Ohio faith leaders and members of the immigrant community rallied Thursday evening at The Square @ Union Centre to call on House Speaker John Boehner to “Do the Right Thing” on immigration reform.
Organized by Communities United For Citizenship, Ohio Prophetic Voices, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, UFCW 75, Cincinnati Workers Center and other community organizations, the more than hour-long event drew more than 80 people to the venue at 9285 Centre Point Drive.
“There’s room at the table in our nation for immigrants to be welcomed in our community,” said the Reverend Troy Jackson, director of Ohio Prophetic Voices and The AMOS Project. “There’s room for Speaker Boehner and his staff to join us in coming up with solutions of love and justice and welcome for the 11 million undocumented in our land.”
The groups invited Boehner’s office to attend the rally but didn’t hear back from staffers by the time of the event, Jackson said. A father and his daughter who stopped by Boehner’s West Chester Twp. office with balloons and messages from immigrant families Thursday were welcomed in after about 20 minutes and invited Boehner and his staff to take action, he said.
“As he has said many times, Congressman Boehner believes step-by-step reform is important, but it won’t happen until the president builds trust and demonstrates a commitment to the rule of law,” Boehner spokewoman Kara Hauck said Friday.
Hauck pointed to comments Boehner made recently on the matter during a recent TV interview: “Every time the President ignores the law, like the 38 times he has on Obamacare, our members look up and go, ‘Wait a minute: You can’t have immigration reform without strong border security and internal enforcement. How can we trust the President to actually obey the law and enforce the law that we would write?’”
While an immigration reform bill was passed by the U.S. Senate last June, immigration reform advocates are still still waiting for the House to take action, Jackson said.
“We believe that the moral and the intellectual argument has been won, that most Americans are desiring comprehensive immigration reform, a legalization pathway and even a pathway to citizenship for those who are willing to obey the laws and go through a long process,” he said. “The nation’s already there, we’re just waiting for our politicians to catch up with the people.”
“Every day that he’s waiting … every day that immigration’s not passed, more families are separated,” Fabiola Arce of the Intercommunity Justice & Peace Center told the crowd. “The children are put into foster care and I just don’t understand how they can break up families like that when they have hard-working parents here.”
Arce, a Xavier University graduate and teacher at DePaul Cristo Rey High School in Cincinnati, said she’s met students who have been held back a year because of the constant fear that comes with having a parent deported.
“Those who are undocumented never have the hope or don’t even try at school because they say ‘For what? What’s the point?’” Arce said. “There’s no scholarships out there and even if you make it through your four years of college, what are you going to do after you graduate?”
Don Sherman, a volunteer at Su Casa Hispanic Center in Cincinnati, said he attended the rally to show his support of immigration reform.
“They face the possibility of deportation and the inability to get jobs to match what they can actually do,” said Sherman. “They’re just trying to survive here. We have to recognize that many of these people have been here 10 to 15 years, have children that are (part of a) mixed family. Many children are U.S. citizens, others might not be … but they’re here and they’re working on contributing.”