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Letter No. 55: Immigration reform now!

Felicia Persaud | 12/5/2013, 11:56 a.m.
Felicia Persaud

Dear Mr. President,

Whether or not you agree with the history we were taught of Thanksgiving in the United States, one cannot argue with the concept of giving thanks. So this Thanksgiving, I hope you would permit me to induct some stellar young immigrant activists into my new “Immigration Reform Hall of Fame” for their passion and vigor that has definitely kept the most divisive issue, immigration reform, on the front burner this year, despite the stubbornness and venom held by many on the right.

The first inductee I’d like to laud is Javier Contreras, a 17-year-old student from Ann Arbor, Mich. Contreras was brought to the U.S. from Mexico by his father when he was 4 years old and is now one of the DREAMers in Michigan keeping up the fight for immigration reform.

My next inductees have to be Carmen Lima, 13, and Jennifer Martinez, 16. These teens did what many lawmakers and seasoned activists should do more often: confront House Speaker John Boehner at breakfast. Lima and Martinez were bold enough to interrupt the speaker’s breakfast at a diner to tell him that their families had been separated by the broken immigration system.

We also induct Lizbeth Mateo, Marco Saavedra and Lulu Martinez for being brave enough to re-enter their hometown of Mexico in protest of the 1.7 million or 1,100 deportees daily. They now face a ban from returning to the U.S., but their courage in the face of adversity and selflessness for others should be lauded, not denounced.

And how can we not induct Ju Hong? Yes, he rudely interrupted your speech in San Francisco on Monday, Nov. 25, but it is because of the personal pain he has endured. Hong, 24, came to the United States from South Korea when he was 11 and has been separated from his family for the past 19 months. Imagine if you were in his shoes. Wouldn’t you try to move heaven and earth and, yes, heckle, to get some oil to soothe your pain?

As the old adage goes, “Who feels it knows it,” and so it is with these inductees. I hope God gives them the strength to keep it up as they turn their test into their testimony and hopefully reap the victory for the many more millions afraid to speak up because of their status. Now I trust the voters in the districts of Reps. Michael Conaway, David Valado, Pete Olson and Steve King will push them to lobby Boehner to bring immigration reform to a vote or several votes sooner than later.

But for now, we can only trust Boehner’s words. “Is immigration reform dead? Absolutely not,” the Ohio Republican said at a news conference recently. “I have made clear, going back to the day after the last election in 2012, that it was time for Congress to deal with this issue. I believe that Congress needs to deal with this issue.”

And so we have hope as well this Thanksgiving! Maybe next year Boehner too will make the Immigration Reform Hall Of Fame and not Shame.

Respectfully,

Felicia Persaud

The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands News Americas Now, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now.