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Clergy, DREAMers and Community Leaders: The Time for Citizenship is Now

PICO National Network

January 18, 2013


January 17, 2013

CONTACT: Meredith MacKenzie, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications: (202) 265-3000 (o), (202) 427-2007,(c) meredith@rabinowitz-dorf.com

Clergy, DREAMers and Community Leaders: The Time for Citizenship is Now

“Separated Families Supper Table” marks launch of PICO National Network’s Campaign for Citizenship

WASHINGTON—Today, faith leaders from across the country joined with DREAMers and other community leaders to call on Congress to make citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans the focus of any bill to create a new immigration process in our country. The Campaign for Citizenship, a project of PICO National Network, launched with the “Separated Families Supper Table,” a representation of what dinner time is like for millions of American families who are separated from their loved ones because of the nation’s broken immigration policy.

“When Americans sit down for dinner tonight, millions of chairs will be left empty because too many families have been torn apart by our broken immigration system,” said Gordon Whitman, Policy Director for PICO National Network. “While we are encouraged that President Obama has made new immigration legislation a priority, for millions of families legislation will be worthless unless it contains a clear, fair and just roadmap to citizenship. Two-thirds of aspiring Americans have lived in the U.S. for more than ten years – they are our neighbors, friends, and they worship in our faith communities. It’s time to create an immigration process that values their American dream.”

The Campaign for Citizenship represents Americans of faith who believe that full citizenship rights for 11 million aspiring Americans is the only moral response to our broken patchwork of immigration laws that is consistent with the American values of freedom, fairness and family.

The Separated Families Supper Table brought together clergy, community leaders and immigrant Americans from across the United States to share their stories of separation and loss as a result of immigration policy. The table was surrounded by members of the Campaign for Citizenship holding rally signs demanding a roadmap to citizenship. Several of the seats were left empty representing the millions who have been left behind, deported or detained.

“It’s been a year and a half since I’ve seen my brothers,” said Alejandra Gomez. “For them, I came to Washington, for them I left my children behind in New Mexico for the weekend, so that I can make a difference for others like me who have been separated from their loved ones. Congress must hear our voices and write a bill that focuses on citizenship because my family should be together again.

Seated at the table were: Lucas Da Silva an aspiring American who was unable to attend his father’s funeral because of his status; Fr. Jesús Nieto-Ruiz, a Roman Catholic priest and pastor of St. Anthony’s Parish in Oakland, California who spoke about one of his parishioners; and Alejandra Gomez, a DREAMer who has had two brothers deported. Each of these members of the campaign shared their personal stories of separation and harm as a result of the nation’s broken immigration laws and called on Congress to make the moral and just choice for citizenship.

"There are millions of families—like mine—who will sit tonight at a dinner table with missing brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers and that’s why I plan to spend this year working for a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring Americans, who also just like me, are ready to take on the responsibilities, privileges and freedoms of citizenship," said Da Silva.

“Any roadmap to citizenship must include the reunification of families torn apart by our immigration laws,” said Nieto-Ruiz. “The family is a pillar that sustains our community and when that pillar is weakened by injustice, our society suffers as well. As we create a process for citizenship, we must restore families to each other, reconstructing the building blocks of our society.”

Fr. Richard Smith, pastor of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco hosted the supper and acted as the emcee. Pastor Errol G. Thompson, pastor of New Life Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Orlando, Florida offered the opening and closing blessings.

“My heart has been broken too many times by families in my community. We are all made in God’s image, we are all valuable, especially to our families,” said Smith. “It is time to do what is right and what is just. It’s time for these separations to stop.”

“My prayer is that we can make this nation a place where all persons, regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, country of origin or immigration status, are welcomed and granted the same freedom to achieve the American dream,” said Thompson. “Creating an immigration process is a great place to start.”


PICO National Network is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. PICO works with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through its 60 local and state federations. PICO and its federations are non-partisan and do not endorse or support candidates for office. PICO urges people of faith to consult their faith traditions for guidance on specific policies and legislation. Learn more at www.piconetwork.org.