Pittsburgh– Following the announcement that the “Gang of Eight” has reached a deal on an immigration bill, labor, business, immigrant, faith, community groups today gathered to celebrate the passage of a City Council resolution for federal immigration reform.
“We are at a critical moment in the fight for commonsense immigration reform. The Senate could have an immigration bill as early as tomorrow. We are here today to encourage City Council to keep the momentum going by passing a resolution in support of commonsense immigration reform with a path to citizenship,” said Hermaine Delaney, director of 32BJ SEIU, Western PA.
Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak led the charge for the resolution which urges Congress to support immigration reform, “…that establishes a clear, fast, and reasonable pathway to citizenship, keeps families together, upholds our values as a nation, promotes economic growth, and creates a fair immigration system guided by respect for the human rights of all persons.”
While Pittsburgh’s immigrant population is growing, the city’s foreign-born population lags behind many other major American cities. Immigrants in the U.S. are responsible for $700 billion in economic activity each year, prompting numerous city governments to support federal immigration reform that will allow immigrants to continue growing the economy.
“Immigrant students have few job opportunities in the city due to current work policies for immigrants. Visas are restricted, or inaccessible and consequently the city of Pittsburgh is loosing brilliant minds,” said Pedro Lichtle of Latino Graduate Student Association of CMU.
“Although Pittsburgh has great universities such as Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, and people come here to study from all over the world it is impossible to retain the students after graduation.”
Immigrant Maria Antonio shared the heartbreaking story of her husband currently facing the prospect of deportation.
“Last Wednesday, immigration agents came to my house. They banged on my door at 7:00am and asked for my husband. They said they were looking to take him away because they said he is ‘illegal’,” said Antonio. “Now we live in fear every day knowing that my husband may be leaving the country and I’ll be left to care for my children by myself. We desperately need immigration reform now so that they don’t break up my family.”
Faith and community groups reminded the crowd that more than 11 million immigrants – a population the size of the state of Ohio – live and work in the U.S. without benefit of immigration status, labor protections, civil rights, and political enfranchisement.
“Immigration reform is a matter of economic justice. Our current system is broken, expensive and the only winners are corporations and private prisons. It’s time we put a policy in place that doesn’t create second-class workers while bringing the rest of us down with it,” said Hannah Williams of One Pittsburgh.
“We have a duty as Americans and as people of faith to stand up for those who are suffering because of our broken immigration system. As Americans, we believe that all men and women are created equal. We believe that all people should be treated fairly, no matter the color of their skin or the country of their birth,” said Reverend Freeman of PA Interfaith Impact Network.
On Wednesday, as immigration reform supporters packed the Council chambers, large-scale immigration reform actions took place across the country, including a rally with tens of thousands of people in Washington, D.C.
Press Conference Speakers:
Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak
Councilman Bill Peduto
Maria Antonio, immigrant whose husband currently faces deportation
Hermaine Delaney, WPA Director, 32BJ SEIU
Rev. Freeman, PA Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN)
Pedro Lichtle, Latino Graduate Student Association of CMU
Hannah Williams, One Pittsburgh
Jovenes Sin Nombre
PATH to Justice Religious Sisters
American Friends Service Committee PA
ACLU of Pennsylvania
WHEREAS, the City of Pittsburgh has always been proud of its immigrant history, providing the backbone of industry and manufacturing and making Pittsburgh vital to the progress of the United States; and
WHEREAS, immigrants from all over the world have been a significant portion of Pittsburgh’s growth over the past decade, bringing new life and investment to our City’s neighborhoods, educational systems, and commercial endeavors; and
WHEREAS, each day thousands of immigrants work, own homes, open businesses, and contribute to the economic, social, and cultural well-being of the City; and
WHEREAS, above all, we believe in the human dignity of all Pittsburgh residents; and
WHEREAS, our country’s immigration system is fundamentally broken, holding back our economy and fostering a sense of divisiveness and fear in communities throughout America; and
WHEREAS, the City of Pittsburgh recognizes that immigration reform must protect the rights of all workers and families and provide sufficient channels for migration in the future; and
WHEREAS, the creation of a pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans would improve wages and working standards for all workers by giving immigrant workers a voice in the workplace and halting employers who take advantage of failed immigration policies to exploit employees; and
WHEREAS, the City of Pittsburgh recognizes the hopes of millions of immigrants to reunify their families and, as Pittsburghers have always held the core values of family and hard work, we recognize the dreams of young immigrants to get a quality education and contribute to our communities; and
WHEREAS, immigration reform is an urgent federal responsibility and must occur in a comprehensive, thoughtful manner guided by our nation’s values of due process, civil and human rights, accountability, and proportionality.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Council of the City of Pittsburgh hereby urges the 113th Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform as outlined in this resolution that establishes a clear, fast, and reasonable pathway to citizenship, keeps families together, upholds our values as a nation, promotes economic growth, and creates a fair immigration system guided by respect for the human rights of all persons; and
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution shall be delivered to the United States Speaker of the House and President of the Senate, members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
SPONSORED BY COUNCILWOMAN NATALIA RUDIAK
CO-SPONSORED BY COUNCIL PRESIDENT DARLENE M. HARRIS AND
COUNCILMEMBERS REV. RICKY V. BURGESS, PATRICK DOWD, BRUCE A. KRAUS, R. DANIEL LAVELLE, COREY O’CONNOR, WILLIAM PEDUTO, AND THERESA KAIL-SMITH
32BJ is one of the largest unions in the country representing immigrant workers from over 60 countries. With 125,000 members in seven states and Washington, D.C., including 20,000 in Pennsylvania, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.