warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Immigrant Rights: Keeping Families Together Bus Tour Launches In L.A.

Kaysie Ellingson |
March 4, 2013 | 9:14 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

A crowd of protesters calling for a reformation of immigrant rights gathered outside of state Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office in West Los Angeles Monday morning. The demonstration marked the launch of the Southern California Keeping Families Together bus tour that will last for three days and take participants to major cities within L.A. County, the Inland Empire and Orange County. The bus took off at 10 a.m. following a brief 9 a.m. press conference. 

The Keeping Families Together Bus Tour is a national effort that began on Feb. 25 and consists of seven regional tours. Each bus has scheduled stops at elected officials offices where members of immigrant families will tell their stories of struggling to stay together in the midst of applying for citizenship to elected officials and community members.

Participants of the movement call it a Story Telling Tour, where families can come together to connect and share their similar situations while gaining attention for their cause through press and advocacy from city and state representatives.

The nationwide tour will end in Washington, D.C., on March 13. The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), an organization that advocates for immigration reform at the local, state and federal level in 30 states, is sponsoring this national demonstration. The tour of 110 family members who are affected by the current immigration system in the U.S. will gather for the final event to represent 1,100 people who are deported every day.

Meeran Mahmud was one such attendee who experienced a broken family as a result of the immigration process. Mahmud came to the United States in 1996 with her family, however, her older sister was unable to make the move.

“When she first applied there was an eight-year wait,” said Mahmud. “That was three years ago.”


She explained that now because of the backlog, there is another three-year wait. Her sister, who now has a family of her own in Pakistan, has been waiting to be reunited with family members who she has not seen in 17 years.

But now she has the additional obstacle of obtaining citizenship for her children.

“The way immigration backlogs is affecting families currently is intense,” she said.

Mahmud stood beside the crowd of protesters who were chanting, “What do we want? Justice,” and holding signs that said, “Keep our families together.”  She was one of the several attendees who would board the bus headed for Apple Valley to share her story.

 Min Ji Lee, KRC youth leader and DACA recipient, shared her family struggle at the press conference. As an immigrant from Korea, she witnessed her mother fight to give her family a better life in the U.S., but due to a mishandling with their paperwork, they were unable to get their green cards. She explained some of the necessities she had to give up because of her inability to get citizenship, such as getting a driver’s license and obtaining funding for college. 

Lee’s brother recently returned to Korea because of the difficulty he was experiencing as an illegal citizen. Like Mahmud, she has not been able to see her brother because she fears she will not be allowed to return to the U.S.

“Everyone deserves to see their parents and grandparents and family members without the threat of deportation,” Lee said.

Gilda Valdez, Chair, Latino Caucus, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), also spoke alongside other representatives of SEIU at the conference and explained, “It is crucial that the people we elect hear what we have to say.”

She, president of SEIU Mike Garcia, and president of SEIU Local 721 Robert Schoonover, said that the immigration reform is not a conservative or democratic issue; it is a human issue that contains stories that need to be told right now.

“We must keep our families together,” Schoonover said.

The Southern California bus tour will end on Wednesday in Bakersfield at the office of Rep. Kevin McCarthy. 



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.