What I’ve Learned

by Kris Kelkar | August 14, 2013 3:15 pm

To be honest, I didn’t know what I was signing up for when I accepted my internship at the Center for Community Change. I wanted to work on immigration reform because of my past work in labor organizing and Asian American Pacific Islander civic engagement.  Though these areas are closely aligned with the immigration reform movement, I really had no idea where this internship would take me.

I knew America’s political system was slow; making things worse – the 113th Congress is set to be the least productive since the 1940’s. More discouraging, I came into it as the House continued to resist progress on immigration reform. Pieces of legislation from Republicans like the KIDS Act or the SAFE Act were passing committee meetings to garner media attention so the House could say, “Look – we ARE getting things done on immigration!” On top of that, the House seemed to be more focused on beefing up border security than keeping families together.

But despite these blockades, I have grown more and more confident in the power of our movement. On August 1st, I took part in an act of peaceful civil disobedience on Capitol Hill where 41 human rights leaders were arrested for blocking traffic, including the Campaign for Community Change’s Executive Director Deepak Bhargava. Later in the day, more than ten other people were arrested for sitting in the hall outside Speaker John Boehner’s office.

Through this experience, I connected with immigrant activists from all across the country. I heard their stories, and I saw in their eyes the passion they carried in their hearts from years of strife. We raised our voices, and since then, multiple conservative members of the House have come out publicly in support of a pathway to citizenship.

I came into this summer unsure of my place in this movement and discouraged by the direction “reform” was taking, but after joining the immigrant community last week and marching side by side with people whose lives would be transformed by reform, I felt so much more connected to the movement. And as I see these 40 Days of Action and Prayer taking place all across the country during the August recess, I have a renewed sense of hope that we can get  this done. And for the millions of families waiting for reform to happen, I sure hope that I am right.

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