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Posts Tagged ‘Obama Administration’

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.

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Senator Martin Heinrich Makes Case For Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Will Rest of New Mexico Delegation Follow?

March 18, 2013 2 comments

Today I participated on a call with United States Senator, Martin Heinrich from New Mexico, along with various organizations from across the state, many of which are involved on issues related to social justice, human and immigration rights.

The Senator’s office invited many community leaders to participate on this call because it was around a hot topic that could finally mean something in the coming weeks and months: comprehensive immigration reform.

Following the plight of immigrants in my own family and as an activist for the last ten or so years, this call was important in a lot of ways.  First, it tells me we might see some results this year.  Second, it says that as a border state, New Mexico is at the forefront of the conversation on border security and that our opinion on the issue should matter.  Finally, despite the horrendous record of our own Governor (must I remind you), our congressional delegation (minus the guy who’s last name rhymes with fierce but is not) have an opportunity to be leaders in ongoing discussions around the issue.  By contacting those of us on the ground to participate in a dialogue, my hope is that we can help the Senator frame his policy on this very important matter.

I had an opportunity to pose a question to Senator Heinrich prior to the call and the question was repeated almost verbatim throughout today’s conversation and that question was, “what is the Senator’s stance on deportations and the separation of families?”

His answer was simple.

“Illegal crossings [on the border] are down 90%. We must recognize what works and we must have real consideration for our communities”

An activist from Santa Fe made it clear, “the border is already secure,” Senator Heinrich may have confirmed it with this very simple statement.

But why does the Obama administration, Democratic Senator’s like Charles Schumer and those on the right continue to insist that we have to incorporate an overhaul in border security in order to make comprehensive immigration reform happen?

At the local level, we have seen horrible injustices to families who have been separated because of a horrible immigration system.  Actually, “system” is giving the federal government too much credit.  Instead, what families are experiencing, and have been for many years, is a bottle neck of uncertainty. Laws at the local and state level continue to deprive individuals of basic human rights, being subjected to intolerance and racial profiling at the hands of law enforcement who have no idea how to handle culture-sensitive issues or any immigration issue for that matter. More importantly and you would think this was common sense, but law enforcement should not be dealing with these issues.

Calls (and visits) with congressional leadership should continue and while Senator Heinrich was very happy to continue this dialogue from now on, it is important the we continue to push the same debate with the rest of the New Mexico delegation.  It is obvious that if the President is talking “border security” and continues to deport millions of people by separating millions of families, those of us working on the ground in New Mexico should be facilitating this debate and encouraging our leaders to do the same.

But we’ve been here before.  The question though is what will we do to make sure that promises made are no longer broken?  We must no longer rely solely on the a broken system of checks and balances.  We must demand that these promises be fulfilled by organizing our communities.

The Senator ended the call with, “este es el año.”

We must make it so.

Supreme Court of the United States of America Did What??

June 26, 2012 2 comments

So…I’ve had a few hours to figure out this whole Supreme Court, SB1070 ruling and it’s pretty clear.  We might be ok.

Now, it’s not the perfect decision.  The one provision that scared the crap out of me is still a

Courtesy of ACLU Nationwide

haunting threat to our communities of color.  However…it could be a lot worse, I suppose.  I mean, it’s the Supreme Court of the United States! They’ve not been gentle to us in the last few years, so I’m extremely surprised that we got at least 3 out of 4 on this one.

According to the ruling:

“The Supreme Court struck down three central sections of Arizona’s law, which had been regarded by opponents as the most harsh. In allowing the “show-me-your-papers” provision to stand, the court accepted, for the time being at least,
Arizona’s word that police officers would not engage in racial profiling as they put it into practice.” 

For more (clearer and easier language) information pertaining to this ruling, please check out Amy Howe’s, “SB1070: In Plain English.”

So, although Governor Jan Brewer declared a victory yesterday, those who were victorious are the countless organizers on the ground in many parts of the nation where anti-immigrant/anti-Latino laws have sprung up in the last few years and are prepared to face the overwhelming possibilities of legalized “racial profiling” this country has not seen since the times of Jim Crow.

There was a silver lining, however, with today’s announcement, in terms of law enforcement taking positive steps to making sure our communities are safe.  Unlike Sheriff Arpaio, who is no stranger to breaking laws within his own state of Arizona (and is committed to make no changes on his end with this Supreme Court decision) others were not quick to defend the upheld policy themselves.

Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia attempted Monday to reassure residents that police will not discriminate based on race, saying that he will not tolerate profiling and that the agency will continue to concentrate resources on violent criminals and property crimes.

Furthermore, in a move by the Obama Administration, one in which Governor Brewer called, “political,” Homeland Security revoked 287 (g) agreements in Arizona, creating even more friction between the “states-rights” Governor and the Obama Administration.

In terms of the immigration debate, it’s no surprise that President Obama’s announcement on June 15 and the Supreme Court decision will only become a wedge issue between the President’s re-election efforts and flip flopping Mitt Romney’s prospects.  For a Republican Presidential candidate attempting to regain some confidence amongst the immigrant community, his delayed responses to the June 15 announcement and again yesterday provides very little hope for any mass support especially after Mr. Romney’s long awaited comment of, “And there are states now under this decision have less authority, less latitude, to enforce immigration laws

This comment did very little to settle any uneasiness I’ve had with the candidate in regards to this issue.  Not sure how much better it is now for immigrant right’s and legal advocates across the country.

So…who won?

Every where you looked, both sides declared themselves a winner.  All over Fox News, Governor Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio, the main proponents of this bill, both declared victory for states rights in this country.  However, after much further review of reports, it seems that the real winner was the Obama Administration who challenged SB1070 and opponents of the bill who have worked hard the last two years to organize communities around this racially charged law.

Adam Serwer, a reporter for Mother Joneswrites about how the media got yesterday’s ruling all wrong.  Reflecting on a post written by Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law, stated the following:

“Although some early news reports said that the court upheld this “show me your papers” provision, that wasn’t quite right. The court determined that it didn’t have enough information about how the law worked in practice, especially considering the law explicitly commands the police not to engage in racial profiling. So the justices sent the dispute over this provision back to the lower courts for further fact finding. Nevertheless, the court specifically noted that if this law led to racial profiling, as I suspect it will be concluded, the law would be invalidated.”

The good news is, the Supreme Court may have, in effect, found the entire law itself unconstitutional.  The bad news is, many people in our communities will have to be subjected to racial profiling for the courts to determine that the upheld provision was in fact, unconstitutional.

The proof is in the numbers.

Until then, we continue to rely on our communities and our leaders, to do the right thing in hopes that laws like SB1070, never see the light of day.