March 13 2013 12:00 AM

Immigration reform advocates: Deportations are tearing families apart

Sam Inglot/City Pulse

Tuesday, Jan. 15 — Several groups who want U.S. immigration laws reformed met on the steps of the Capitol Building today as part of a national movement to call the federal government to action.  

The press conference marked the start of a national campaign to push Congress and President Barack Obama to address and change immigration laws because deportations are tearing families apart, speakers said.

Similar events were held in Grand Rapids, Detroit and Kalamazoo.

Max Anguiano, of Civil Rights for Immigration - Action for Greater Lansing, said 10,000 undocumented immigrants are deported every year from Michigan. He said there are about 110,000 undocumented immigrants in the state.

When someone gets deported, it has a harsh emotional toll on families and the community, he said.

“At Cristo Rey, it’s tough to see friends you’ve known for a long time get deported. These are tax-paying, hard-working people. They add a lot to the community,” he said.

Cristo Rey Church Pastor Fred Thelen said a family came to him last week “in tears” because one of their family members had been arrested and would likely be deported. He said there needs to be “comprehensive immigration reform” to help keep families together and to help reunite families that have been separated by deportation.

“It is unacceptable that whole populations live in the shadows of society, constantly threatened with possible separation from their families and communities,” Thelen said.

There are 100 undocumented families in the Cristo Rey Church that live in constant fear of deportation, said Mariana, a 14-year old U.S. citizen whose parents are undocumented. Her last name was withheld to protect their identities.

Congress and President Obama need to reform immigration laws to create an easier path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Anguiano said. He added that policies need to be implemented to help reunite families that have been separated from one another because of deportation.

Today’s event was organized by the Alliance for Immigrants Rights - Michigan, Ingham Immigration Coalition, Civil Rights for Immigration – Action for Greater Lansing and Cristo Rey Church.

Anguiano said the push for immigration reform will involve “direct action” with marches and town hall meetings to educate the public and draw attention to the cause. He also said there would be petitions circulating to urge Congress and President Obama to act.