Tag Archives: undocumented

Latino vote director Lorella Praeli: Dreams can come true

Good evening, my name is Lorella Praeli, and I am an American. As you saw in the video, I recently became a U.S. Citizen, but for 14 years I was undocumented. At the age of 2, I was hit by a car and lost my leg. When I think about our American story, I believe it was born in the hearts of my parents that night as they stood over my hospital bed.

Because my parents were determined that I would reach my full potential and not be limited by my disability. And eventually, the only place that could contain such a vision was here in America. Because this is a country that was made for people with the courage to believe in their dreams.

Back in Peru, my mother, Chela, was a psychologist. But here in America, she’s worked cleaning houses for the last 17 years, from morning to night, carrying the American spirit in her heart. She, like so many millions of parents across this country, worked so that my sister and I could have a full life. She has taught me to never give up, to believe in my dreams, and to fight to achieve them. In short, it was my undocumented mother that taught me what it is to be an American.

That’s why I’m fighting for Hillary Clinton. Because she never gives up. Because she believes in our dreams, and because she will fight to achieve them.

Entonces, amigos, nuestra voz está en nuestro voto. Así que, si queremos hacer historia este noviembre, si queremos que nos oigan, tomen sus teléfonos ahora mismo y texteen DREAM, D – R – E – A – M al 47246. Y asegúrense de que nadie se quede en casa el diá de la elección.

So let’s go out. Knock on doors, talk to our friends and family, register new voters, make sure that no one stays home! And together, make history this November.

Juntos se puede. Thank you, and God bless the United States of America.

Coalition backing local ID card in Milwaukee

A coalition of progressive community organizations and public officials on Oct. 5 are announcing their support for legislation creating a local identification card to be available to all people in the city of Milwaukee.

The program would be established through a city-county partnership.

Milwaukee IDs will benefit many undocumented and under-documented people, including immigrants, formerly incarcerated people, the elderly, transgender people, foster youth, homeless people and low income people.

With a Milwaukee ID, community members would be able to access city resources, open bank accounts, cash checks, obtain prescription medicine from the pharmacy, identify themselves to law enforcement and, according to a news release, “more fully participate in the life of the city.”

“In many cases, a lack of a government-issued ID is a barrier to domestic violence victims who are attempting to escape abusers,” said Tony Gibart, public policy director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. “First, court documents, such as petitions for divorce, must be notarized, and notaries usually require the presentation of a government-issued ID. Second, applications for federal immigration protections for undocumented victims of domestic violence and their children require possessing a government-issued ID. Providing the opportunity for people to easily obtain a local ID would address these problems.”

A news conference to announce the campaign was scheduled to take place at city hall at 6 p.m. on Oct. 5. Participants were to include representatives from the We Are All Milwaukee coalition for Milwaukee IDs, including Voces de la Frontera, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center.



Immigrants disappointed but not deterred by judge’s order

Immigrants expressed disappointment on Feb. 17, after a federal judge put a hold on President Barack Obama’s plan to protect more than 4 million people living illegally in the U.S. from deportation. But many said they haven’t lost hope.

A look at immigrant views of Obama’s programs:

Growing up in Guatemala, Keyla Betancurth used to watch her single mother cry at night because she could not afford to buy food for her children. Betancourt left school at 12 to work at a bakery to help. Then, at 17, she took a bigger step, paying a smuggler to get her to the U.S.

“I wanted a better future for myself and for my mom,” said the 28-year-old, who wants to apply for Obama’s program for the parents of Americans. “Now, I’m a mother, and I want the best for my kids. I don’t want my kids to suffer like I did.”

Betancurth, who has three young children, has been a farmworker in California and Iowa and, since moving to Denver three years ago, a maid. Her husband, who is from Honduras, paints houses.

For both, steady, well-paid work is difficult to find because they lack Social Security numbers. She wants to return to school to study hairdressing and, one day, open her own salon.

“My big dream is to study,” she said.


Claudia Ramon, 46, said she and her daughters did not give each other presents this past Christmas because they were saving their money to pay the application fees for Obama’s immigration program.

With the delay, the family now plans on exchanging small gifts today (Feb. 18).

“We feel powerless but not defeated, sure that it will all work out,” said Ramon, who cleans homes for a living in Houston but was a psychologist in her native Colombia.

She said she lives in fear, afraid a simple traffic ticket will take her away from her family.

She recalled an accident five years ago when a police officer asked her for her driver’s license. She told the officer that she didn’t have it and that she had been on her way to take her daughter Isabella, who has Down syndrome, to physical therapy. The officer let her go with a warning.

“I know there are good people. I know there are people who understand the human reasons why we are here,” she said.


Ericka Alvarez, 35, was planning on applying this week for Obama’s program for those brought to the country illegally as children.

She and her husband want to buy a mobile home in Santa Clarita, California, where they can live with their two children. They have saved the $10,000 deposit and qualify for a loan, but the park owner won’t let them in because they don’t have Social Security numbers, she said.

Alvarez also worries about boarding a plane to a training session for her job as a nutritional-supplement saleswoman, because she carries only her Mexican passport. She had hoped Obama’s program would change that before her next trip.

“I’m thinking about whether I should go or not,” she said.


Jessica Nuñez, 40, and her husband have been in the United States for 18 years and have three U.S.-born children.

Originally from Santana, in the Mexican state of Sonora, Nuñez lives in Tucson, Arizona, and has been gathering the paperwork to apply to the new program this year.

Nuñez said life without legal status has been tough, especially when family emergencies arise in Mexico and she can’t go back.

“It’s like they have our hands tied,” she said.


Sabine Durden, 57, welcomed the judge’s ruling putting a halt to Obama’s immigration programs.

Durden came to the United States from Germany more than two decades ago legally as the wife of an American citizen. For many years, the Moreno Valley, California resident questioned the U.S. government’s policies on immigration, but after her 30-year-old son was struck and killed by a driver who was in the country illegally and who had a prior criminal record, she became an activist.

“It didn’t have to happen,” she said.

While she voted for Obama, Durden said she was disappointed by his recent programs on immigration.

“I am happy that finally somebody put a foot down and said we can’t just do whatever we want, not even the president,” she said.

White House to appeal ruling blocking immigration order

The White House says the Justice Department will appeal a federal judge’s ruling which temporarily blocked President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

On Feb. 16, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas issued a temporary injunction, giving a coalition of 26 states time to pursue a lawsuit that aims to permanently stop the orders.

The ruling puts on hold Obama’s orders that could spare as many as five million people who are in the U.S. without legal papers from deportation.

In a statement, the White House said the ruling “wrongly prevents” the president’s “lawful, commonsense policies” from taking effect.

The White House said that the Justice Department, legal scholars, immigration experts and the federal district court in Washington have determined that Obama’s actions are well within his legal authority.

Analysis: GOP paralyzed by immigration reform

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s startling primary loss last week to a tea party-backed opponent illustrates how the GOP finds itself paralyzed by immigration reform. The policy most party leaders agree is best for the Republican Party’s future is risky for most House Republicans seeking re-election in the fall.

Almost all represent districts that are home to few minorities and they are in greater danger of losing to a primary challenger than to a Democrat in the general election. That leaves little incentive for the GOP-controlled House to even touch an immigration overhaul that would to grant citizenship to many of the 11 million people living in the country illegally.

Economics professor David Brat hammered Cantor, R-Va., for purportedly backing “amnesty” for people in the U.S. illegally during his primary challenge. He called his unexpected victory a wake-up call that “immigration reform is DOA.” Others, however, said it was Cantor’s reluctance to act on immigration reform that hurt him at the polls.

After Cantor’s defeat, Republicans are left in a quandary before the 2016 election — what to do about an issue that’s often a winner in primaries but could cripple the party in a White House race before a more diverse electorate.

“Pain can be a good teaching tool sometimes,” said Mario H. Lopez, a Republican and executive director of the Hispanic Leadership Fund. “It may take another White House beat-down before some folks understand what kind of cliff they’re walking over.”

Many people involved in the immigration debate have similar predictions about what will happen next: The House takes no action on an immigration overhaul, President Barack Obama makes good on his promise to ease deportations by executive action later this summer, and that inflames the GOP even more, dooming any bill in 2015.

When the next presidential race gets underway, a broad field of the GOP’s presidential candidates will be competing for the support of primary voters who are far more opposed to an immigration overhaul than most Americans.

To some Republicans, that brings back memories of 2012, when Republican Mitt Romney adopted tough-on-illegal-immigration rhetoric to win the Republican presidential primaries. On Election Day, Hispanic and Asian voters overwhelmingly backed Obama.

The lone policy recommendation of GOP’s post-mortem on Romney’s loss was to pass immigration reform. While 14 Republican senators voted for an immigration overhaul that chamber passed last year, the measure was declared dead on arrival in the House. Republican lawmakers, many of whom were focused on the midterms, sought to avoid angering their base.

Immigration skeptics argue that’s the right way for the party to appeal to the working class.

“There aren’t enough rich people and there aren’t enough businesspeople to elect people to office,” said Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA, which advocates for less immigration and believes those in favor of an overhaul are catering to financial elites who want to import cheaper workers into the U.S. “They have to have wage-earners.”

Immigrant rights groups complained that Cantor was part of the reason the overhaul died in the House, but as majority leader he opened the door to narrower measures that would grant citizenship to people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. That was enough to fuel his primary challenger.

It wasn’t immigration alone that doomed Cantor. The Virginia congressman sowed resentment by spending too much time focused on national issues as majority leader and not enough tending to his district. Others note that South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a chief architect of the Senate’s immigration overhaul, easily won his primary against a batch of tea party challengers.

And yet, the message appears clear to Republicans in Congress. Last week, House Speaker John Boehner said a bill probably wouldn’t be possible this year.

“Perception is reality in politics, and the perception among Republican members of Congress is going to be that (Cantor) lost because he took a somewhat squishy stance on immigration,” said Republican pollster Glen Bolger, who expects similar caution among 2016 hopefuls.

“You’ll see the volume turned way down on that,” Bolger said. “You’re going to see a lot more caution and a lot less risk-taking.”

Among the 2016 prospects taking care with the issue is Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has received a tepid reaction from some Republican activists for a proposal that would let some people living in the U.S. illegally receive citizenship. He told reporters this week the immigration debate has become too charged.

“We’re trapped in this rhetoric and we have to get beyond that,” Paul said.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio changed course on immigration in the wake of a backlash from GOP activists that followed his work as one of the eight co-authors of the Senate overhaul. He now argues the country shouldn’t consider creating a citizenship pathway until it secures its southern border.

“That was true before last night,” Rubio said the day after Cantor lost. “That’s especially true now.”

Matt Schlapp, a Republican consultant who worked for President George W. Bush, said the varying politics of immigration doom the prospects for any near-term action. After this year’s midterms, Democrats are sure to spend the next two years beating up on Republicans for the lack of movement, which in turn will lead the GOP to dig in deeper.

“If we have divided government, the politics have to work for both parties,” Schlapp said. “Until we get these things worked out, this just isn’t going to happen.”

Feds housing hundreds of migrant minors in makeshift center in Arizona

Officials are working to improve conditions at a makeshift holding center in southern Arizona where immigration authorities are housing hundreds of unaccompanied migrant minors.

A federal official said that mattresses, portable toilets and showers were brought in over the weekend for 700 of the youthful migrants who spent the night sleeping on plastic cots inside the Nogales area center.

The Homeland Security official told The Associated Press that about 2,000 mattresses had been ordered for the center — a warehouse that has not been used to shelter people in years.

With the center lacking some of the basics, federal officials have asked Arizona to immediately ship medical supplies, Gov. Jan Brewer’s spokesman Andrew Wilder said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security started flying undocumented immigrants to Arizona from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas last month after the number of immigrants — including more than 48,000 children traveling on their own — verwhelmed the Border Patrol there.

Immigrant families were flown from Texas, released in Arizona, and told to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office near where they were traveling within 15 days. ICE has said the immigrants were mostly families from Central America fleeing extreme poverty and violence.

The Homeland Security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no authorization to discuss the matter publicly, said the holding center opened for unaccompanied migrant children because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had nowhere to turn.

At the holding center, vendors are being contracted to provide nutritional meals, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, meanwhile, will provide counseling services and recreational activities.

The Homeland Security official said the number of children at the warehouse was expected to double to around 1,400. The warehouse has a capacity of about 1,500.

The Arizona Daily Star reported that Jimena Díaz, consul general of Guatemala in Phoenix, visited the center and said there were about 250 children from Guatemala, with the rest coming from El Salvador and Honduras.

Diaz told the newspaper that the children are being kept in separate groups, divided by age and gender. Most of them are between 15 and 17, Diaz said, with a few much younger than that. Teenage mothers with their children are also being detained separately, he said.

The warehouse began sheltering children flown from South Texas in early June. And there are flights scheduled through mid-June.

Federal authorities plan to use the Nogales facility as a way station, where the children will be vaccinated and checked medically. They will then be sent to facilities being set up in Ventura, California; San Antonio, Texas; and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Customs and Border Protection in Arizona “is prepared to and expects to continue processing unaccompanied children from South Texas,” said Victor L. Brabble, a spokesman for the agency in Tucson.

The children being held in Nogales are 17 or younger. The official estimated three of every four were at least 16.

Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino visited the facility Saturday, but he did not get inside the site where the children were being held. Garino said he did meet with Border Patrol officials. He was told some of the children are as young as 1 year old.

“I have all the faith in the world as mayor and as a citizen of Nogales that our Border Patrol is doing the best and the most kind and humane thing with the children,” Garino said.

The town has begun collecting clothing donations for the kids, he said.

“Border Patrol has always been good to the city of Nogales, and they work very closely with us,” Garino said. “Now, as a city, we need to help Border Patrol so that they can accomplish their goal of making sure these children are all taken care of.”

Immigration officials can immediately return Mexican immigrants to the border, but they are much more hard-pressed to deal with Central American migrants. The Homeland Security official said that legally, only their parents or guardians can take custody if the government makes the children eligible for release.

Officials in Central America and Mexico have noticed a recent increase in women and children crossing the border. Father Heyman Vazquez, the director of a migrant shelter in Huixtla in the southern Mexico state of Chiapas, said he and others advise children that it’s too dangerous.

Yet Vazquez is seeing more and more youths heading north.

“I remember a little boy of 9 years old and I asked if he was going to go meet someone and he told me `No, I’m just going hand myself over because I hear they help kids,’ ” Vazquez said.

House Democrats try to force vote on immigration reform

House Democrats deployed a little-used legislative move this week to force a vote on a comprehensive immigration bill, an effort doomed to fail but designed to increase the election-year pressure on Republicans to act.

“It is time for us to have a vote,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., who joined with dozens of Democrats, advocates and actress America Ferrera to mark 273 days since the Senate passed a bipartisan bill. They insisted that House Republican leaders act.

Standing on the east steps of the Capitol in a light snow and biting wind on March 26, proponents argued that they had the necessary votes in the House for a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally and tighten border security.

“We’re tired of the House of Representatives leaders and their refusal to act,” Ferrera said.

Democrats introduced a discharge petition that requires the signature of 218 for legislative action, an effort that stands little chance of success as Republicans, even those supportive of immigration legislation, are unwilling to defy their leadership. By the end of Wednesday’s House session, 149 of the chamber’s 199 Democrats had signed the petition.

Democrats would need the backing of dozens of Republican to force a vote.

The GOP is reluctant to consider the divisive issue in an election year, especially with all signs pointing to major gains for Republicans in the November midterms.

After months of conciliatory talk, President Barack Obama issued a statement praising the Democratic effort and chastising the Republicans.

“Immigration reform is the right thing to do for our economy, our security and our future,” Obama said. “A vast majority of the American people agree. The only thing standing in the way is the unwillingness of Republicans in Congress to catch up with the rest of the country.”

The Senate passed a comprehensive bill last June, but the measure has stalled in the GOP-controlled House where Republicans have argued for a piecemeal approach to reforming the system. That effort has gone nowhere as bills approved by the Judiciary Committee last summer have languished.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other GOP leaders unveiled a set of immigration principles in January, but rank-and-file members balked at moving ahead on any legislation. Boehner attributed the GOP roadblock to a collective distrust of Obama to enforce any new laws.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, dismissed the Democratic procedural move, pointing to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s admission earlier this month that they wouldn’t get the necessary 218 votes.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who helped craft the Senate bill, said he understands that “people are under political constraints, but those who believe in immigration reform but refuse to sign the petition have an obligation to propose a viable alternative that gets an immigration bill signed into law.”

The reluctance among House Republicans comes despite business groups, unions, religious leaders and other activists banding together to push for immigration legislation. National Republicans also have argued that failure to act this year could cost the GOP politically in presidential elections.

Opposition remains strong among some in the GOP who see the legislation as amnesty and detrimental to U.S. workers.

“Incredibly, House Democrats have unified behind an immigration bill that would double the inflow of new guest workers competing against jobless Americans in every single U.S. occupation – from engineering to teaching to manufacturing,” said Stephen Miller, a spokesman for Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Budget Committee.

Immigrant activists push to stop deportations

Late last year members of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition acknowledged that there was little hope Congress would pass much-anticipated legislation granting citizenship to people in the U.S. without legal papers. So the group stopped lobbying for the bill and shifted to a different approach.

Six of its activists last month chained themselves across the entrance to the Travis County jail near Austin to protest its participation in a federal program to find people here illegally, part of a growing effort to focus on stopping deportations. It has made strides. Just last week, President Barack Obama directed administration officials to review how people are shipped out of the country.

Many immigrant groups are still pushing for a bill to grant citizenship to many of the 11 million undocumented people. But Republican House Speaker John Boehner has said that legislation is unlikely to be passed in the GOP-led House, at least this year.

“We decided we needed to change our focus because (curbing deportations locally) is a more winnable campaign,” said Alejandro Laceres, executive director of the Austin group.

“We need relief and we need it soon,” said Reyna Montoya, 23, of Phoenix, whose father is fighting deportation and who co-wrote an open letter with dozens of activists urging immigrant rights groups to stand down on the citizenship issue. “People who are directly affected just want peace. Later on they’ll worry about becoming citizens.”

The increasingly aggressive, decentralized campaign contrasts with last year’s unified push that resulted in a bipartisan Senate bill to overhaul the nation’s immigration system – a proposal that never came up for a vote in the House.

The changed focus comes after many expected Congress to pass a sweeping immigration overhaul last year. Republicans have been torn between some in their base who want to step up deportations and others alarmed at how Hispanics, Asians and other fast-growing communities are increasingly leaning Democratic.

The Senate in June passed its bill to legalize, and eventually grant citizenship to, many of the 11 million people in the U.S. without legal papers. But the bill died in the Republican-controlled House. Republican leaders there floated a proposal that would have made some systematic changes but would have stopped short of granting citizenship for large numbers of people. But Boehner, R-Ohio, acknowledged that it stood little chance of passing.

Meanwhile, Obama’s administration is on track to having deported 2 million people during the past six years. Critics say that’s more than President George W. Bush’s administration deported, though some who push for a tougher immigration policy argue the current administration’s numbers are inflated.

Obama has eased some deportations. In 2012, as he was trying to generate enthusiasm among Hispanic voters for his re-election, Obama granted people who were brought to the country illegally as children the right to work in the United States and gave them administrative protection from deportation if they had graduated high school or served in the military. Advocates are pressuring the president to expand that to other people. The administration has said it cannot make sweeping changes without Congress, and it is unclear what steps it will take to make deportations more “humane” after its review is finished.

Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said it’s inevitable that Obama makes changes. “This is a White House that has told the immigrant rights community that they had to build up enforcement massively to create the political climate for comprehensive immigration reform,” Newman said. “Well, that gambit failed.”

Roy Beck of Numbers USA, which pushes for a more restrictive immigration policy, said expanding deportation relief could also fail. “It looks radical,” he said of the notion of sharply limiting removals.

Activists are willing to take that risk.

In Arizona, activists have launched a series of protests, including blocking buses transporting immigrants to courts. “We just realized we are losing too many people in our community,” Carlos Garcia of the group Puente Arizona said in a telephone interview minutes before he was arrested outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix. Worries about whether their tactics could cause a backlash “go out the window,” he added. “Our heads hurt from thinking about the politics around it.”

At the state level, activists have had notable successes. The biggest victory came last year in California when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Trust Act, barring California police from participating in Secure Communities. Immigrant rights groups are trying to replicate that legislation in Illinois and Massachusetts.

Driving the efforts are cases like that of Abel Bautista, who was stopped for traveling 8 miles per hour over the speed limit on a Colorado interstate in 2012 and has been fighting deportation ever since. At first he was not too worried, because he expected an immigration overhaul last year to make the case moot. Now he worries about the lack of legislative action and the trauma inflicted on his three U.S. citizen children as his case drags on.

“We’re just left hanging at loose ends,” Bautista said in an interview, recounting how his children’s performance at school has deteriorated and how they sob when he leaves for court hearings. “If the community unifies and has more demonstrations, maybe they will listen to us,” he said.

150 students to lobby in Madison for tuition equity bill

About 150 students with Youth Empowered in the Struggle, the youth arm of Voces de la Frontera, will gather at the Capitol in Madison today (March 18) to lobby lawmakers. They’ll be urging passage of a bill to allow undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition.

The legislation, introduced by state Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, would allow in-state tuition for undocumented students under three conditions:

• Graduation from high school or received a declaration of equivalency in Wisconsin

• Residing in the state for at least three years after attending their first day of high school.

• Signing an affidavit saying they have filed or will file for permanent residency in the United States as soon as they are eligible to do so.

Undocumented students who attend a University of Wisconsin school or technical college must currently pay out-of-state tuition, which is two to three times the cost of in-state tuition.

Organizers of the lobbying day say students will meet with lawmakers in the morning and then march from the Capitol to rally at the Library Mall on the UW-Madison campus. 

Some students also will be in the Assembly Gallery when Zamarripa address tuition equity on the House floor. That’s expected to happen just before the march. 

José Trejo, a teacher at ALAS High School in Milwaukee, planned to participate in the events. “As a teacher, it is educational malpractice to tell students that education is their key to the American Dream, yet know full well that the access to this key does not exist for many of them,” he said in a news release. “In state tuition is essential if we are to live up to the ideals of the founding of this country.”

Terresita Becerra, a Reagan High School student honor student from Milwaukee, also planned to participate. “Marching and lobbying in Madison will be a turning point in my education,” she stated. “This affects me personally because I myself have to pay out of state tuition rates, even though I’ve studied in Wisconsin my entire life.”

Be there …

Who: Students from across Wisconsin involved with Youth Empowered in the Struggle calling on elected officials to support tuition equity for immigrant students.

What: March, rally and lobby day for tuition equity.

WHERE: Madison at the State Capitol in Madison to march to the Library Mall on the UW campus, where a rally will be held. 

When: About 2 p.m.

UPDATED: 104 women arrested in immigration reform protest

UPDATED: More than 100 women, including a young Racine activist and her grandmother, were arrested earlier on Sept. 12 after blockading an intersection outside the U.S. Capitol to protest the House of Representative’s inaction on comprehensive immigration reform.

The House has voted more than 40 times against the already passed Affordable Care Act but has failed to take up comprehensive immigration reform, which passed the U.S. Senate earlier this year.

Organizers described the demonstration on Sept. 12 as a civil disobedience action. Many of the women who participated in the protest are undocumented immigrants.

A report from the activist group GetEQUAL said those arrested traveled to D.C. from 20 states, including Wisconsin, to draw attention to the fact that women and children make up about three-quarters of immigrants to the United States and “disproportionately bear the burden of the failed immigration system.”

Among those arrested were Luz Maria Hernandez, 75, and granddaughter Cecilia Anguiano, 25, who reside in U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s district in Racine. Anguiano is an organizer with the Wisconsin-based civil rights group Voces de la Frontera.

Voces de la Frontera’s Facebook page, which contained reports from the demonstration, said the two women had traveled from Wisconsin “to stand up for our state’s immigrant families.”

Anguiano, in a news release from Voces de la Frontera, said, “The only thing that separated my parents from those that live in the shadows was timing. Our family in Mexico has been waiting 17 years for their visas to be approved.”  

She added, “Now we’ve changed – from the quiet family that comments around the dinner table, to the family that you can now find rallying and marching – to be reunited with our loved ones, and for fairer legalization‬ process for all.”

About 200 other demonstrators who did not risk arrest rallied in support of the women.

“Immigration reform is not a policy issue or a political issue – there are millions of immigrants in this country who bear the brunt every day of an unjust, inhumane, and broken immigration system” said Heather Cronk of GetEQUAL. She was one of the demonstrators who was arrested. “While Speaker Boehner sits idly by, families are being torn apart and people in this country are suffering – progress on immigration reform rests squarely at the Speaker’s feet, and he is directly responsible for each life destroyed as deportations rise and suffering increases.”

Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, also was arrested.

Carey said, “Immigration reform is not just good for women and their families — its good for our democracy, good for our economy and good for America. Our broken system has a clear fix that most Americans — and women voters — want action on now. As women we know all too well that life at times demands us to do several important things at the same time. Now we need this House of Representative to follow our lead — to pass fair, inclusive and comprehensive immigration reform while doing other important things simultaneously.”

Before the demonstration, activists held a press conference outside the Capitol, where U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, ranking minority member on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, spoke. Pramila Jayapal of We Belong Together, Bertha Lewis of the Black Institute, Terry O’Neill of NOW and Rocio Inclan of National Education Association also spoke, along with three immigrants.

“Each one of us here today understands what incredibly high stakes we are talking about – immigration reform is not just a piece of legislation but the ability for us to take care of our families,” said Jayapal. “Women contribute every day to our families, our economy and our country. Immigration reform is about being able to live, breathe free, and remember the values that brought us all here in the first place: democracy, freedom and justice.”

The protesters were demanding House action on immigration reform, and calling for legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“We cannot build a strong country when children and families do not even know what tomorrow will bring,” said Inclan. “The time is now for fair immigration reform that treats women, children and families fairly.”

Carey said, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. The House must act now and do the right thing for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, over a quarter of a million of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. These people need a real pathway to citizenship and the American Dream now — not the nightmare of gridlock.”

PHOTO: Luz Maria Hernandez, 75, and granddaughter Cecilia Anguiano, 25, an organizer with Voces de la Frontera, are outside U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s office in Washington, D.C. The Racine residents went to D.C. to demand House action on immigration reform.