Category Archives: FIRM Spotlight

FIRM Spotlight: Students in WI force Rep. Ryan to distance himself from FAIR

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been forced to rewrite his own history in the past few days. Ryan recently granted an interview to FAIR (the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform) during their “Hold their Feet to the Fire” event here in Washington, DC last month.

For those of you who are regular readers, you are familiar with FAIR. For those of you who aren’t, the rundown is this: they are a designated hate group by the SPLC and are a part of the John Tanton network that has extensive ties to the White Supremacist movement. In short, they are the force working against our pro-immigrant movement.

Students working with Voces de la Frontera, a FIRM partner, in Racine, WI organized a rally against Rep. Ryan for his involvement with FAIR. From local newspaper the Journal:

A group of about 50 people marched outside of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s Downtown Racine office at 216 Sixth St. on Tuesday, angered by the Janesville Republican’s decision to grant an interview during an event sponsored by an immigration reform organization in Washington, D.C.

Apparently, the students made a big impact: that same day Rep. Ryan released a statement distancing himself from FAIR and his name has since been pulled from their website as a “participant” in last month’s “Hold their Feet to the Fire” event.

It is so important for lawmakers and the media to recognize groups like FAIR for what they really are: extremists. Many of these groups (and especially FAIR) can all be traced to one central figure, John Tanton.

“He’s a central player in the organization. He’s not some ancillary guy. He’s got this terrible legacy,” Beirich said of Tanton, who ran the organization for a few decades and now serves on its board. “Frankly he’s an extremist. He’s funded white supremacist groups. He’s hung out with white supremacists.”

Congratulations to the student activists in Wisconsin for their victory yesterday.

Racine Voces de la Frontera coordinator Maria Morales also sees this as a victory.

“FAIR is a thinly veiled hate group that too often gets into the mainstream media as a legitimate counterpoint of view. When Representatives like Ryan disassociate themselves from FAIR it helps to discredit them,” she explains. “Now we need Ryan to do more. Many families in Racine are suffering because of a broken immigration system. We need him to work with us towards comprehensive immigration reform.”

Can you feel the momentum building? I can.

FIRM Spotlight: FIRM Leaders win awards!


Angelicas Salas, executive director of FIRM member-group the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, and Artemio Arreola, state director for the Reform Immigration for America campaign in Illinois and Political Director for FIRM member, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, are both being honored for their outstanding work. The Tides Foundation has awarded them both with the Jane Bagley Lehnman Award for Excellence In Public Advocacy.  The recognition goes to activists dedicated to advancing immigration reform.

Says Marissa Graciosa, director of FIRM, of Salas:

There is no truer voice for our communities than Angelica Salas. She has worked tirelessly represent each and everyone of us that are affected by this issue. Her dedication shows in her involvement in everything from advanced legislative strategy to her ability to listen to community members meeting in a local church basement. Angelica is truly a hero of our movement.

Graciosa continues,

And, Artemio Arreola, what can I say? The million person march in Chicago in 2006 would not have happened without him. He represents the best of what it means to be a leader in your community.

FIRM could not be prouder of these two deserving and dedicated activists who will continue to work until we pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Congratulations Angelica and Artemio!

FIRM Spotlight: New Labor helps to educate and encourage immigrants

Our partners at New Labor in New Jersey were recently featured in an article at the Asbury Park Press. The article describes a group meeting of 50 day laborers in Lakewood, NJ. Our partners at New Labor organize to help the attendees to educate themselves, improve their English and pressure Congress to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

“Maybe they don’t have a vote, (but) they have a voice — and they have to use it,” said New Labor spokeswoman Margarita Camacho Diaz.

At the meeting, attendees were encouraged to take out their cell phones and text JUSTICE or JUSTICIA to the number 69866. This will sign them up to receive action alerts or updates from the Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign directly to their cell phones.

“We are all in this together, because it’s going to better the economy,” Diaz said. “They’re (undocumented workers) not going anywhere. They’re here, they’re working, they’re not doing bad stuff. They just want to better their conditions.”

Undocumented workers want to be a legitimate part of the system, Diaz said. Those in favor of reform say they accept learning the English language and American ways, Diaz said.

“How are you going to use deportation for 12 million immigrants?” Diaz said. “It’s going to cost millions of dollars to the government.”

New Labor is just one of the many groups that are working in local communities to fight for comprehensive immigration reform at the National level. Thanks to New Labor and all the work you are doing.

FIRM Spotlight: Somos un pueblo unido has an Important Announcement

Check out this great video from our partners at Somos un Pueblo Unido in New Mexico. And remember, if you want to receive up-to-the-minute action alerts and updates from the frontlines of the fight for immigration reform, text JUSTICE to 69866.

Today Reform is Coming to 40 Cities across America

RIFA logo

Today, there will be 40 press conferences in 40 different cities around the country, launching the campaign to Reform Immigration for America. The local launches will lead up to the big National Launch, which is taking place here in Washington DC on June 3rd. Its amazing to see the momentum for comprehensive immigration reform building from the grassroots up! Click here for an interactive map of the local launches, its a great visual to see just how widespread local support is for immigration reform.

CHIRLAFrom CHIRLA in Los Angeles, California:

[At the LA launch] there will be representatives from the AFL-CIO, SEIU and UFCW labor unions, the Asian American Justice Center, the Center for American Progress, the Center for Community Change, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Among those scheduled to speak are Angelica Salas of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles; Eric Lee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Rabbi Jonathan Klein of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice.

The Campaign to Reform Immigration for America is part of a united national effort that includes organizations representing labor, faith, education, business and the community at large.

From OneAmerica in Seattle:


OneAmerica, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, and ally organizations including the Northwest Chamber of Commerce, UFCW Local 21, Casa Latina, NWFCO and Washington CAN will announce the launch of the national Reform Immigration FOR America Campaign, a broad-based national effort to fix the broken immigration system through comprehensive immigration reform legislation on Monday, June 1, at City Hall.

CIRC 2From the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition in Denver:

Please join us on Monday, June 1st as we launch the Colorado campaign to win immigration reform in the 111th Congress!

June 1, 11am at State Capitol: Colorado Launch of Reform Immigration for America Campaign

Join with immigrant, refugee, labor, business, faith, and youth leaders for a press conference to launch the Reform Immigration For America Campaign in Colorado, a broad-based national effort to win just and humane immigration reform legislation in 2009!

From Somos Un Pueblo Unido in Santa Fe, New Mexico:


On June 1st, community leaders from central and northern New Mexico will gather to announce a statewide effort to rally support for Immigration Reform. Somos un Pueblo Unido’s event will  be one of dozens to locally launch the national Reform Immigration For  America Campaigns across the United States  and bring the immigrant and non-immigrant community together to make Immigration Reform a reality.

Santa Fe’s mayor, David Coss, will be on hand to help Somos Un Pueblo Unido launch the campaign.

NE appleseedThe AP covered the story of the local launch being done by Nebraska Appleseed in Lincoln, Nebraska:

Immigrant advocates and other community leaders are set to gather Monday to launch Nebraska’s component of a national campaign emphasizing immigration reform.

The Reform Immigration for America campaign focuses on addressing problems in the federal immigration system through legislative reform.

Faith, business, legal and other community leaders are set to gather at the state Capitol and in Omaha midday to announce the launch.

I will be blogging these as they come in, so be sure to check back for more.

I can feel the momentum building. Can you?

FIRM Spotlight: VDLF – Wisconsin Includes Driver’s Cards for Immigrants


From our partners at Voces de la Frontera in Wisconsin (who are doing amazing work!)

We have wonderful news to report, last night the Joint Finance Committee voted to include  Driver’s Card for immigrants in the state budget.

This critical step in the legislative process was the result of the hard work that has been achieved collectively by members of the Coalition for Safe Roads and supporters, and Representative Pedro Colon’s leadership and the hard work of his staff.

Thank you to everyone who made calls, wrote letters, made their support known at the public forums on the state budget, and mobilized to the State Capitol to lobby your representative.

This was an essential victory, but we have two more steps to go:  the budget will go to the state legislature (Assembly and Senate) for vote and then to the Governor.

As many of you may already know, this victory follows in the heels of our previous victory for in-state tuition for immigrant students which passed last Friday by a similar vote of 12-4 on Joint Finance along party lines.

We have achieved our goal of getting both pro-immigrant provisions into the state budget and we must work hard to achieve the votes necessary in the next two stages of the legislative process.

Si se puede!

Congratulations to the folks in Wisconsin on these two huge victories. From the local level all the way to the national debate, the tides are turning in our favor on pro-immigrant legislation and comprehensive reform. Stay tuned, because next week will be packed full of actions, activities and chances to join in the fight.

FIRM Spotlight: Radio Movimiento – Now Streaming Live to your Computer

radio movimiento

Last year, I interviewed some folks involved in an amazing project called Radio Movimiento, which is a low-power FM radio station in Oregon. On air for two and a half years, the station’s mission is to provide a voice on the airwaves to combat oppression and discrimination, while helping to build self-confidence, self-esteem and developing valuable skills in the surrounding communities.

Working with PCUN – Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noreste – Radio Movimiento (or KPCN) has had an inspiring impact on the local community in Woodburn, Oregon.

From CAUSA Oregon’s blog:

Many of the voices heard on KPCN-LP are ones almost never heard on spanish language stations or by a mass audience. They include youth, indigenous people (speaking in their own dialects), women, workers, plus progressive leaders from Latino communities around the corner and around Latin America. With it’s weekly line-up, the station lives by it’s slogan: “La Voz del Pueblo” (The Voice of the People).

This is truly an amazing endeavor and in my interviews with KPCN staff last year, I was amazed by what they have been able to accomplish. The good news is that Radio Movimiento is now available to stream online! For those of us outside of their range, we can now visit to stream Radio Movimiento’s programming through our computers.

I encourage folks to tune in, even if they’ve never been to Oregon. These programs are great resources to expand your knowledge about immigrant rights, workers rights, the Latino community AND connecting the grassroots level to the national debates.

FIRM Spotlight: The Sanctuary – Receiving Award from New America Media

the sanctuaryThe Sanctuary, an outstanding pro-migrant blog where I cross-post diaries from time to time, will be receiving an award at the upcoming National Ethnic Media Expo & Awards event June 3 -5. From Nezua, one of the founding editors at the Sanctuary:

We are happy to announce that The Sanctuary (ProMigrant.Org) will be receiving an award that, in 2006, Hillary Rodham Clinton described as “the equivalent of the “Pulitzer Prize” for journalism (including New Media of course) in ethnic media! I leave it to politicians wielding impressive phraseology for various reasons to convince you that the award is quite that important, but nonetheless. We are very proud to be recognized for the work we do at our little human rights agenda community.

A BIG Congratulations to all the great folks at the Sanctuary. You deserve it.

FIRM Spotlight: CHIRLA’s Angelica Salas Named to Advisory Council


We are excited to announce that Angelica Salas, Executive Director of our partners at CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles) has been selected as a member of the prestigious International Advisory Council (IAC). The Board will serve for the Third Annual Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) conference to be held in Athens, Greece in November 2009.

“I am honored to be asked to serve alongside a group of talented individuals who are deeply committed and passionate about the well being of immigrants around the world. I am thankful for the opportunity to share what we are doing in Los Angeles and I look forward to learning from others,” stated Ms. Salas.

Angelica  will be attending the first IAC meeting from April 23 thru April 26 in Athens, Greece. The 2009 GFMD will be hosted in Athens by the Greek Ministry of Interior on the 4th and 5th of November.

Congratuations, Angelica!

FIRM Spotlight: Voces de la Frontera’s Christine Neumann-Ortiz


Celina from Feministing recently interviewed Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of FIRM’s partner group, Voces de la Frontera. She gives a great overview of the current immigration debate and what immigrant rights mean to everyday folks. Here’s an excerpt:

On an everyday level, what do immigrant rights mean? And how do immigrant rights affect Americans who are not recent immigrants?
On an everyday level, immigrant rights means the right to be free of fear. Fear that at any moment you can be picked up and be separated from your family; the sense that everything you have worked for is fragile. Having to live with the fear of traveling within the U.S. and being stopped by police and questioned about your status, fear of not having identification that is so necessary in everyday life, the fear of crossing the border to be reunited with your family because of the danger if you try to come back. Fear of approaching the police if you are the victim of a crime. Fear of jail. Fear of hunger. The anguish of having to make the choice between seeing your family, in many cases your children or your aging parents, or sending them money to help them survive.

Immigrant rights affects all workers because historically, we have only raised the quality of life for working people in the U.S. by organizing across ethnic, racial, and gender lines. Immigrant workers are one segment of low-income workers in this country. If we are going to turn low-income industries into living wage industries immigrant workers have to be organized and the threat of deportation is a powerful weapon that employers use to threaten workers.

The full interview is definitely worth the read. Hat-tip to Celina at Feministing for featuring Christine, who is doing such amazing work in Wisconsin!