back to the country they never called home. These immigrants simply want a life they can be proud of, to live peacefully. There have been protests all around the country focusing on the passing of the DREAM Act, which was first introduced in 2001. The bi-partisan Act would allow formal citizenship for undocumented immigrant students who have graduated from high school and have been in good standing and children who were born in the US of undocumented immigrant parents. However, Obama still has not acted upon improving the immigration system. Many of these undocumented immigrants represent the epitome of the American citizen. They are hard-working, help out their community, and fight for the rights of people who are in the same boat as themselves. It’s a hard life for these immigrants and Obama needs to understand that deporting them with no real basis of reasoning is wrong. Our job is to share true stories that real people are facing and hopefully, with a large and ever-growing support system, our voices will become more powerful and finally make a change (ironically Obama’s slogan) that has been long overdue.

Obama’s speech at NCLR Convention: Then and Now

Tell President Obama that Change Takes Courage!  Call 866-957-2612 (English) 866-794-6052 (Spanish).

Today, President Obama spoke at the National Council of La Raza conference in Washington DC.  Watching his speech you couldn’t help but be nostalgic for the comments made by Candidate Obama back in 2008.

Like, remember when he said “I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time for a President who won’t walk away from something as important as comprehensive reform when it becomes politically unpopular.”   He said it with such conviction and the crowd went crazy.  Those were the days…

Or the time he said, “the system isn’t working when… communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids, when nursing mothers are torn from their babies, when children come home from school to find their parents missing, when people are detained without access to legal counsel.  When all that’s happening, the system just isn’t working.”  How right he was, and yet who would have thought that his administration would end up deportating more people than any previous president.

He also said on that day in July almost exactly three years ago that, “I’m not taking a single Latino vote for granted in this campaign” and maybe his appearance at the NCLR conference shows that he has kept his word on a few things.  But President Obama is going to need to do a lot more than show up a the NCLR conference to ensure that Latinos come out for him in 2012.

At one point in his 2008 speech Obama said, “I know that sometimes, you get tired. Sometimes, you start to lose heart. You start to feel like you’re walking that long, hard road alone – like no one sees the sacrifices you make or appreciates the services you provide.  But I know how hard you’re working. I know the difference you’re making in our communities. And I’m here today to make you this promise: I will be a President who stands with you, and fights for you, and walks with you every step of the way.”

He got one thing right: the immigrant rights movement is making a difference in our communities and we do indeed know how to work hard.   That’s what the Change Take Courage campaign is all about.

We’ve also come to recognize that his administration can be doing a lot more to bring relief to millions of immigrants in this country.   So make the call today and tell President Obama to stop deporting non-criminal immigrants:

866-957-2612 (English)
866-794-6052 (Spanish)

Release: Leading National Group Denounces Record Deportations

For Immediate Release: Friday, July 22, 2011
Contact: Donna De La Cruz,, (202) 339-9331

Leading National Group Denounces Record Deportations
Decries impact on families as a ‘Moral Catastrophe’

WASHINGTON—A report published today revealed the Obama administration has a record of deporting nearly 400,000 immigrants last year, many for minor traffic infractions.

“The record level of deportations is a moral catastrophe for our nation,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change. “The current deportation practice is separating families, driving breadwinners out of jobs, and sending a statement to immigrant communities that America is not a land of opportunity and fairness.”

“That so many of these deportations are for minor traffic offenses only adds to the tragedy of today’s report,” Bhargava continued.

The Center for Community Change and the Fair Immigration Reform Movement urge President Obama to stop this vicious deportation strategy and uphold his repeated promises to the immigrant community.

“We have waited too long for the Obama administration to make good on its promises to really put forward an immigration reform strategy that would benefit the hardworking immigrants who contribute so much to their adopted country,” said FIRM spokeswoman Marissa Graciosa. Continue reading

“Immigrant” does not mean “criminal”

Guest blog by Julia Clunn

One major problem when talking about the treatment of undocumented immigrants in this country is that they are often branded as “law-breakers” or “illegals.” Instead of looking at these people as individuals with different backgrounds and situations, they are clumped together and treated like criminals. This is how Saad Nabeel’s case was handled, despite the fact that he had lived in the US since he was 3 and never committed a crime. He and his family came here as political refugees and were deported while their green card renewals were being processed.  This kind of treatment of honest people as delinquents is unfair, and sadly Washington is only taking baby steps to remedy the problem.

The pressure exerted through the “Change Takes Courage” campaign has brought a tiny glimmer of sunshine in an otherwise bleak outlook for immigration reform.  In a memo recently sent by John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it was advised that the agency use “prosecutorial discretion” when detaining and deporting immigrants. Continue reading

MIRA: Change takes courage Mr. President!

Cross-posted from the MIRA Coalition, a member of FIRM

On June 30, the Change takes Courage campaign took action across the nation urging the Obama administration to use its power and take action. We urge you to join us in this campaign and sign the Petition!

Deportations under President Obama have reached record levels. It’s a moral outrage that families are being separated, young people are being robbed of their future and public safety is being threatened by a system the president knows is broken. This must stop.

Too many families have been broken up thus far. It’s time to change, time to show courage.

The Change Takes Courage Campaign is urging President Obama to keep families together by:

1. Keeping families together.

  • End the deportations of parents of U.S. citizen children. Separating parents from children is a morally reprehensible act. It’s violation of America’s core values.  Consider the plight of Raul Cardenas of Denver who has been married to a U.S. citizen for more than 8 years and has a young daughter who is also a citizen and now faces deportation.
  • End the deportations of military veterans. Our nation must not turn on the very people who serve it and help preserve it. That is exactly what our broken immigration system is doing. Consider Muhammad Zahid Chaudhry, who served the Army National Guard and sustained injuries that left him in a wheelchair and now faces deportation. Continue reading

Release: June 30 National Actions

June 30 National Day of Action: Immigrant Rights Groups Spread Message that “Change Takes Courage”

Mobilizations across the country call for Administrative relief

Washington – Immigrant rights advocates are ramping up a campaign to bring relief to millions of immigrant families struggling with detention, deportation, and family separation.  The compelling story of Jose Antonio Vargas — a Filipino immigrant and Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who recently revealed that he was undocumented in a New York Times magazine article — has created new urgency around the issue of immigration reform.  Groups united under the banner “Change Takes Courage” are mobilizing to keep the pressure on. Continue reading

June 30 national day of action + affected families call for meeting with President Obama

Call President Obama TODAY at 866-957-2612 and tell him that change Takes Courage!

(en español: 866-794-6052)

Watch videos of families making a call to the Obama Administration:

Release: FIRM Commends Senator Menendez

Fair Immigration Reform Movement Commends Senator Menendez and Allies for New Immigration Reform Push

Bill introduced on same day prominent journalist Jose Antonio Vargas reveals himself to be undocumented

Washington – Yesterday Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) joined colleagues in introducing a bill that would represent a comprehensive solution to our immigration situation. The following is a statement by Marissa Graciosa of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement:

We welcome the introduction of a comprehensive immigration reform bill by Senator Menendez as a needed shift from the enforcement-only approach being pursued by other lawmakers. So far this year, members of Congress have provided simplistic solutions that would make life much worse for the majority of immigrants in this country.  The Menendez bill marks an important shift in the debate away from scapegoating immigrants and towards a serious and constructive dialogue around what’s best for America.

The same day the bill was introduced, a personal account by Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas was published telling of his upbringing and current status as an undocumented immigrant.  It is a powerful story that is currently reshaping the views of many Americans about undocumented immigrants.  His story is similar to millions of other hard-working immigrants who are forced to hide part of their identity; tragically, thousands of these stories end in detention, deportation, and family separation.

Vargas’s courageous act reminds us why leadership for real immigration reform is needed now more than ever.  The new effort in Congress, led by Senator Menendez, is a step in the right direction.


FIRM (Fair Immigration Reform Movement) is a coalition of more than 200 of the country’s largest and most active state and local immigration advocacy groups representing nearly every state. It is convened by the Center for Community Change.