June 2012 Archives

NOTE: What follows is the limited perspective of one person, a pro-migrant chapringo ally, on the immediate story of what led to President Obama's promise to stop the deportations of 1 million people, last week. Most of the people who could tell this story better than me are already working furiously on next steps. I've written this out because it's a story that needs to be told to better determine next steps, but if I'm missing anything or telling it wrong, please help me tell it right in the comments or through your own posts, which I will happily link to. What follows is a draft that I will continue to modify in an effort to make it better.

"We can exist now in the eyes of the country."

Julio Salgado - Los Angeles Times(16 June 2012)

Wow. I don't think it's possible to overstate the significance of the "Remarks by the President on Immigration," delivered last week. President Obama just promised to "lift the shadow of deportation" for what some estimates suggest is anywhere between 800,000 and 1.4 million young people and also allow them to "apply for work authorization." The internet exploded with the news.

The mainstream media conversation quickly devolved into vapid statements about political process and discussion of the even more inane actions of an incompetent reporter. Beneath that empty noise, a much more interesting conversation is taking place. A movement, led by undocumented immigrants, found a way to bend the will of the most powerful person on Earth and is now furiously debating where to go from here: celebration? implementation? escalation? My co-blogger David Bennion has already doused some of the euphoria with some hard legal analysis of how this is going to play out.

Nowhere, though, have I seen even a basic recounting of what brought us here. From everything I've read, it's as if the President just woke up by himself one day, last week, and all of the sudden decided to "do the right thing, period." Everyone who has followed this closely knows that's not how it happened, but not everyone in the country, much less the world has been following this closely. So, before I even get into the next steps I think it's extremely important that we all try to tell the story of how we got here. What follows is my feeble attempt.

The Fox And The Wolf: The Story So Far

The story of how a subset of unauthorized migrants who used to be fearful and invisible grew to be undocumented, unfraid, and most importantly well-organized enough to move the most powerful person on the planet, last week, is an epic story that continues on. I'm not sure if even the greatest artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers, could do the story justice working at the peak of their powers. I'm not going to even attempt to recount that entire story, myself, but I will try and tell the most recent iteration of it.

Undoccupy Oakland.jpg

[Undocumented activists occupy Obama campaign office in Oakland, CA / Image: Krsna Avila]

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today issued instructions to federal immigration agencies not to deport undocumented youth who meet certain criteria. The criteria are based on the provisions of the proposed DREAM Act. President Obama announced the policy change at the White House soon afterward.

The new policy, if implemented, would provide temporary relief to many undocumented youth in the United States. Undocumented organizers who fought for their rights and their communities deserve the credit for today's policy change.

But I worry that this announcement, like those before it, is intended to improve poll numbers more than to benefit undocumented families. I am skeptical because DHS is institutionally oriented towards deporting people and because this administration has made deportations its number one immigration policy priority. Serious questions about the new policy remain unanswered.

Update 6/22/12: Click through for a Spanish translation of this post.

Here are some pros and cons of the new policy guidance:

elise-and-dylan.pngResponding to ICE's release of data on prosecutorial discretion as of May 29, 2012, American Immigration Lawyers Association president Eleanor Pelta categorically stated ""The prosecutorial discretion initiative has failed."

Only 1.5% of cases in deportation proceedings under review have been closed so far (4,403 of 288,361). And "closed" is not entirely accurate, any case administratively closed"under the prosecutorial discretion review is technically still pending and can be reopened by ICE at any time for any reason. Of the cases administratively closed, Pelta said, "even those were granted only a temporary reprieve, keeping their lives completely in limbo. That's a very low rate-far less than the percentage that succeed in obtaining relief in court."

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