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Teamsters: Reunite Families

The union is supporting a bill to reunite Americans with their immigrant family members

Brian Young's picture
Apr 30, 2021

One of the largest unions in the Nation, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, has announced that they will be supporting an immigration bill to reunite families. The bill, known as the American Families United Act, would fix the nation’s broken immigration system by halting the separation of U.S. families that have both mixed-status members.

According to a statement that was put out by the union, the Teamsters were spurred to support the bill by one of their members, Jason Rochester. A 20-year member, Rochester is a Georgia UPS worker. In 2017, his wife Cecilia listened to faulty legal advice and undoubtedly scared by Trump’s rhetoric around immigration, decided to self deport to her native Mexico. She was fearful that if she didn’t leave, she would be arrested by immigration and thrown into an ICE detention center. According to the legal advice she received, the family believed that Cecilia would be able to return to the United States in six months to a year. This is the usual time frame for a family petition to be processed. However, since she chose to self-remove from the country, she was given a 10-year ban on reentry. Even then, there is no guarantee she will be able to return. Trump’s cruel immigration policy wouldn’t even allow her to temporarily enter the country to be with her five-year-old son Ashton when he underwent treatment for kidney cancer.

 

"He had to go through the whole treatment and surgeries without having his mom,” Rochester said.

Ashton has recovered but for at least the next six years his relationship with his mother will be exclusively through Facetime, unless the American Families United Act gets passed.

The bill was first introduced by former Congressman Beto O’Rourke in 2017 after one of his constituents, Edgar Falcon, was forced to marry his wife Maricruz at the border because the US refused to allow her to enter the country. That was in 2013 and since then Falcon has been living with his wife in Mexico and commuting across the border every day to get to his job in El Paso. The bill would fix this by protecting the rights and interests of U.S. Citizens in our immigration system and provide the Attorney General and Department of Homeland Security discretion to allow certain individuals to be reunited with their family in the United States.

"Jason and Cecelia sought to go through the proper immigration channels years ago to make things right," Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. "But given the pathetic state of the nation's immigration laws, they were left with no good alternatives. Tearing families apart is un-American. But Capitol Hill lawmakers can change it."

The bill is currently being worked on in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. Rochester, with the help of his union, sent the subcommittee a letter advocating for the bill's passage. In the letter, he noted that there are 1 million families like his that have mixed citizenship status. Since it has been decades since the last major change to immigration law to grant people citizenship, this number is growing every day as more and more undocumented immigrants have children in the United States. These children are then granted US citizenship at birth. "I don't believe that what has happened to my family is what Congress or the American people intend or want from our nation's immigration system," Rochester wrote. "The system is broken and it's hurting families like mine."

“Families belong together,” said former Congressman Rob Woodall (R-GA7) who was a sponsor of the ­bill in 2020. “In many cases today, immigration policy provides U.S. citizens with absolutely no pathway for citizenship—or even a legal status—for their spouse. These policies either keep families apart or encourage families to stay in the shadows. We can do and must do better. We should be encouraging people to get right by the law. This bill keeps the families of American citizens together while undocumented spouses and some parents wait in line for their chance to become an American citizen.”

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