I know yesterday's unveiling of the Senate immigration bill was just the first step on the road to immigration reform. "Don't count your chickens before they hatch", "don't put the cart before the horse", or insert your favorite idiom about avoiding premature celebration. Nevertheless it's important to recognize the efforts of the incredible immigration advocates that have dedicated themselves to this cause and carried us this close to sweeping immigration reform legislation. I have had the pleasure of speaking with only some (but not all) of these heroes, but their names are ubiquitous and their impact transcendent.
Jose Antonio Vargas
Jose is an award-winning journalist and founder of Define American, a powerful campaign that raises awareness around immigration issues. His 2011 New York Times essay revealed his status as "undocumented" and drove national recognition of the issues facing the undocumented community. His incredibly powerful testimony at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in February 2013 further elevated the discussion as officials in D.C. worked on an immigration bill. His reaction to the bill revealed yesterday: "This is not a perfect bill, but I am optimistic."
Gaby has been vocal about her undocumented status since high school and an inspiration for the community ever since. In 2010, along with three friends, she walked 1,500 miles from Miami to D.C. to make a powerful statement to President Obama about separations and deportations that were tearing apart families. She also played an important role in fighting for Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The latest bill has given her a "renewed sense of hope."
Lorella is the Director of Advocacy & Policy for United We Dream. Originally from Peru, Lorella is a longtime fighter for human rights as she originally advocated for anti-bullying actions before coming out as "undocumented." Like Gaby, Lorella played a pivotal role in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals efforts as the co-lead for United We Dream's national campaign.
When your scholarship is taken away, financial aid is denied, and your family is detained all because of your undocumented status, you can become disillusioned and unable to recover or you can rise up fearlessly. Erika chose the latter. She is co-founder of DRM Action Coalition, an influential immigrants rights group, and works as an aid to Representative Kyrsten Sinema (D, Arizona). As a fearless relentless leader who knows the next few months will be a battle, her reaction to the latest bill was simple: "Let the fight begin."
Prerna is the founder of DreamActivist, a powerful network of undocumented youth leveraging digital assets to increase awareness around their well-crafted message. Born in Fiji and of Indian descent, she is an aspiring immigration lawyer and serves on the board of Immigration Equality. Among other issues, she fights tirelessly against deportations, including her own. She sums up the immigration bill beautifully with her Good, Bad, and Ugly article.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Mayor Bloomberg needs no introduction but many are unaware of his contributions to the immigration movement. He is a vocal supporter of immigration reform and formed the Partnership for a New American Economy with News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch. He understands the economic and cultural contributions made by the immigrant community and has been an influential voice in rallying other top business leaders to support the cause.
Case co-founded AOL and could have chosen to focus his efforts exclusively on building Revolution, his venture capital firm. Instead, Case is the leading technology pioneer advocating for immigration reform. What's more important is that Case is pushing for family reunification and reform for unskilled workers in addition to the startup visas and high-skilled visas that many others in the technology community support. Like Vargas, Case provided a powerful testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 2013 that highlighted the importance of this issue to other business leaders.
Please join us in thanking these leaders. While LexSpot's focus is on improving access to immigration legal services, we know how critical overhauling our broken immigration system is as a first step. We'll all look back decades from now and appreciate their role in improving the socioeconomic fabric of our country.