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  • 02/14/2017 5:00 PM | American Families United (Administrator)

    A Valentine’s Day Message: Respect Citizens, Unite American Families

    The most neglected constituency in the immigration debate applauds

    Bipartisan bill to protect rights of US citizens


    Washington: “This bipartisan bill is a sign of hope,” said Kim Anderson, President of American Families United, as the only national organization specifically representing the rights of US citizens endorsed H.R. 1036, introduced today. The proposed American Families United Act, sponsored by Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tx), Steve Pearce (R-NM), and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) recognizes the rights of US citizens who sponsor their spouses for legal immigration.

    “Americans are divided over immigration reform. We all know the system is broken and must be comprehensively fixed, but we can’t seem to agree on exactly how to do it,” Anderson said. “Yet this legislation, sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats, indicates at least one bedrock American value which must be a cornerstone for any immigration reform: no American immigration system can be worth anything if it divides US citizens from their husbands and wives.”

    “These US Representatives recognize that US citizens are the neglected constituency in immigration reform, facing a family choice between being outlawed or exiled,” Anderson pointed out. “The Census counts 4.1 million Americans who are married to foreign-born spouses. Our best estimate is that at least 300,000 of those have had some problem, have been caught by the fish hooks and bear traps that litter our immigration laws. Technical, even trivial violations – like missing a hearing – can have catastrophic consequences. The bureaucracy uses traffic court rules to impose life sentences.”

    “We applaud the leadership shown by Congressmen O’Rourke, Pearce and Swalwell,” Anderson said. “American Families United looks forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to protect the immigration law rights of US citizens.”

    Sample stories of AFU members are here, all US citizens. (Edgar Falcon of Texas, Nick Martin of Alabama, and Margot Bruemmer, currently exiled in Mexico.)

    An AFU petition went live yesterday, with more than 300 signatures in the first few hours.

  • 02/14/2017 12:00 PM | American Families United (Administrator)

    Taken from the Official blog of Rep. Beto O'Rourke

    US Representative for El Paso, TX

    Do you remember Edgar and Maricruz?

    Edgar is a U.S. citizen, a constituent of mine and the proud husband of Maricruz (I had the chance to join them when they were married on international line of the Paso del Norte bridge). But because Maricruz has an immigration law violation on her record, she cannot join her husband in the U.S. and raise their U.S.-citizen children in our community.

    When she was an adolescent she crossed with her adult sister into the U.S. and her sister falsely claimed U.S. citizenship at the port of entry.

    This triggered an automatic life-time ban on reentry into the U.S. While she definitely broke the law as a child, and there have to be consequences for it, many would argue that being barred for life — despite having a U.S.-citizen family — goes too far. Thanks to Edgar attending one of my first town hall meetings to bring this to my attention, we have been working on a solution to this problem that is fair to all concerned.

    Today I re-introduced the bipartisan American Families United Act (H.R. 1036) with Congressman Steve Pearce of New Mexico and Congressman Eric Swallwell of California.

    This bill brings common sense to our immigration laws by providing case-by-case judicial discretion in instances where an individual is a spouse, parent, or child of a U.S. citizen and would be eligible to adjust their status if not for a previous minor immigration violation and when inadmissibility or removal would present a hardship to a U.S. citizen.

    In other words — if a federal judge thinks that Maricruz poses a lifetime threat to the United States, that judge can uphold a lifetime ban on reetnry. Or, that judge can determine a more commensurate punishment that allows her to ultimately join her U.S.-citizen family in the United States.

    While this addresses just one part of our broken immigration system, it’s my hope that this targeted legislation will help Edgar and Maricruz as well as the thousands of American families currently separated by outdated immigration laws that don’t match our values.

    Rep. Beto O'Rourke

  • 02/02/2017 5:00 PM | American Families United (Administrator)

    'Can't hold him in my arms': Syrian dad waits to join American wife, meet son

    Feb. 2, 2017 at 8:42 AM

    Terri Peters, TODAY Contributor

    After going through two years of legal process for her Syrian-born husband to reunite with his son, one American mom fears that recent immigration restrictions will keep their family apart even longer.

    When Tori Morris and Mahmoud Sloum met in Ghana, West Africa, in December 2013, the couple quickly fell in love. Morris, an American, and Sloum, a Syrian, married three months later, and made a life for themselves in Accra, Ghana’s capital.


    The newlyweds passed their days working — Morris was in Ghana helping a non-profit organization called Global Mamas and Sloum was working as a chef — entertaining friends, watching movies together and going to the beach.

    “We were like the mom and dad of our group,” Morris recalled. “It’s our nature to be the home that our friends come to.”

    When Morris learned she was pregnant in September 2014, they started making arrangements to move back to the U.S. — to Morris’ home state of Kentucky.

    “With our son on the way, there were several reasons we wanted to leave Ghana — one being health care, one being education, one being overall stability — so we needed to be somewhere else,” Morris told TODAY Parents.

    Morris returned to the U.S. in April 2015, immediately contacting an immigration lawyer and filing paperwork for Sloum’s spousal visa. Today — nearly two years later — the couple is still not together, and Sloum, who remains in Ghana, has a 19-month-old son, Aiden, whom he has never met.

    “I had no idea this was the process. I was completely naive as to what would happen,” said Morris. “I think you always assume, especially in the case of a husband and wife, that you get married and they come, too.”


    Morris says they initially were told within six to nine months, Sloum would be reunited with her and their son. Instead, they have spent months trying to get Sloum into the U.S., sending in documents ranging from birth certificates to text message transcripts, completing all necessary paperwork and waiting.

    And now, with President Donald Trump's executive order, which bans the immigration of people from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria, to the U.S. for 90 days, the couple feels they have again hit a wall.

    “I didn't know any country will keep a man from his family,” Sloum told TODAY in an email. “Whenever I see my wife is hurting I wish I can take it for myself. The moment your child is born is one of the best gifts from God. I can never get that moment back. I have this beautiful gift — our son — but I can't hold him in my arms.”

    Morris says she and her husband applied for a visitor’s visa, so he could be present for Aiden’s birth. Their request was denied (during President Obama's term in office).

    “He was told ‘no,’ and that basically because he’s married to a U.S. citizen — he would never be granted a visitor’s visa, even though we made it clear he only wanted to come for the birth of his child,” said Morris, explaining that they were told by government employees that spouses granted a visitor’s visa often remain in the country illegally.

    Morris’ parents were with her at her son’s birth in June 2015. The Kentucky mom says while their support helped her greatly, it wasn’t the same as having her husband by her side.

    “It was scary for both of us,” Morris told TODAY through tears. “I wanted him there to hold my hand.”

    “To be married, and have your husband that is so excited to become a father, and to know that a piece of paper is why he can’t be there to experience the birth of his child — that’s really hard,” Morris continued.

    Morris and Sloum are among many families impacted by the halt in immigration. One pregnant Missouri woman is facing being without her Iraqi husband who was set to travel to the U.S. for their baby's birth. Iraq is one of the countries from which the president’s order suspends arrivals. In another case, an Iranian green card holder who married an American and has lived in Chicago for 10 years is currently in Iran with the couple's young daughter, an American citizen. They had been there visiting family and are now unable to return due to the ban.

    Kim Anderson is president of American Families United (AFU,) an organization that helps U.S. citizens who marry immigrants navigate immigration law.

    “U.S. citizens who marry immigrants often find themselves caught by the confusions and contradictions of immigration law,” said Anderson, who calls U.S. citizen spouses “the forgotten constituency” in the immigration debate.


    Paul Donnelly is a consultant for AFU and says the U.S. census counts 4.1 million Americans who are married to immigrants.

    “Nobody counts how many have had problems with immigration law, but our best count is at least 300,000 citizens are married to people who have some problem with immigration law that causes them to face the choice of being exiled, or outlawed — not unlike Tori Morris,” said Donnelly.

    Donnelly explains that spouses, kids and parents of U.S. citizens are what's known as "immediate relatives" and they are the highest priority for legal immigration to the U.S.

    “People think (immigrants) aren’t vetted — they are,” said Morris. “Your entire life is just opened up on the table for strangers to see. We’ve had to give details of our marriage and tell about when we got pregnant — it’s these intimate details of your life and your marriage that you just have to tell people. You have to prove that this person you chose as your husband is good enough.”

    Still, with an uncertain future and invasive measures, Morris says she and Sloum, who Aiden calls "Baba," will not give up hope, because of their son.

    “It’s hard. From the time Aiden was little, he’s always known his Baba’s voice because we Skype daily,” said Morris. “Sometimes we’ll be Skyping and he’ll reach his arms out and want Baba to hold him. He doesn’t understand why he can see his face, but can’t touch him.”


    “I hope he knows I am far from him because I love him so much,” said Sloum. “I want him to know I do this so he has an easier life than mine… we are just people trying to make a good life for our family.”

    “We just want our son to live a happy, safe life,” Morris agreed. “What I hope everyone would remember about my family — especially if they’re a parent — is that every decision you make as a parent is for your children… to give your child safety and full health care and an education. That’s all that we’re trying to do.”

    After hearing their story, Anderson of American Families United hopes to help Morris and Sloum.

    “AFU is ready to go with Tori Morris to speak with her Senators — Rand Paul and especially Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — to fix this god-awful, un-American mess,” Anderson told TODAY.

    Never miss a parenting story with TODAY’s newsletters! Sign up here

    Morris says she dreams of the day when she and her son meet Sloum at the airport to welcome him home, and imagines what life will be like when they sit down to dinner together every night as a family.

    “I’ll finally have my life back. I feel like when I left him in Ghana, someone just hit pause,” Morris explained. “Since that day, we’re still living — and we have this beautiful little boy and we’re so thankful — but so much of our life has just stopped because how do you move on? How do you create a life without your spouse? It’s like we’re all just holding on until we can hit play again.”


    And now, with an immigration ban leaving the future uncertain, Morris wonders when she will be able to carry on with her life.

    “I hope that seeing our family’s story makes this entire situation more relatable to people — that’s my goal,” said Morris. “As much as we miss each other, as much as our hearts are broken — if I took my son to Ghana to live and anything happened to him, I could never forgive myself because I had another option — as a U.S. citizen I had that privilege.”

  • 12/12/2016 6:31 PM | American Families United (Administrator)

    Thank you to Susan Ferriss for covering American Families United in a recent article on immigration.  You can read the article in its entirety at the link below:

    Trump and Immigration: Tough Talk Masks a Complex Reality

    "For years, these citizens have tried to persuade Congress unsuccessfully to reform these penalties— arguing that the bars have done nothing to deter illegal immigration and instead are a disproportionate punishment falling on Americans. Multiple bills with some bipartisan support have so far stalled in Congress. "

  • 11/24/2016 12:18 AM | Kimberly (Administrator)

    Happy Thanksgiving To You and Your Family!

    Dearest AFU family and friends:

    In this very challenging time for everyone, I wanted to be sure to take a moment to express heartfelt gratitude for the AFU family.  It is the strength, the friendship, and the love that has shown through the past several weeks as members have held each other up, dried each other’s tears, and encouraged each other to stand firm.  And for the chance to experience that, I am grateful. 

    It is not the circumstances we would have wished for, nor do most of us feel like we need any more  fortitude tests to show we are strong!.... and yet we are.  And we will continue to be, perhaps even more so.  And for the chance to be a part of that, I am also grateful.

    There is simply no way to sugar coat it, next year will be a tough year.  But, AFU will not just sit back idle.  Regardless of the winner of the presidential election, we knew there would be a lot of work to do to fight for our families.  And so, while it may be strategically different than we had hoped, we will keep on fighting for our rights as US citizens to be with our families here in the US.  We will keep being a fierce voice to bring our exiled US citizen families home.  It will take all of us, as shattered and tired as we are.  I know we can do it.

    In the next few months, you will see a lot more updates in regards to our plans.  I know you will want to stay abreast of this news and our calls to action...so, please take the time to make sure that these emails are not going to spam and that the information in your AFU profile is up to date.   We are hoping to employ a lot more strategic opportunities via email, phone, Facebook, and Twitter that will require everyone's attention.

    I would also like to take this time to ask seriously that you consider including AFU in your year-end donations, to help with the intense lobbying we will be needing. As a reminder, no one at AFU gets a salary, everyone is a volunteer.  All our funds go directly to support AFU’s lobbying and communication needs.  Our needs are greater than ever right now, as you can imagine.   Please go to our AFU website to donate, and could you ask other family and friends to do so as well?  Even the smallest amount can help.

     In December, please note we will also be sending out communications regarding membership dues. Unfortunately, the system has not been actively asking our members to pay their yearly dues for quite some time now and so perhaps when updating your profile, you might consider renewing if you have not already done so.

    As families, all over America travel to be together tomorrow, we are reminded that many of our AFU families cannot do so.  May we enjoy the incredible blessing of being with our family if we are able.  And may we hold all our AFU family members who cannot in our hearts, as we fight on to the day that all our families will be together. 

    Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

    Kimberly Anderson
    President
    American Families United

  • 04/29/2015 5:00 PM | American Families United (Administrator)

    Washington, April 29th: “As US citizens whose families have been damaged by immigration laws that contradict American values, we are encouraged and grateful that the bipartisan American Families United Act (H.R. 2095) has been re-introduced in this Congress,” said Kim Anderson, AFU President,  Americanfamiliesunited.org.

    “It is often said that there is so much partisan gridlock in Congress that it cannot get anything done to fix our broken immigration system,” Anderson said, “and that this is a reason why the Congress is so unpopular. But the hard work and courage that Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) and Steve Pearce (R-NM) continue to put into  finding a solution to this critical issue shows that’s not the whole story.”

    American Families United is an organization of US citizens whose families face sometimes unsolvable problems with US immigration law from violations that can be technical or trivial in nature. “It’s death penalty consequences with traffic court rules of evidence”, Anderson explained.

    “We are the neglected constituency in the immigration debate,” Anderson said.  “The Census counts 4.1 million Americans who are married to immigrants, of which perhaps as many as half a million have faced problems like those of AFU members.  But every American who has run the gauntlet of our broken immigration system looks at cases like ours and thinks: there but for the Grace of God and a glitch in the paperwork, goes my family.”

    AFU will organize around the introduction of H.R. 2095 to build legislative progress by recruiting cosponsors in the Congress, as well as constantly adding AFU members to our national organization.

    Kimberly Anderson
    President
    American Families United

  • 11/21/2014 5:00 PM | American Families United (Administrator)

    POSITION STATEMENT OF AMERICAN FAMILIES UNITED

    Regarding: reaction to President Obama's Executive Action

    By Kimberly Anderson, President, AmericanFamiliesUnited.org

    American Families United, on the eve following the announcement by President Obama applauds the White House for the courage to take an important first step in righting the wrongs of an immigration system that separates, exiles, and destroys US Citizen families and punishes US Citizen spouses for loving aspiring Americans. 

    With full hearts,  the membership of our organization, comprised primarily of US Citizen spouses who are married to undocumented immigrants celebrate today for our AFU citizen families that will be made whole again under the President's action. Yet we simultaneously languish in the continued suffering of AFU's US Citizen spouse members who have been forgotten: Childless US citizen spouses and those trapped in exile abroad under the burden of a magnanimous  decision to keep their families united simply do not deserve further exclusion and punishment from their own country. It is untenable that as US citizens they would not be treated at least as favorably as others  in the President's brave effort to relieve the suffering of families torn apart. American Families United will not allow the cries of these families to be lost in today's noise, either in affirmation of the Executive Action's particulars or in criticism of its audacity. 

    Our government can and must go further and must not leave US Citizens behind, period.  We are certain both the Administration and our legislative processes can work to eliminate this needless destruction of lives.  We have seen the best of effort to relieve this suffering in the bi-partisan efforts of Republican Congressman Steve Pearce and Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke as they brought forth HR3431, The American Families United Act, which corrects legislatively the fact that US Citizens who chose to marry foreigners should not be forced to choose between their country and their life.  We have been empowered by the expressions that US Citizen families being kept together is an American value, as exemplified by myriad other bi-partisan co-sponsors who listened to AFU members and then ACTED to right this wrong. 

    Now it is time to ACT again.

    While extremely grateful, AFU asks for immediate and continued examination by the Administration of AFU's proposed reliefs within both the framework and intent of present EA announcements. Finally, we call upon our legislators to work together immediately, as we have seen happen in bi-partisan efforts of HR3431 so that US Citizens  will be treated with the respect and dignity that their birth right, our American values, and humane laws should afford them.

  • 08/25/2014 5:00 PM | American Families United (Administrator)
    As the majority of the country agree's, America's Immigration system is broken and outdated.  On August 25th, American Families United joined a coalition of groups asking the current administration to focus on a single goal: addressing the egregious backlogs for legal immigration by adopting better rules for counting principals only to deal with set limits.  We believe such a simple change as this would help significantly accelerate family unification, eliminate backlogs for employment based opportunities, and reduce unauthorized immigration without an increase to legal immigration.  You can read the full letter or fact sheet at the included links.
  • 06/25/2014 3:36 PM | American Families United (Administrator)
    Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5) today cosponsored H.R. 3431, The American Families United Act.  H.R. 3431, introduced by Congressman's Beto O'Rourke and Steve Pearce, simply provides an opportunity for the US citizen spouse of a person who has an obstacle created by what are often trivial or merely technical violations of US immigration law, to go before an immigration judge or officer and make their case that the penalty for the US citizen and their family is too harsh.
  • 06/17/2014 9:00 AM | American Families United (Administrator)
    Congressman Erik Paulsen (MN-3) today cosponsored H.R. 3431, The American Families United Act.  H.R. 3431, introduced by Congressman's Beto O'Rourke and Steve Pearce, simply provides an opportunity for the US citizen spouse of a person who has an obstacle created by what are often trivial or merely technical violations of US immigration law, to go before an immigration judge or officer and make their case that the penalty for the US citizen and their family is too harsh.
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Contacts

Kimberly Anderson (President)

kim@americanfamiliesunited.org


Allyson Batista (Eastern VP)

allyson@americanfamiliesunited.org


Steven Zaharakis (Western VP)

steven@americanfamiliesunited.org


Minneapolis, MN 55416
612-715-9833


"American Families United" is a 501(c)4 non-profit

contact@americanfamiliesunited.org

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