FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 10, 2023
CONTACT: Emily Leyrer, [email protected], 616-489-0343 & Karen Ottoni, [email protected], 806-730-0411
“President Biden, Reunite My Family”: Michigan Community Rallied in Support of Lansing U.S. Citizen Mother and Children Separated from Immigrant Husband and Father
Local elected officials, family members and 100+ Lansing community members came together in solidarity with Amanda Valencia and mixed-status families
Watch Live Stream: HERE
LANSING, MICHIGAN - Tonight, a Lansing family was joined by the American Business Immigration Coalition Action, American Families United (AFU), and local elected officials to send a message to the Biden Administration: Let us work, and keep our families together.
Amanda Valencia, a Lansing mother of two, a U.S. citizen, and a member of American Families United shared her heartbreaking experience of being ripped apart from her husband Edgar following an unsuccessful immigration process and visa denial during his interview in Mexico.
Valencia is one of more than 1.1 million U.S citizens married to someone whom U.S. immigration laws do not allow to live in the country legally with potentially hundreds of thousands already denied or removed. This means that current U.S. laws are forcing thousands of spouses and children to live in fragmented families, and risking family separation for many more. Along with advocates from across the country, Valencia is taking part of the #HereToWork campaign, which is pushing for work permits for long-term immigrant contributors living in the U.S.
Surrounded by advocates, business leaders and the extended Lansing community, Valencia urged President Biden to use his authority under current immigration law to provide relief for her family and all mixed status families by extending work permits to spouses of U.S. citizens.
“I am living a nightmare that no American should ever have to face. I am here today as a mother, as a wife, as a Michigander calling on President Joe Biden - bring my husband home,” said Amanda Valencia. “Enough is enough. I am asking you, President Biden- to use your authority to help my family. Allow spouses of US citizens to have parole. Keep our families together so no one else has to experience what we have gone through.”
“As a mom and grandmother, seeing Amanda separated from her husband has been the hardest thing I've had to witness,” said Rhonda Meyers, Amanda’s mother. “It breaks my heart to witness my grandchildren tell their father ‘Good night’ through FaceTime. In fact, I can ‘t even be in the same room with them when it happens. President Biden can rectify these wrongs and provide immediate relief for my family, the Lansing community and all the mixed-status families across the country with the single stroke of a pen. But they should not wait any longer.”
“We urge President Biden to use his authority to expand work authorization to the spouses of U.S. citizens like Amanda’s husband and keep families together,” said Andy Johnston, Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Strategic Engagement, Grand Rapids Chamber. “The impacted families have poured their blood, sweat and tears into our community and they’re deserving of an opportunity to stay and work in the U.S. with their families. They contribute to our economy, filling critical roles, and we should let them work."
“I’m here as Pewamo Village president doing what I can - President Biden, I need you to do what you can. Our Pewamo community has been hit so hard by Amanda being separated from Edgar - separating families in our community is just devastating for everyone,” said Randy Zenk, President of the Village of Pewamo. “Expanding work permits to hard-working immigrants, in particular spouses of U.S citizens like Edgar, is common sense and the right thing to do, and I hope that President Biden acts and that other elected officials here in Michigan join me in echoing these calls.”
The Here To Work campaign is a joint effort by more than 350 businesses, 127 immigrant rights organizations, labor, Republican and Democratic Governors, and Members of Congress, to ask President Biden to use his existing legal authority under the “Significant Public Benefit” provisions of Department of Homeland Security to expand work permits to long term immigrant contributors including Spouses of U.S. citizens, Dreamers without DACA, farm workers and long term workers who have been long-time contributors to the U.S. economy, as well as new arrivals in response to a pressing economic emergency – the labor shortage. A legal memo for his authority is HERE.
The group is urging President Biden to expand work permits, including parole-in-place for the long-term undocumented, humanitarian parole for the spouses of U.S. citizens, TPS redesignation and DED. Advocates are convening a large mobilization on November 14 in Washington, D.C.: The "Here to Work" day of action.
Taking bold, humane, common-sense action makes sense on its merits, and it is politically popular. As laid out in an upcoming memo by American Families United, Immigration Voters – U.S. citizen adults living with undocumented immigrants – are a force in swing states, making common-sense, humane action on immigration a political win for Biden. An estimated 50,000 “immigration voters” reside in Michigan, approximately a third of President Biden’s win margin in 2020.
Among the memo’s key points:
- Young Latino voters will be vital to the outcome of the 2024 election. A May 2023 report by Brookings Institute found that “37% of young Latino voters reported that the GOP ‘cares a great deal about Latinos’—the highest percentage across all age groups,” showing the need for decisive actions that address the group’s policy preferences.
- Latino voter registration is growing–fast–in swing states, driven by younger Latinos. This trend illustrates the reshaping of the electorate as younger Latinos enter the voter rolls, many of whom may be the children of undocumented immigrants. This trend is visible in most swing states.
- Key number: Two million. In swing states alone, more than 2 million U.S. citizens live with an undocumented immigrant, and more than 350,000 have an undocumented spouse.
President Biden has the ability to expand work authorization with the stroke of a pen. Last month, President Biden announced that work permits would be given to 500,000 Venezuelan immigrants living in the United States.
- The Biden administration has granted a historic number of parole work permits to 567,000 Afghanis, Ukrainians, Venezuelans, and Cubans.
- USCIS already provides parole for the undocumented husbands, wives, and parents of U.S. military service members.
Recently, Congressional leaders called on the President to take the next step and do right by all mixed-status families, and immigrants from all over the world. A bipartisan set of governors including Republican Governors Spencer Cox of Utah and Eric Holcomb of Indiana, and Democrats JB Pritzker of Illinois and Kathy Hochul of New York, have also taken up the cause: urging the President to expand workforce authorization to long-term immigrant contributors as well as new arrivals. Michigan families are ready to add their voices to this call for action.
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