Transcript of House Democrats, Immigration Advocates Press Event Announcing #DemandAVote Petition on Immigration Reform

Mar 26, 2014
Press Release

Contact: Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C – House Democrats were joined by immigration leaders and advocates at a press event today on the steps of the Capitol announcing a #DemandAVote discharge petition.  At the event, Members of Congress and immigration advocates called on Speaker Boehner and the House Republican Conference to bring up H.R. 15 – the bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill with 200 co-sponsors, including three Republicans.  House Democrats then proceeded to the House floor to sign the #DemandAVote petition.  Below is a transcript of the event:

Chairman Becerra.  Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, right? 

[Laughter]

On a great spring day we are gathering.  My name is Xavier Becerra.  I am the proud Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, joined by the House Democratic Leadership and many of my colleagues, and many of the people throughout this country who are championing immigration reform for our country now. 

I want to make a quick mention of Suzan DelBene, our colleague who was one of the principal sponsors of H.R. 15.  She would have been here today with us, but she had to be back home.  She asked if we could mention that she is back in the state of Washington with so many families who are trying to help all those that were impacted by the mudslides of last Saturday.  And we wish her well, as we wish all the families in Washington state well, as they move forward to take care of our fellow Americans.

We’re here for a purpose.  It’s been 273 days since our colleagues in the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform.  Every single day, about a thousand people are separated from their families and are deported from our country.  Two hundred and seventy-three days that the Republican Leadership here in the House has done nothing – that’s some 273,000 people who have been separated and deported from their families.  It is time for us to act.  It is time for us to act now. 

While this House, under Republican leadership, has found it possible in those same number of days to vote over 50 times to repeal our new health security law or to dismantle it, they have not allowed us one single vote – zero votes – on a common-sense fix to our broken immigration system.  So we are here to say:  the time is now.  We cannot continue to be out of touch with America, my Republican colleagues.  It is time for you to put country before party.  It is time for us to have a vote. 

[Applause]

And that is why, today, House Democrats are launching on our website: dems.gov/thetimeisnow. 

The time is now for a vote to fix this system.  Because we know the votes exist now to pass comprehensive immigration reform in this House.  So it is time for us to do it.  Let us not be so out of touch, my Republican colleagues.  Let us fix this broken immigration system, so that no more people for no more days continue to be separated from their families.  The time is now.

Let me now introduce someone who has worked so hard to communicate throughout our country on the work of so many good people in this country, and that is someone we know so very well: America Ferrera. 

[Applause]

America Ferrera.  Thank you, Chairman Becerra.  Good morning.  My name is America Ferrera.  I am a proud daughter of immigrants.   And I am here on behalf of all Americans who are tired of the House of Representatives and its leaders’ refusal to act.  As a first generation American, I am raising my voice to join the millions of Americans demanding a vote on comprehensive immigration reform. 

We are demanding a vote for the young DREAMers fighting for the right to a future in the only country they have ever called home.  We are demanding a vote for the 11 million people forced to live in the shadows, who are often exploited while they work some of the most back-breaking jobs that support this nation – from building our homes, schools and communities, to caring for our children and harvesting our food – all as they struggle to feed their own families.  We are demanding a vote on an immigration system that respects our history and our contributions as Americans.

Like many generations before us, we are the children of those who crossed oceans and deserts to reach this land of opportunity.  House leadership: every day that you refuse to act is another day that 1,100 families are torn apart by senseless deportations.  So we are here demanding a vote for the families dreading that knock on the door, hoping and praying that they will not be one of the 1,100 today. 

Right now, today, the votes exist in the House to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship.  Thirty-four House Republicans have already declared their support for immigration reform – more than the required number of signatures to force a vote.  We will not accept your excuses for delay.  It is not enough to simply declare your support for immigration reform.  It is time for those 34 House Republicans to act on their word by forcing a vote on reform.  The time is now. 

[Applause]

And now, I want to turn it over to Congresswoman Judy Chu of California.

[Applause]

Congresswoman Chu.  Thank you, America. 

We’re here this morning for Fely, a mother who left her kids behind in the Philippines to find work here, and has been waiting for 17 years for the kids to be allowed over, and was just told that it would take four more years.  We’re here for Maria, an American citizen whose husband – if deported back to Mexico – would devastate them and their three kids emotionally and financially.  Were here for William, whose mother in Ireland passed away, but could only watch the funeral through his cell phone because he has no path to citizenship. 

Those who are affected by our broken immigration system look like America.  And the ideals that built America are the principles that are in immigration reform.  We want the best and the brightest to contribute to our society, and helping DREAMers stay in the only country they’ve called home will do that.  We value the role that family plays in our lives, which is why this bill keeps them together. 

We’re done waiting.  Now, with this petition, we are saying: put a bill on the floor for a vote.  This is a Hispanic issue and an Asian issue.  It is a black issue and white issue.  Most importantly, it is an American issue.

[Applause]

The time is now to pass immigration reform.  And now, I would like to turn the podium over to Reverend Randy Mayer of Sahuarita, Arizona.

[Applause]

Reverend Mayer.  I’m here in our nation’s capital with a group of faith leaders to share our core values – the core values of our faith traditions – that include: to take care of the stranger; that we are all God’s children; and that all God’s children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  All of us – citizens and immigrants alike – are brothers and sisters.  But sadly, the 15 million people who call the southern border home have had to endure decades and decades of abuse, contempt, and injustice – bred by our outdated enforcement strategies that have excessively militarized our communities. 

That has eroded the trust between civil society and federal law enforcement.  Our nation, our great nation, has the moral obligation to uphold the unity of families and protect the sacredness of all life.  But border communities pay an exorbitant price as a result of our unjust immigration system.  Border residents – immigrants and citizens alike – deserve to live in peace, without fear – without fear of the excessive force that so often fills our community with misery and grief.  

And so we urge our congressional leaders to put their differences aside, to come to together and help our nation heal from the injustices perpetuated by our immigration system.  Because the time is now to end the tearing apart of families, halt the deportations, and hold U.S. Border Patrol agents accountable for their actions. 

And so we pray.  We pray that these stone hearts will be softened, that eyes might see and ears might hear so that these United States are allowed to live up to our pledge of being “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

[Applause]

And now I welcome Representative Steven Horsford of Nevada.

[Applause]

Congressman Horsford. Thank you, Reverend.  It’s good to be here with Leader Pelosi, Chairman Becerra, and all of my colleagues.

Last week, in Nevada, I heard from Brian Rivera – a U.S. Citizen – who came to speak at our ad hoc hearing on deportation, detention and immigration.  And I told him that I would bring his story to Washington.  Brian’s mom, Thelma, came to the United States at age 25.  She is undocumented, but has never been in trouble.  But her life has been difficult.  Her husband abused her while she was pregnant with Brian.  Brian told us: “My father has terrorized my mother’s life.”  Thankfully, Thelma left her husband and worked two jobs to support her son. 

But Brian’s father recently reentered his life and turned his mother in to the authorities, because she demanded he pay child support.  He told Brian: “Remember: your mother is an illegal immigrant, and I can get rid of her.”  And that’s just what he did.  Because of a broken immigration system, Brian’s mom was detained.  Thelma, a victim of domestic violence, became the victim of a broken system.  She was detained at the hands of her abuser.  That is perverse.  It is disgusting.  And it’s why we need reform – not only for DREAMers, but for their parents.  So, Speaker Boehner, we’re here to demand a vote on H.R. 15.

[Applause]

We move forward with the discharge petition because one person should not stand in the way of the will of the American people.  We have the votes – we just need a vote.  And today, we demand a vote.  We hear from Republicans that they are the party of family values.  Yet they are complicit in separating mothers and fathers from their children.  Last Tuesday, we were able to reunite Brian with his mother, thanks to the help of my friends Congressman Gutierrez and Congressman Hinojosa.  But they are just one story.  And the only way to help everyone is to pass immigration reform now.

[Applause]

There is no excuse.  And now, every House Republican has a choice: either side with families and sign the discharge petition, or do nothing and be a co-conspirator in tearing families apart.  These families need to be on a pathway to citizenship together, not at a fork at the end of the road that separates them.  The only way we can do this is by passing reform now. 

I’d like to introduce my friend, Congressman Garcia.

[Applause]

Congressman Garcia.  If my colleagues will indulge me, I just want to say few words in Spanish.  Because with this cold, I don’t think I can continue in Spanish.

[Laughter]

¡El momento es ahora!  Les dimos nueve meses y nada.  En Senado paso la ley, y sin embargo, aquí no se mueve.  Y en ese tiempo, miles de familias han sido víctimas.  Y nuestro país es menos productivo, y al sueño Americano ha dañado.  Nuestra nación ha sido dañada. 

Ha llegado el momento para actuar – este es el momento para que nuestra nación tome un paso hacia adelante. 

I’m going to say a few words in English.  I’d like to thank my colleagues for joining me here today, and I am going to edit my speech because we may freeze to death.

[Laughter]

For nine months – nine months – we’ve waited.  We’ve given them time.  We’ve heard their phony excuses.  We’ve braved the weather.

[Laughter]

And yet, here we sit waiting.  The time has come to act.  We need Speaker Boehner to put this to a vote on the floor.  We’ve got the votes.  We’ve got the law.  This is not a perfect bill, but it’s a bill we’ve crafted using all the work that’s been put in together.

My friend, Luis Gutierrez, and the Hispanic Caucus have diligently reached out to the other side.  Our Leader has worked with us.  All the different communities on the spectrum are for this bill.  I know that, in my years working around the Hill, I’ve never seen any bill that had such cross support – from the Chamber of Commerce, to the unions – across the spectrum.  The time has come to pass immigration reform.  We ask the Speaker – we demand the Speaker – to bring it to the floor.

[Applause]

We’re going to go upstairs and we’re going to sign – we’re going to thaw out, and then we’re going to sign the discharge petition.

[Applause]

Crowd.  We want a vote!

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