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Immigration Developments: What This Means For The Dreamers?

June 15, 2012 2 comments

The last few days, I’ve been working on getting back on track with regular posts since spending a few days in Rhode Island for Netroots Nation. The last few weeks, I have been reflecting on a post I wasn’t sure I was qualified enough to write about and so I’d been holding off on it. Interestingly enough, today’s developments may have provided a great opportunity to expand on what I was thinking about writing.

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I write a bit about immigration, the DREAM Act and the use of

Department of Homeland Security, Executive Order

the term “illegal” in immigration debate. The issue of immigration reform is very important to me because of my own personal history of having family and friends attempting to survive and enduring a very broken immigration system. Friends and relatives who have lived in America their whole lives, maintain a life of living in fear and the possibility of deportation, all because they have no papers.

The last 3 1/2 years, President Obama created a worrisome environment for many, with over 1 million deportations in 2011. Once a positive relationship between the immigrants rights community and Barack Obama, has since been tarnished in recent years, according to some within the movement. Who could blame them?

As a progressive who cares deeply about immigration reform and a progressive who is deeply committed to the future of this nation and committed to seeing the President and others elected in November, I worry.

It’s no surprise that in terms of the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, the President has been a huge disappointment to Latino’s, particularly the DREAMers who have been on this chaotic and unsteady ride for over 10 years.

But today, with a stroke of a pen…President Obama has finally begun to do the right thing in terms of comprehensive reform.

Speaking to reporters today (not just the hecklar) the President’s Executive Order lays out a plan which states the following:

1) Person must be no more than 30 years old, 2) Person must have arrived in the country before they turned 16, 3) Person must have lived in the United States for five years, 4) Person must have no criminal record and, 5) Person must have earned a high school diploma, be in school or have served in the military.

The President was clear. “This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship, not a permanent fix.”

By reading the executive order, it details a lot of the same requirements laid out in the Dream Act legislation, which was written over ten years ago and most recently was voted down by the Senate during the 2010 lame duck session. Just recently, a so-called “version” had a short revival by Senator Marco Rubio, who presented something much more watered down and in essence creating a second-class citizenry.

Today’s announcement does little to suppress any notion that this will a big fight in this election. However, could it also be the necessary step to re-energize the Democratic base as well as Latino’s to come out in masses come November? With the re-election of President Obama, could we really be seeing the DREAM Act take fruition?

No idea.

Just by looking at my Twitter feed I could tell that this issue is going to polarize an already polarized constituency. You’ve got the diehard DREAMERs on the left, defending their rights as American’s without papers with a fringe still not confident in what the President had to say today. Then there is the other side. The racists, xenophobes on the right who will make this issue a wedge issue this election year and create havoc on an already scary situation for undocumented immigrants.

The important thing is that the President took the step we needed to get the conversation going.

Today’s emotions and celebrations should not be the end to this debate, but the beginning.

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Arizona’s SB 1070: What If My Family Were The Supreme Court?

April 25, 2012 6 comments

“I’m not a social worker, I’m a cop.”

These words came out of the most infamous sheriff we know of today, Joe Arpaio. But it might as well have come out of the mouth of one of my cousin’s over the weekend. A state trooper, he finds the idea of illegal immigration a scary situation for our country and, “a matter of national security.” As serious as this may sound, he also was unable to provide any specific reasons other than, “these people are breaking the law.” Sidenote: Both of his parents were born in Mexico.

I have been an immigrant rights activist for over ten years now and defending the immigrant community has never gotten easier. In fact, it has gotten that much tougher. On the eve of SB1070’s oral arguments in the highest court in the land, the judicial fight has only just begun. Yet, the divisive issue of immigration reform (or lack thereof), amongst our Latino community specifically, is alive and well and perhaps a long and winding road.

It’s funny. I usually joke about my Mexican family and how they are the root of my blog material, but it can’t be further from the truth. With so much diversity amongst my people, you wouldn’t expect anything less. Although I’m psyched for the material, the debates are always awful and never easy to write about.

Never.

In the case of Arizona’s SB1070, my family’s debate and/or conversations about immigration sound a lot like individuals who call in to a radio show. Let’s take for example, On Point with Tom Ashbrook, who yesterday morning, discussed in great detail, SB1070 and the Supreme Courts decision to begin to hear oral arguments tomorrow. As I listened in, I couldn’t help but compare the callers calling in to the conversations I had over the weekend with my own family. Some callers provided great insight on the issue, but then there were the other callers who were incredibly disingenuous, providing no real concrete information other than their biased feelings towards the issue of illegal immigration. Like a few in my family.

So I ask myself. If I’m an immigrant activist, who has been defending the rights of undocumented immigrants for years, how is it that I plan to make a difference in the overall immigration debate of this nation when I can’t even influence those within my own immediate family?

I don’t know.

I am confused and nervous tonight because the Supreme Court, like the anti-immigrant members in my own family, may get this whole SB1070 wrong. Come June, the Justices may rule for Arizona and uphold the disastrous law we’ve come to know.

What if?

So far in the last two years, activists and supporters have tried their best to alleviate the burden on undocumented immigrants, appealing the law and its legalities, getting the courts to successfully rule the laws unconstitutional. In other cases, law enforcement have felt that they’re too overextended so have chosen not to pursue enforcement of the law. However, by Supreme Court ruling for Arizona, the floodgates would open up big time, making things much worse under very unimaginable circumstances. If we thought things were bad now, they will only get worse.

Politically, Democrats and immigrant rights activists have begun to strategize, looking at different scenario’s if and when the Supreme Court rules in favor of SB1070. If the ruling comes in June, that’s five months prior to the presidential election, which means the Democrats in Congress can send an anti-SB1070 bill up for a vote, Republican’s will be forced to take a side and the Democrats will come out as the one to choose, right? Sounds all nice and dandy, doesn’t it? The problem with this however, is that the Latino vote will once again be used for political gain. How do we know we won’t be used and taken for a ride once again, to only be disappointed in the end? (Again.)

Hmmm…

But let’s be frank, the Democrats aren’t the only one’s guilty of this spectacular nonsense. Just a few months ago, Mitt Romney criticized Rick Perry during a GOP debate for supporting and implementing the DREAM Act in Texas. Days later, Romney boasted that if the DREAM Act were to ever pass at the national level, he would repeal it as president. Now, as the general election campaign against President Obama begins to unfold, Romney, as well as other Republican’s, appear to have changed their minds about the DREAM Act (again), convincing the token Latino, Senator Marco Rubio (no relation, thank gawd) from Florida, to write his own version of the DREAM Act and parade around the country with it as a perfect alternative to those of us who have been fighting for the real thing for over ten years!!

Neither side have been very effective in supporting and helping immigrant rights activists like myself. We’ve been courted and dumped time and time again. Can the Justices on the United States Supreme Court be objective enough as possible to throw out something as horrendous as SB1070, forcing both political parties to finally come together to pass comprehensive immigration reform?

The infighting within our politics is one thing, but when the infighting takes place amongst my people, taking each other on to satisfy political leaders at the top, at the expense of our own is an insult to our parents and grandparents before us, who came to this country when the border was just a line in the dirt. It is an insult to the millions of undocumented immigrants all across this country today, working long hours and being exploited by money hungry employers getting rich off the sweat of their brow. It is an insult to the countless human beings who have died in the sweltering deserts of the US/Mexican border, attempting to arrive and reach that American Dream, to provide for their family here and back home. It is an insult to the millions of families who are separated each and every day from his/her children and deported to their home country without knowing if and when they will ever speak to their families again.

SB1070 is as divisive as anything I’ve ever known in my own life time, yet reflect the awful history this country once endured many years ago. With just hours left before oral arguments begin in Washington, DC, those of us on the front lines will listen and wait for the momentous occasion in which our Supreme Court will either choose to move forward and rule in favor of a future of equality and unity for all, or rule in favor of stepping back into history, to defend the darkest times in our country’s past.

We can’t afford to go back.