Who Will Speak Up for Melanie?
By: Mary Olivella, MomsRising.org
About two years ago, the organization I work for, MomsRising.org, was honored to be a part of a women’s delegation to Georgia to bear witness to human rights violations in the name of immigration law enforcement. The state had just passed a harsh anti-immigrant law that allows for police to verify the immigrant status of anyone and induces steep penalties and jail sentences to undocumented immigrants and anyone who “harbors” them.
It was there that we met Melanie, an 8-year-old U.S. citizen born to undocumented immigrant parents.+
Melanie is a star student and Girl Scout. Her mother bravely spoke about the fallout of Georgia’s new law and its impact on families. Melanie clung to her mother and cried while her mother told us how difficult it was when she had to tell Melanie that they might be forced to move back to Mexico if Georgia passed the law. Melanie's mother also proudly told us that Melanie took it upon herself to write to the governor there:
“I want to tell you something special, to not sign the law, because I don’t want to leave my school and this country.” -- Melanie, 8
Sadly, Melanie’s story is not unique. There are approximately 5 million children in our nation who live in fear of being separated from their parents and forced to leave the only country that they have ever known. Children who are immigrants themselves, and U.S. citizen children with immigrant parents face high rates of family separation, emotional trauma, poor educational outcomes and economic instability.
We cannot allow children to suffer any more due to our broken immigration system. Not only is it not reflective of our values as a country, but it costs us money, too.
Immigrant families are an important part of our economy. Over the last 15 years, immigrants have increased the rate by which they start businesses by more than 50 percent, and undocumented immigrants contributed more than $11 billion to our economy in 2010 alone. More than half of immigrants in the United States are women. Many are mothers like you and me, working hard, volunteering in our children's schools and communities and doing all that we can to ensure that our loved ones have the best possible future. Immigrant families are woven in the fabric of our communities.
But right now, too many families and businesses in the United States are suffering because we lack a fair, modernized roadmap to citizenship for aspiring citizens – something the majority of Americans favor.
The clock is ticking for our families and for our economy. It is time for Congress to roll up its sleeves and tackle comprehensive immigration reform. There are 5 million good reasons to do this. Will you join us and speak up for children like Melanie across our country?
Mary Olivella is the Chief Strategy Officer of MomsRising.org, a national organization with more than a million members advocating for family economic security.
Sign LULAC's "I Voted for Immigration Reform" Campaign to send your Member of Congress a postcard that demands comprehensive immigraton reform at LULAC.org/CIR2013.