U.S. Immigration Reform: March 2010 Archives
DreamActivist PA, in conjunction with the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia and RIFA, sent a bus to the March for America yesterday to join the 200,000 people calling for comprehensive immigration reform from the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The bus was filled with students from Temple University and UPenn who had been mobilized by student leaders.
Once in D.C., we hurried to the Capitol to try to catch up with the DREAM Act march proceeding from Lower Senate Park to the rally site on the Mall. We got word the Dreamers were in front of the Capitol and thought we had spotted them. We were on our way over to join them when Mark pointed out that the yellow flags the crowd of 200 or so were waving were not immigration reform flags but "Don't Tread on Me" flags. We had narrowly missed joining up with the Tea Partiers protesting the impending passage of the health care reform bill! While this would have made for some interesting political theater, it wasn't how we wanted to spend our day.
We passed a few more Tea Partiers on our way to the rally site. One held a sign saying "Small Government = Freedom." I had to agree--paring back DHS's immigration enforcement budget would do more to promote individual freedom in the U.S. than almost any other cost-cutting measure.
Once at the rally site, we finally met up with the Dream contingent. I met for the first time in person Kemi (Texas), Juan (Florida), Mo (Michigan), and Matias (California) from DreamActivist, which was very exciting for me! Mo could barely stand still for a minute or two before running off to coordinate something or other, which is just what I expected from my earlier long-distance interactions with him.
I heard the MC announcing that President Obama was about to speak and jumped to my feet. As I heard his pre-recorded message of solidarity with the marchers, I felt anger boiling up inside. He spoke of families torn apart under the current system and I wondered why his administration continues to make forced family separation a reality. He has the power to stop detaining entire families in Pennsylvania, to grant deferred action status to Dream-eligible youth pending a vote on the Dream Act, to call a halt to the midnight home raids that terrorize communities, to instruct USCIS to interpret the laws on family reunification in a less restrictive way, to enact enforceable detention regulations. There are many things he could do right now that fall within the proper discretion of the Executive, but he chooses not to do them. But he talks about his unwavering commitment to immigration reform, his sorrow at the children torn from their parents' arms. He feels immigrants' pain; he also causes it. I have heard enough empty promises from President Obama. At this point, I have a hard time believing anything he says about immigration reform.
I asked Maria of DreamActivist PA for her take on the march and specifically Obama's address:
I don't want to say I'm giving up hope but he is saying what he needs to say to appease the crowd. I know he's committed, but we need action, not the same old talk. A simple thing like passing the Dream Act, which has overwhelming support, would be a huge step.
While most eyes are focused on the HCR debate right now, there is another high-stakes legislative issue waiting in the wings. For those whose families and communities are impacted by the problematic immigration system, immigration reform is as crucial as anything else on the Democratic agenda.
But right now, immigrants and advocates are wondering whether immigration reform is even on the agenda of Democrats in Congress and the White House, notwithstanding Candidate Obama's promise to make immigration reform a top priority during his first year in office.
That's why I was happy to see the Inquirer's editorial about the DREAM Act over the weekend.
Under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, a path to citizenship would be provided to these children after they graduate from high school and enroll in college or the military for two years, steps that would help them become productive members of society.
Critics argue such action condones or encourages illegal immigration, but that's a narrow-minded view of a much bigger problem. There are at least 12 million illegal immigrants who live and work in the United States. Since most are not returning to their homelands, this country must find a good way to move them to permanent-residency status.
Short of a comprehensive national policy on immigration, the DREAM Act bill provides lawmakers with an opportunity to pass one segment of the sweeping reform that's needed.
The four students currently walking the 1500-mile Trail of Dreams from Florida to D.C. are in Atlanta this week. The students and their supporters made a stop in Gwinnett County, a suburb of Atlanta and location of a 287(g) program run by Sheriff Butch Conway whereby local police enforce federal immigration laws under ICE oversight. These 287(g) programs are typically enacted by grandstanding sheriffs who want an excuse to terrorize the local Latin@ community to win votes among local nativist whites. Once 287(g) is in place in a given jurisdiction, local law enforcement has carte blanche to engage in racial profiling, knowing that any arrest for any reason, whether or not criminal charges are made or are later thrown out, will likely lead to deportation. It's simple: 287(g) = racial profiling. The fact that President Obama still supports this program says worlds about his immigration policy priorities and the value his administration places on the pro-migrant vote.
The Dreamers' goal was to meet Sheriff Conway to challenge his implementation of 287(g) in Gwinnett County. Roberto Lovato of presente.org sent word of how the meeting went yesterday:
[T]he students walked into the Gwinnett County courthouse and demanded to speak to Sheriff today. and they did while wearing shirts emblazoned with the word "UNDOCUMENTED." Rather than face them, Sheriff Conway, the Joe Arpaio of the South, opted to have one of his subordinates deal with the walkers. In sum, the students faced down Sheriff Conway, who, under false or flimsy pretences, has jailed hundreds (almost 500) of undocumented immigrants in Gwinnett county in the past 3 months alone. (for more info on the action, see presente.org website) Conway backed away from doing what he does to immigrants in Gwinnett County on a daily basis: arrest and help deport them! thanks for listening and monitoring and following this important story. more to come soon as the walkers still have another 900 miles and 2 months to go til they reach DC.
Felipe, Gaby, Carlos, and Juan also garnered some local media attention, bringing their message to Atlantans who may never have considered that the undocumented immigrants their politicians rail against might also be their children's classmates and friends. English-language broadcasts can be seen here and here.
Visit the Trail of Dreams website if you'd like to donate to pay for food, water, and supplies so the Dreamers can reach D.C.