Leading Civil Rights Groups Say Bold Executive Action on Immigration Will Benefit Every Community

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, 16 civil rights groups representing a diverse coalition of communities joined together to support President Obama’s decision to use an executive order to address immigration. The president’s pending executive action is expected to provide millions of aspiring Americans from all walks of life with relief from unnecessary deportations.

National leaders from groups including Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Define American, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mi Familia Vota, MomsRising, the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Action Network, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), the National Urban League, NCLR (National Council of La Raza), Rock the Vote and Voto Latino united behind the upcoming executive order, noting that every community has been affected by the nation’s chaotic broken immigration system and stands to benefit from a bold action from the president.

“The NAACP strongly supports the rights of immigrants and has called for comprehensive immigration reform for decades. We applaud President Obama for using his executive power to begin the process of fixing our nation’s broken immigration system. The depth of the need for this type of decisive action by the president is also matched by the diversity of the problem. We believe that it is crucial to provide documentation for millions of immigrants that live in our country and contribute to our society,” said Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of the NAACP. “From Haiti to Honduras, from Senegal to St. Croix, family members hoping to reunite with loved ones and refugees working to build a new life in the United States deserve our attention. The NAACP remains committed to advocating on behalf of Americans and those seeking legal citizenship to establish an immigration system that protects all U.S. workers and guarantees the safety and security of our nation without compromising fundamental civil rights, human rights and civil liberties. This executive order is a critical step on the road to comprehensive immigration reform.”

“The faces and stories of Asian immigrants are often left out of the national immigration conversation, but Asian American families face similar hardships caused by our broken immigration system as other immigrant groups,” said Mee Moua, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice |  AAJC. “Nearly 1.3 million Asian Americans are undocumented. More than 250,000 Asian Americans have been deported in the past six years; many are refugees. More than 1.8 million people from Asian countries are waiting decades for a family-sponsored visa to join with loved ones in the United States. The president can provide us temporary relief and we call on him to do what Congress has failed to do: keep families together.”

“I’ve been pledging allegiance since middle school to an American flag and government that have yet to recognize me, possibly until this very day,” said Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, filmmaker (“Documented”) and founder of Define American. “While this step to ensure we can live with less fear is wonderful, the real shift cannot happen with any piece of legislation—it must come from a shift in culture. It must come from responsible journalism and a change in the way we view immigrants as a nation.”

“Millions of undocumented immigrants who have been waiting in perpetual fear for far too long will finally have relief thanks to the strong leadership of President Obama,” said Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign. “Administrative relief from deportation for thousands of LGBT people who want nothing more than pursuing happiness and living openly, honestly and without fear of deportation is an important interim step. It’s now up to Congress to do its job and pass comprehensive, lasting immigration reforms.”

“We applaud President Obama’s decision to provide immigration relief. For too long, undocumented immigrants have suffered wage theft, sexual harassment, death and injury on the job because unscrupulous employers use their legal status to exploit them,” said Hector E. Sanchez, Executive Director of LCLAA and Chair of NHLA. “This historic announcement could give millions of undocumented Latinos a voice on the job and a life without the fear of deportation. While this executive order will not fix our broken immigration system, it is the right response from the president until Congress acts on a sensible permanent solution.”

“Immigration reform is a defining civil and human rights issue of our time and it is crystal clear that this is not only a Latino issue: Immigration reform is an American issue. We applaud the President’s willingness to act where Congress has failed us all.  We stand behind this decision to help build a nation that’s as good as its ideals,” said Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“With these provisions, the president has used his executive authority for administrative relief. The president has changed the lives of millions of people,” said Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director, LULAC. “Students can go to school without fear that their parents will be deported and parents can go to work without fear of being separated from their families. More young people will be allowed to work legally and contribute to the only country they know as home. By taking executive action, the president has answered the will of the American people.  Today’s executive order not only does right by the families of countless Latinos, it will also serve to benefit our economy.”

“President Ronald Reagan saw the value of immigrants and gave me a chance to become the proud citizen of the United States that I am today,” said Ben Monterroso, Executive Director of Mi Familia Vota. “I stand before you as someone who did not give up hope, and I don’t want you to give up hope. We will continue fighting, with all our might, in the halls of Congress and at the election polls until we get a Congress that will fight for us. Don’t give up hope and don’t give up the fight. This is our first historic step in the march toward immigration reform.”

“Fixing immigration is not an option—it is a necessity. The United States has richly benefited from the influence and industry of immigrants across the globe who dared to dream of a better life within its borders. Now, President Obama has shown the courage to address the throbbing issue of immigration reform responsibly and surgically. By doing so, he will preserve the sanctity of family and invest in our economy. President Obama’s courageous step forward on immigration reform paves the way for a more just economic system that will help various marginalized communities, including African Americans, find their footing in the American economy and in American society,” Janai S. Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

“The executive action by the president is a huge step forward for the civil and human rights movement that wants to see people treated in a humane but thought-out manner. This is a constructive way to deal with a human problem in which everyone wins. The president had no choice but to do what Congress has failed to do and that is to move forward on this issue,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, President, National Action Network.

“The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Black Women’s Roundtable Public Policy Network (BWR) stand united with these organizations in urging President Obama to take immediate action on immigration. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the American thing to do,” said Melanie L. Campbell, President and CEO, NCBCP, and convener, BWR. “For those of you who don’t think immigration impacts the African American community, think about the fact that one-fourth of the Black population in New York, Boston and Miami are foreign-born and more than three million U.S. immigrants are of African descent. Also, repairing the broken immigration system will stop enabling employers to exploit immigrant and African American workers, which will aid in the fight for jobs with livable wages.”

“As an overarching civil rights, human rights and economic empowerment issue, immigration is of great concern to the National Urban League,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League. “In the absence of congressional action to pass a bipartisan bill on immigration, we fully support President Obama’s planned—and precedented—executive order as one step toward fixing a broken system and affording millions of workers the legal protections they need to avoid exploitation and human rights violations. Immigration is an issue that impacts all of us, and while we welcome the president’s action, we implore Congress to pass comprehensive legislation that will offer American workers at every level of the workplace their rights, fair wages and full labor market mobility.”

“The array of leaders at today’s event demonstrates that there is broad support for the president to take actions to help working and often vulnerable families and communities, including on immigration,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR. “All those involved in this issue should heed this call for unity and support the president’s leadership to remedy a broken immigration system on behalf of our country. And the House Republican leadership should use this moment to at long last move forward on comprehensive immigration reform legislation.”

“Immigration reform is an American issue, and one that greatly impacts the lives of young people in our country,” said Heather Smith, Chairwoman, Rock the Vote. “The Millennial Generation is the largest, and most diverse, in our nation’s history, and fixing our broken immigration system is consistently a top issue of concern for these young voters. We are encouraged by the President’s pending executive actions, and will continue to call for comprehensive immigration reform on behalf of young Americans.”

“We recognize the significance of the president’s pending executive action on immigration reform. However, a permanent solution can only come from Congress. We call on congressional leaders to lay aside partisan differences and come together immediately to pass comprehensive reform on behalf of all Americans,” said María Teresa Kumar, President and CEO, Voto Latino.

To watch today’s press conference, click here.