Good morning Councilmembers. My name is Mia-lia Kiernan, I am a community organizer and co-founder of 1Love Movement. We were born out of a detention and deportation crisis in the Cambodian-American community here in Philly 2 ½ years ago. We are now a national network of grassroots Asian American organizers.
Thank you for having us here today to testify on the City Council Resolution on CIR at this crucial moment in political history. We thank you for your commitment to building strong relationships with community groups and allowing us to help shape the language of this document with you, and for having the courage and integrity to lead our stance on CIR with the concerns and analysis from communities here in Philly.
We are here in City Council today for Philadelphia to have a voice in the national move to pass CIR, but more importantly for Philadelphia to empower ourselves in a national effort that often loses the voices from the ground. Now is the time to be clear about what Comprehensive Immigration Reform means for us:
- As the national effort says it’s fighting for the “best and the brightest”, we say that’s not enough. The reality is that our schools are struggling to stay open, our drop out rates are high and real, our teachers are overworked and underpaid, and therefore legalization should be extended to young people who strive in our broken education system for GED’s, vocational training and alternative education too.
- As the national effort says it’s fighting to “keep families together”, we say that needs to be defined in a way that includes all of our families, regardless of immigration status, family structure, sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status. We know family is family, period.
- As the national effort says it’s fighting for enforcement and deportation of “criminal aliens”, we say that is a blanket term used to describe our young people who have become part of, not just a school-to-prison pipeline, but a school-to-deportation pipeline. We say that we believe in second chances and redemption in our communities, and oppose the retroactive deportation of people who have already completed their sentences and have since improved their lives.
- As the national effort says it’s fighting for legalization of “agricultural workers”, we say we know deeply our country’s history of exploitation and division of workers, and any new worker visa program must guarantee with it fundamental rights, fairness and dignity to all workers no matter where they come from and no matter their occupation.
We have begun our job today by challenging the national effort to see us here on the ground, and challenging lawmakers to take our analysis into deep consideration.
We have challenged them to acknowledge the root causes of our forced migration, such as conditions created by destructive US foreign policies that have led to genocide, economic and human, conditions of war, conflict, trafficking and the economic devastation of entire nations.
We have challenged them to stop passing laws that divide our communities between those who are labeled as “deserving” and those who are not.
We have challenged them to acknowledge our country’s history of labor exploitation, discrimination and division, and urge reform that will not perpetuate our shameful past.
We have challenged them to see the links between all the systems at play that disempower people in America, and that economic decisions to close schools while building prisons are moral decisions that effect immigrant and non-immigrant families alike.
Our analysis is full and politically educated and strong, and we have our direct experiences and our hearts behind us here in Philadelphia. Our federal government will have to respond to its failures in law making as more and more local governments take a stand.
With that, we want to let you know that our courageous stance has empowered other cities to step out of the mainstream line of immigration reform as well. Through 1Love’s national network of allies and community groups, when this Resolution was introduced it was sent to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who were so inspired by the language of this document that they wish to adopt it as representative of their City’s stance on CIR after we do so here today.
It is perfectly ironic and so Philly of us to be having this hearing on Valentine’s Day in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. While the fight for immigration reform is about changing laws and policies that are unjust and inhumane, this movement itself is built on a foundation of love. Love of family, community, livelihood, dignity, and the future of our next generation. Thank you again for taking a stand with us, your leadership makes us proud and gives strength to our hearts, in the face of oppressive immigration and deportation systems that test them everyday. Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you and your loved ones.
FEBRUARY 14TH, 2013