August 29, 2006

A Victory for Immigrant Children in Riverside New Jersey

Riverside, NJ – Today, the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) received an official response from the Riverside superintendent of schools, Robert Goldschmidt, confirming that every child who is registered to attend school in Riverside is welcome regardless of their immigration status. This is a clear victory for the immigrant families in Riverside and an excellent example for the state of New Jersey and other cities around the nation who would consider discriminating against children and keep them out of schools due to their immigration status. This is particularly true in towns like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, who like Riverside, have passed similar anti-immigrant ordinances that that hurt businesses, property owners and discriminate against undocumented people.

A Riverside Township ordinance adopted last month bans the hiring and housing of people who cannot verify they are legal residents, creating an environment of fear and hostility and creating a negative division within the town. Latino leaders and concerned citizens see this ordinance as anti-immigrant and a way for city officials and others to pick on immigrants.

“Mayor Charles Hilton stated today that the schools will enroll and accept all the local children regardless of their immigration status, even if their families have recently moved away from the Riverside city limits. If they have moved they only need to bring a letter detailing the recent move,” said Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC.

“The Superintendent has agreed to appear with me on WWTM 1680 AM, a Spanish language radio program, at 8:30am on Friday, September 1st, to inform the public that every child in Riverside will be welcome at school and that there will be no tolerance for discriminatory actions against the kids,” said Rev. Rivera. The reverend will translate for the Superintendent during the program.

CONLAMIC’s attorney, William Sanchez said “It’s the kids that have been a concern to us because school is about to start. U.S. laws protect all who live in this country and even most people don’t understand the law well enough to know that this is true. As CONLAMIC’s legal council, I provided the information needed to educate school administrators and city officials with regarding the laws that protect these children.”

The pressure that CONLAMIC and other Latino leaders have placed on Riverside city officials to protect immigrant kids starting school has yeilded great results. The fact that the superintendent going to announce it on a live Spanish radio show to ensure that the community understands that the city will comply with the law that protects all children including children who are undocumented, is a victory in itself.

“We respect and praise the decision made by the Mayor and Superintendent. But we also want to ensure that Riverside city officials understand that although we as leaders find no need to appear on school grounds the first day of class, we have asked parents to inform us if they experience anything of concern in the schools,” said Rev. Miguel Rivera.

August 21, 2006

Leaders of Faith Rally Riverside Township: local residents come out to oppose

Riverside Township, NJ – Yesterday afternoon, leaders of faith and members of the Latino community gathered before city hall in Riverside to rally against the anti-immigrant ordinances passed by city officials that punish businesses, property owners, and residents that aid and assist undocumented immigrants. These ordinances have created hostility and increased discrimination against local immigrants, in addition to having a negative impact of on Riverside’s business community. The rally, organized by the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC), is part of a plan to keep consistent pressure and the media’s eye on this small town’s actions that have divided the community and resonated across state lines.

Yesterday, more than a thousand supporters traveled to Riverside to rally and increase the pressure on the town’s officials and the residents who are shutting out the community’s immigrant residents. The mostly white residents came out to protest against the rally participants and leaders of faith in efforts to drive them out of town and drown out their voices.

“The Riverside Chief of Police said that we needed security. Because of the seriousness of the hostility and anti-immigrant sentiment demonstrated these past weeks by local Riverside residents, we knew we would need the protection of the Sheriff and other law enforcement,” said Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC.

“About 3,000 local residents came out to the streets of Riverside to confront us. Many brought confederate flags and demonstrated despicable behavior that included racial and obscene sneers, spitting, throwing eggs and tomatoes at peaceful leaders of faith,” said Rev. Rivera.

“I told our people that in the example of Jesus, we had to walk right through the center of this hateful crowd in defense of our people and with a message of justice,” said Rev. Rivera.

CONLAMIC’s attorney, William Sanchez, who is leading the legal battle against these ordinances in New Jersey and other states, said today in a live radio show, “It’s an honor to work with Reverend Rivera, defending this cause in Riverside. These anti-immigrant ordinances are not a local issue. Defending Riverside is going to help us in the future and on a national level. Latino’s will not be leaving the United States, we must continue to unite to stop local officials from trying to establish and implement laws illegally.”

“Undocumented people have rights in this country. We must inform our communities about the rights that anyone living in the United States have, regardless of their immigration status. The U.S. constitution protects us all, and people have a right to know, for example, that their children can indeed attend public school. We are very concerned right now for the children of immigrants who are about to start school, we intend to do everything we can to protect them,” said William Sanchez.

Mayor Charles Hilton of Riverside has publicly said that immigrants have become a burden to the Riverside public schools and other social service programs, when in reality he has no information to support these statements. He and other city officials testified in a recent open hearing that Riverside’s residents are paying a great deal of money to educate undocumented students in their schools but when asked to provide supporting documentation, had nothing to back up their statements.

“On the first day school in Riverside, we will be present to ensure that none of the children of immigrants are barred from the classroom,” said Rev. Rivera

“It’s the kids that worry us the most. We are concerned that they will face discrimination in the schools,” said William Sanchez. “U.S. laws protect all who live in this country and even many white American’s don’t understand the law well enough to know that this is true. As CONLAMIC’s legal council, I will ensure that school administrators, city officials and the media have access to information regarding the laws that protect these children.”

“In fact, city officials seem to be uninformed or just simply defiant of the federal law. We know that these city ordinances are against federal law. This is why we have federal courts, to be able to hold local officials accountable and avoid injustice, much like what is now happening in Riverside,” said Sanchez.

The residents who came out to protest against the rally of Latino pastors and the Reverend Miguel Rivera behaved in a manner that would have embarrassed and ashamed our nation’s founding fathers. “I sincerely hope that the white people who came out to the rally and treated us with such hatred and incivility are not the same people who attend their local churches that same Sunday morning,” said Rev. Miguel Rivera. “We will continue our message, our prayers and to adamantly defend the immigrant community. It’s our responsibility and the will of God.”

The National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) is the nation’s largest Latino Christian advocacy organization, representing 15,000 churches in 32 states across America. For more information, go to www.conlamic.org.

August 14, 2006

CONLAMIC Increases the Pressure on Riverside: Leaders of Faith to Rally

Riverside, NJ –On Sunday, August 20th at 2pm, over 180 Latino religious leaders and their congregation members from a tri-state area will unite in a prayer vigil on the City Hall steps of 1 Scott Street in Riverside Township, New Jersey. In this unprecedented event, Evangelical and Catholic leaders will unite from the states of Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania for the first time in the history of this small township. The National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) has united forces with leaders of faith for the purpose of providing a consistence presence and of increasing pressure on Riverside city officials. “We have the moral right and responsibility to respond to the injustices that are occurring as a result of this anti-immigrant ordinance,” said Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC.

Riverside Township city officials know that the people are coming and they are nervous to say the least.

During the prayer vigil the Rev. Rivera and other leaders will bring a strong message to the political leaders of Riverside Township in hopes that they will re-consider this ordinance and its negative impact on the local economy and its residents. Leaders of faith predicted that the anti-immigrant ordinance would quickly divide the community, hurt local business and property owners and increase discrimination. Rev. Rivera, President of CONLAMIC, the nation’s largest Latino Christian advocacy organization, and other leaders have made visits to local residents and held continuous meetings in Burlington County to learn more about the impact made by the passing of this ordinance. “When local immigrants see us arrive, they approach us with fear and sadness because their family members have left Riverside out of fear that ‘la migra’ (border patrol) will detain them. Residents have informed us of their loss of jobs, loss of clients in their small businesses, and of many who have left their apartments due to the hostility against them,” said Rev. Rivera.

“The community throughout this tri-state area has reached out to us in support of our efforts to advocate for immigrants, small business and property owners in Riverside,” said Rev. Rivera. The New Jersey Conference of Catholic Bishops has pledged their support. Father Angelo, the Brazilian Priest from Riverside will attend the prayer vigil as will members of Philadelphia and South New Jersey Catholic parishes. Other supporters include the Riverside Coalition of Landlords and Business Owners, Burlington County Clergy Association, Riverside Coalition of Landlords and Business Owners, and Servicio’s Latino’s of Burlington County.

In recent conversation with the Riverside Chief of Police, the Rev. Miguel Rivera said, “The Chief of Police was very cordial in our conversation, giving us a permit that will close Scott Street for the purpose of the prayer vigil. The Chief also expressed concern because he has heard of the strength and size of rallies organized by CONLAMIC,” said Rev. Rivera. “It’s likely that these officials never dreamed that the Latino community from a tri-state area would join against this absurd and provocative ordinance, called the Immigrant Relief Act.” The city has even offered all of the municipal parking spaces at the Municipal Building and local firehouse to accommodate the vehicles of the prayer vigil participants and helps them to avoid a ‘march’ through the streets of Riverside. “If City Officials don’t respond, they can be assured that voice will continue to gather strength and the pressure on them will increase to dramatic proportions,” said Rev. Rivera. "This is not a local effort; it's an effort that impacts many American towns that are facing the same problem as a result of the lack of a comprehensive solution to immigration reform by our nation's leaders in Congress."

August 10, 2006

CONLAMIC's President Discusses Riverside

Riverside, NJ--As he testified before 2,000 people in the recent public hearings held in Riverside Township, in which the Mayor and his Council voted and passed anti-immigrant and business owner ordinances, Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy & Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) was verbally abused by people who despondently lacked mercy and tolerance for others simply because of their own failure to adjust to the changing demographics of their commuty. These intolerant people seem to feel tremendous anger and loss as they fail to assimilate to their community's evolving ethinic identity.

The Reverend said today "I feel a strong sense of responsibility to educate those who are intolerant in America to accept their fellow man and find the positive in each human being that enriches our society as they work hard for to improve this nation for their families and for future generations." He said, "getting to know the people of Riverside has been interesting. The immigrant community has admirable work ethic and despite living in a community that does not accept them they show an incredible ability to rise above these difficult circumstances and work towards improving their family and community's economic well being."

The public officials of Riverside couldn't have imagined the significance of the moral path of a minister once a "sin of society" such as this anti-immigrant municipal ordinance has been called to his attention. "I understand that these officials are in fear now that they have awoken the Latino voice, also known as the sleeping giant," said Rev. Rivera. "The likely never imagined that they would attract Latino's from throughout a tri-state area (NJ,NY, PA) on a united front rising against this absurd ordinance that has divided the Riverside Township. On the contrary, their actions have united the Latino voice. "

August 07, 2006

New Jersey Catholic Conference Supports CONLAMIC in Riverside

Riverside, NJ -- The Catholic Conference of Bishops in New Jersey steps forward to support CONLAMIC efforts to reverse the anti-immigrant ordinances in Riverside Township. Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC will join Latino leaders and officials from the New Jersey Deptartment of Justice tomorrow to discuss the moblization of thousands of Latino residents in Riverside and the surrounding areas who will march the streets of this town on August 20th to show unity, support and to bring attention to this critical and historical situation.

"Riverside IS the United States. Whatever happens here is happening all around the nation. We need to stand in firm opposition to the discrimination and anti-immigrant behavior that is hurting Riverside Latino's, Brazilians, businesses and property owners, " said Rev. Rivera. "CONLAMIC is extremely proud that the New Jersey Catholic Conference of Bishops has come forward to offer their support to this issue. They will be instrumental in the process of winning back the American dream that immigrants in Riverside and around the country seek."

August 02, 2006

Riverside sigue pasos de Hazleton

Por GERALDINE ROSADO Redacción AL DIA

Con un voto de 5-0 el Concejo de Riverside, NJ aprobó unánimamente una ley anti inmigrante.

El pequeño pueblo ubicado en el condado de Burlington es el segundo en aceptar una legislación que prohíbe que se le de viviendas o empleos a inmigrantes indocumentados.

El Concejo de Hazleton, Pensilvania fue el primero en tomar esta medida para según ellos solucionar los problemas de seguridad.

El miércoles residentes a favor y en contra de la ordenanza se dieron cita en la escuela superior Riverside, donde tuvieron que mudar la reunión por la cantidad de personas que asistieron para dar su opinión.

A pesar de escuchar los testimonios de varios habitantes y líderes, el Concejo aprobó la ley sin dar comentarios. Quienes la violen recibirán multas de hasta $1.000 y otras penalidades. Esta también aplicará a dueños de negocios quienes podrían perder las licencias de sus negocios locales si contratan a estas personas.

Se estima que hay ente 1,500 a 3,500 inmigrantes indocumentados en el pueblo, mayormente de Brasil, dijo el alcalde Charles Milton Jr. Por 25 años el Censos registraba la población a 8.000 sin contar los inmigrantes.

“Queremos asegurar seguridad publica y mejor calidad de vida para nuestros residentes,” agregó el alcalde explicando la decisión del Concejo.

Residentes a favor de la ley se quejan que los indocumentados han sobrepoblado sus escuelas, viviendas y ya no hay estacionamiento. Además que estas personas están agotando los servicios públicos, finanzas y seguridad publica de su pueblo.

“Debemos sentirnos avergonzados y preocupados que se haya pasado esta legislación anti inmigrante en Riverside,” dijo el Reverendo Miguel Rivera de la Coalición Nacional de Líderes Cristianos Latinos (CONLAMIC, por sus siglas en inglés), quién afirma que los inmigrantes no son el problema.

“Lo que experimentamos en esta audiencia fue un retrazo de 60 años”, agregó comparando esto con lo que tuvieron que enfrentar los esclavos afro americanos años atrás.

CONLAMIC está tomando sus propias medidas para parar esta ordenanza, aseguró. Hasta ahora han escrito cartas a la fiscal general de Nueva Jersey, Zulima Farber y el gobernador Jon Corzine pidiendo su intervención. Pero dijo que si estos líderes no responden ellos presentaran su caso ante la corte.

“La única manera que se puede implementar una legislación semejante es a través de un perfil racial, y esto es una violación a nuestro derecho civil,” manifestó.

“Esto no sólo afecta a Riverside sino a todo el Estado de Nueva Jersey ya que las penalidades serán extendidas a personas que hagan negocios con este pueblo,” señaló. “Hay que parar esto para evitar que otras ciudades traten de implementarlo.”

Ángela González, directora de Servicios Latinos en el Condado de Burlington también expresó su frustración con la decisión del Concejo. “Es anticonstitucional y esta creando una atmósfera de racismo,” expresó González.“Esto afecta a muchas familias que llevan más de 10 años en Riverside esperando una reforma inmigratoria.”

Esta organización también se ha unido a CONLAMIC para detener la implementación de dicha ordenanza.

House Republicans Fail to Achieve Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Leading to Unrest in America’s Small Towns

Washington, DC, -The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC), has united with Latino church and community leaders in the towns of Riverside-New Jersey and Hazleton-Pennsylvania to advocate on behalf of Latino immigrants due to the lack of action and cooperation by members of Congress. “Our worst nightmare is already happening in cities in which local officials are trying to take immigration reform matters that should be dealt with at the federal level by Congress into their own hands. Injustices are occurring in places like Riverside to those who are the most vulnerable to discrimination,” said Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of the nation’s largest Latino Christian advocacy organization.

CONLAMIC is mobilizing its grassroots network of church leaders across thirty two states to bring their voters out to the polls in November in efforts to oust those members of Congress who remain staunchly against comprehensive immigration reform. “A series of public hearings have been held in Washington and around the country by House leaders to discuss immigration reform and it’s been a waste of time and money – only an excuse to derail immigration reform talks,” says Rev. Rivera. “We are very concerned that they will do nothing despite the fact that their lack of action is tearing communities like Hazleton and Riverside apart.”

CONLAMIC has been very committed and flexible with Republic leaders with regard to immigration reform, even supporting bills that will at the very minimum provide temporary work visas to the undocumented people. These city officials are using tactics like racial profiling to create havoc in the lives of the small populations of immigrants that live in their communities – falsely claiming that these individuals they are taking jobs, breaking laws, and using public funds for schools, when in reality, there are no facts to support their claims. “City officials in Riverside and Hazleton have small populations, but have loud voices in their communities who have a great fear of what they do not understand. If they knew any better, they’d realize that immigrants (Riverside has only 2%) actually contribute to the overall economic growth and prosperity of their towns,” said Rev. Rivera.

“Officials in Riverside New Jersey didn’t seem to mind when the undocumented workers lived in very poor conditions in overcrowded trailers out by the fields that they work in without running water and electricity. However, they did mind when those workers found progress and in their search for the American dream rented apartments under better conditions within the city limits,” said Rev. Rivera.

“These injustices are affecting real human beings. We are only hopeful that the courage that President Bush is showing in his increasingly strong push for comprehensive immigration reform will make a difference among members of his own party who have until now failed to bring an effective solution that will help America’s small towns and majority of citizens who support comprehensive immigration reform,” urged Rev. Rivera. CONLAMIC leaders are meeting in Washington, D.C. on August 7th to discuss grassroots mobilization. “It’s our time to show these legislators that we are part of their constituency and we are not happy.”

August 01, 2006

CONLAMIC Hopes for a Quick End to Mexico’s Political Crisis

Washington, DC – Several weeks after the Presidential election, Mexico is in a political crisis, as the candidate who lost in a close race, Andrés Manuel López-Obrador, and his party contest the results of the election and mobilize more than a million of his supporters into the streets of Mexico City. This is causing the Mexican people to quickly tire of Lopez-Obrador's disruption of their daily life.

“More than 20 million people work in Mexico City everyday. López-Obrador’s massive demonstrations are paralyzing the city and its people are becoming very angry with his efforts to ‘defend democracy’. They simply want to get to work and not spend 5 hours trying to get there,” said Reverend Miguel Rivera, President of CONLAMIC. “López-Obrador clearly has a strong following, but promoting civil unrest and leading his supporters to the brink of violence is not the make up of an effective leader.”

Although the conservative candidate, Felipe Calderon, received the most votes, the PRI has not announced an official winner. The winner will not be announced until the Federal Electoral Institute (Instituto Federal Electoral) makes the official decision.

CONLAMIC supports a quick end to Mexico’s political crisis and faster transition into the new administration. The Mexican government needs stability and many of the people who live and work in Mexico City do not want their ability to make a living disrupted even for one day. “The leaders of our churches are praying for the people of Mexico in hopes that God will bring them peace and a new President who will bring positive change to Mexico’s economic and political challenges,” said Rev. Rivera.