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Posts Tagged ‘Gang of Eight’

Let’s Militarize the Border, They Said. It Worked for Nation-Building.

Yesterday I participated in a meet and greet with New Mexico State Senator Tim Keller.  I really wanted to write a whole post about that, considering that it’s super rare to get any state-wide candidates or leaders to come down to our region of the state.  However, because of today’s news dump, I realize that the campaign for New Mexico’s Office of State Auditor is going to have to wait awhile.

In addition to the ongoing NSA scandal and the mission impossible chase of Edward Snowden, today we all awaited news from the Supreme Court on various cases, more importantly related to the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 decision.  As for Snowden, we have absolutely no idea where he’s at.  Apparently he never made his flight to Cuba and is MIA.  There is, however, David Gregory, who wants to arrest Glenn Greenwald and the Supreme Court ends up deciding to keep us all in absolute jitters by going another Monday without decisions on DOMA and Prop 8.

While we wait around for important outcomes of stories mentioned above or watching mainstream media ignore the important, non-sensationalist stuff, many of us sat through the torture of what we all call, the United States Senate.

Immigration reform has a better chance of passing Congress this year than any other year in my fifteen years of advocating for reform. Reasons are simple.  Latino’s scared the crap out of the Republican Party during the November elections, when an overwhelming amount of Latino voters came out in huge numbers, in support of President Obama.  While many of them voted, those who couldn’t vote encouraged friends and families who could, to do so with a simple request. Vote Democrat, because the likelihood is that they won’t say boneheaded things about your community.  So here we are.  President Barack Obama was reelected, the Senate remained a majority of Democrats, both insisting immigration reform was a priority and necessity.  The House, well…that’s a different story.

The Senate came up with its bill in April and after debates in the Judiciary committee, has finally made its way to the Senate floor for, up until Friday, we all believed that most of what many of us asked for (i.e. pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants) would stay in tact as it headed for the House for a debate. I mean, come on?  The Republican’s need to do what we’re asking from them, right?

Friday around noon, when all the Senator’s had left DC for their home states for the weekend, an amendment was introduced, now known as Corker-Hoeven, that overhauls border security in a way no one was expecting.  (womp womp)

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Courtesy of Center for American Progress

In 2012, the Department of Homeland Security reported that the border was as secure as it possibly could be.  Politically, however, we know that we can’t depend on Republican support without them insisting on more security. So the initial Gang of Eight bill not only provided for increased border security, but the President and Democrats made security a priority when the entire conversation began.  Well, I guess a “beefed” up border was not enough because what Corker introduced was border security on steroids.

The measure would double the total number of patrol agents and add more than 700 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border at a cost of $38 billion.

As someone who follows Congress, I get that we have to compromise because that’s how our system works.  I get that our process makes it impossible for one party to dominate it all and pass exactly what their supporters expect.  But as an activist, who works day in and day out to defend and protect those that don’t have a voice, to what extent do we compromise and at whose expense?  When do we just stop handing over everything to the Republican Party, especially when they’ve been hijacked by extreme nativists who do not want immigration reform?

When the initial bill came out, a group of activists from across the state of New Mexico came together to develop a state platform and border security was one of the components we were worried about.  After speaking with New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, we insisted, and he agreed, that the border was as secure now as it ever will be. However, although we were very concerned with the discussion of border security back in April, in no way did we expect it to reach today’s levels.  Not at all.

So here is the question.  Do we end our mission for reform because of plan to militarize the border, creating a greater nightmare for all those living along the US/Mexican border? Or do we suck it up and move forward despite the fact that a pathway to citizenship will come at a very tough cost?

NEXT UP…THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

If today’s vote reflects anything we’ll see on Thursday on the Senate floor, it will head to the House.   But the question remains.  Will Speaker Boehnor get his group of Republican’s in the House of Representatives to support this plan and send it to the President for his signature?

Remember.  This Congress has done absolutely nothing when it comes to public policy and bi-partisanship in the last four years.  As awful as this updated immigration bill is, can we actually rely on Congress to get it to the President and sign it into law?

The next few days are crucial as Democrats seek out Republican’s to get those critical 70 votes in the Senate for a final vote on the floor.  Unless Senator Ted Cruz manages to coerce his Republican colleagues and convince them to agree with his awful justifications for denying 11 million people their turn for citizenship, the Senate bill should be heading to the House.

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Pathway To Citizenship for 11 Million: Dead On Arrival Or Inevitable?

I’m been following the immigrant rights movement since 2000 or so.  However, my interest in the movement peaked in 2006 while I was in Los Angeles and it has been of great interest to me ever since.  As an activist and an organizer, I am 100% committed to a pathway to  citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants here in the United States.  It is absolutely the right thing to do.  But as the Senate’s Gang of Eight release the first draft of the immigration bill on Tuesday, as a blogger and social media person who spends a lot of time following those within the movement, I can’t help but wonder what the responses will be from them once the bill is released. Massive disappointment?  Or a great place to start?

Although I’m optimistic, as a blogger and social media person observing the movement from the outside, I am also worried.  A year ago I could see a very tense and divided movement.  On the one hand you had activists coming out for building on the foundation of working with Congress to pass something meaningful, continuing the work from previous years and attempting to show a solid bi-partisan commitment to reform.  But on the other hand, you had activists who were not happy with the results of 2006 and beyond and they split, moving forward with a more radical and non-traditional form of protest against the political status quo.  Civil disobedience (which many of us would agree is what led to President Obama signing off on deferred action for DREAMers) is what many feel was necessary to hold the Obama Administration and Democrats and Republican’s alike, accountable, but it was also an attempt to go about the issue of immigrant rights to a completely different level.  Why focus on the political and pushing policy when we know Congress doesn’t function?  Why should we wait on the government to do anything?

Steps were taken to move in a different direction by the latter group and many of us, especially me, felt compelled to give these young DREAMers props for what they were doing.  No longer were they interested in doing things the “traditional” way, but instead spent days protesting in President Obama’s campaign offices across the country or risked their lives by purposely getting arrested and put into deportation proceedings to show the world how brutal detention facilities are across the country.

Now, while all of these examples show incredible bravery and have helped to shift the momentum for youth pushing for a pathway to citizenship for all, I can’t help but wonder how these two different methods from two sectors within the movement (with similar goals) will affect the conversation in the coming weeks.  A year ago I wasn’t worried.  A year ago I felt that things were moving in a separate but productive and effective process and that at some point after the election, these two ideologies would manage to come to fruition.  But in recent weeks, my observation is that this is not the case.  These two philosophies are coming head to head with one another and challenging chances for real reform.  We’re facing a devastating shift in momentum which could lead to much less than what we are bargaining for.

This is the United State of America and we know very well that our Congress cannot agree on anything and hasn’t during the last four years.  However, since the election in November things looked different in terms of immigration.  We had both sides of the political spectrum seeing the impact of Latino turnout and we were confident that policy makers understood our commitment to seeing reform through, capitalizing on what we stand strongly for.  But with the school shooting in Connecticut, the ongoing debate of gun control, in conjunction with the sequester and this division among the movement which I have been observing, makes me feel extremely worried about the prospects of immigration reform this year…

or at least being satisfied with a good foundation.

Soon after the the Gang of Eight introduces its bill on Tuesday and after all the amendments have been added to the bill and after all the debating and politicizing of the issue is made by both sides, will we again be disappointed like we were in the past or have the differences of methods among the immigrant rights movement laid the groundwork for something much more promising than even I have ever expected?

We’ll find out on Tuesday.