As the House GOP released their principles this week, immigration reform advocates cheered. After all, the release of principles is evidence that the House GOP is thinking about appeasing to a growing demographic, and that perhaps the beloved comprehensive immigration bill – S. 744 – is not as dead as we have previously pronounced.
After years of working on this issue and waiting for legislation, I remain more skeptical and believe we need to see actual legislation, and actual movement on legislation, before blindly praising either political party. I also think the President has the power and authority to stop most of the deportations. I believe the undocumented-led groups such as DRM Action, are in the same boat, and joined by the largest union in the country, AFL-CIO.
Some pundits were critical of Richard Trumka, son of first generation immigrants and leader of the AFL-CIO, for suggesting that the GOP principles were “fools gold” and that the President must act to quell the abysmal tide of deportations. After all, while we continue to negotiate immigration reform, the President could stop deportations, and he undoubtedly has the power to do so. A growing chorus of grassroots leaders, andeven House Democrats also want the President to stop deportations, so the AFL-CIO’s position appears to advance the interest of the community directly impacted by ICE raids, mass deportation and mass incarceration.
President Obama has presided over record deportations
But then Becky Tallent, an aide for Speaker John Boehner, accused the AFL-CIO of trying to kill immigration reform. Those who remember, Tallent was also opposed to stopping deportations while she was at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Other immigration lawyers who stand to benefit from immigration reform also attacked the immigrant justice advocates for being critical of the House GOP showing interest in reforms.
We’ve been down this road before. The AFL-CIO was blamed for killing immigration reform in 2007 for opposing an exploitative guest-worker program. Then, while I was working with United We DREAM in 2009, we were blamed for killing immigration reform simply for trying to put together an undocumented youth-led organization. The next year, in 2010, undocumented youth who came out, shut down streets and protested at the Capitol for a standalone DREAM Act, were blamed for killing immigration reform. Last year, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) was accused of killing immigration reform. Recently, Erika Andiola and Caesar Vargas from the DRM Action Coalition, have been accused of trying to kill immigration reform.
It’s juvenile and absurd to accuse immigrant justice fighters and those who have been directly impacted by the immigration system of trying to kill reforms that would better our lives, or the lives of our parents and community members. Also, it has gotten boring. We aren’t in high school anymore, and actual lives are at stake here.
No one besides the extreme Right, which includes FAIR, CIS and NumbersUSA, is trying to kill immigration reform. The rest of us seek freedom and justice. You cannot kill an idea, and sooner or later, they will learn.
House Democrat leader, Nancy Pelosi and the House GOP remain at odds about immigration reform, even while they have been tasked with resolving this issue. Perhaps it is time to stop pointing fingers at one another and hold the people in power accountable — President Obama for his record deportations, and the House GOP for dragging their foot on this matter.