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Civil leaders rally for immigration reform

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Nearly 100 New Yorkers rallied outside the Varick St. Detention Center today, chanting, “The time for immigration reform is now!” Waving signs, demonstrators protested the continued daily deportation of 1,100 people while House leaders sit idly by, refusing to move an immigration reform bill with a path to citizenship to the floor for a vote.

Ten leaders of immigrant and community groups, the Varick Street Ten, stood parallel to Varick Street holding up large photos of House Speaker John Boehner, which collectively read: Speaker Boehner Stop Your Family Separation Agenda.

The detention center is located at Houston and Varick and is the facility where immigrant detainees in New York are held for deportation. This day’s supporters for immigration reform– a mix of immigrant families, faith and community leaders, and students–called for immediate action on the bill, currently in a House of Representatives limbo. Ralliers also were standing in solidarity with the Varick Street Ten, ten faith and community leaders, about to do civil disobedience.

Of the intent of the rally, Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition said, “We’ve gone too many years with endless debate and demagoguery, with inaction and cowardice — all at the cost of our economy, our communities, and the suffering of 400,000 families a year devastated by deportation.”

He pointed out that the Senate has come together across party lines, and while members of the House support immigration reform, “Speaker Boehner and the GOP leadership are missing in action.”

Speaking at the rally, before his arrest, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Chairman, Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH) said, “The House of Representative literally has the future of 11 million undocumented in their hands and frankly are holding them hostage by their lack of action on comprehensive Immigration Reform.”

Also arrested was Sister Susan Wilcox who said,” I am getting arrested for the Dreamers who have lived their lives in this country, some not even knowing until they graduated high school that they were undocumented. And for the Dreamer activists who stand up… challenging our immoral and dehumanizing immigration policies.”

Today’s action comes on the heels of an increasingly intense month in the immigration reform debate, which included early October national rallies and demonstrations and the Oct. 8 action of peaceful civil disobedience in Washington DC, resulting in 200 arrests including eight members of Congress.

On Oct. 24, President Obama urged the House to move a bill forward for a vote. On Oct. 2, House bill H.R. 15 was introduced, similar to the Senate bill that had passed in June. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL) stepped forward as the first Republicans to join with Democrats in co-sponsoring H.R. 15.

Although dozens of GOP House members have either publicly or privately expressed support for a path to citizenship, the problem appears that House leadership is refusing to let a vote go forward.

[Members of the New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform campaign, which is coordinated by the New York Immigration Coalition, will be holding other actions, including outside the offices of Rep. Richard Hanna in Binghamton and Rep. Chris Gibson in Kingston.]

Around noon, holding the photos of Speaker Boehner, The Varick Ten stood across Houston Street blocking westbound traffic. Police brought in for this action collected the signs, handcuffed the Ten with zip ties and led them into the paddy wagon.

Updated 5:57 pm, October 29, 2013:
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