On Jan. 17, faith leaders, DREAMers, and community leaders from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., to launch a new Campaign for Citizenship — an effort to pressure Congress to enact reform that prioritizes citizenship.
The Campaign for Citizenship, a project of PICO National Network, invited our country’s leaders to gather and view the “Separated Families Supper Table.” At the table gathered DREAMers and clergy next to empty seats representing the millions of homes around the country experiencing family separation as a result of our broken immigration system.
As each member at the table spoke, they expressed how every day, families like theirs have to sit at their dinner tables and try to cope with the fact that a family member is missing. They have to live in constant worry for their family member’s safety and well-being in a distant land that is oftentimes unfamiliar to them. Families are experiencing real loneliness and grief.
Lucas da Silva, an aspiring American from Florida has to live with the regret of not being by his father’s bedside when he passed away. He didn’t get to say goodbye or express his love to his father before his death. As he shared his story, he said he’s constantly haunted by the images of his father being on a hospital bed with no family.
“Families should be allowed to bury their loved ones. My father died alone,” da Silva said through tears.
The stories shared at the event were only a few of the infinite number that exist in our communities, workplaces, and schools where immigrants are integrated. They were vivid examples of the dilemmas our current enforcement policies create when no feasible system is set in place.
“As people of faith, the only solution to our harmful immigration policy that recognizes the inherent dignity and rights of all human persons is full citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans who work in our communities, raise their children alongside ours, and worship with us,” said the Rev. Richard Smith. “Those missing from this family meal have been separated from their family members because our government has failed to act on citizenship. Now that President Obama has made a new immigration process his top priority, people of faith demand citizenship for American families.”
Ivone Guillen is Sojourners' Immigration Campaigns and Communications Associate.