President Obama must push harder on immigration reform
Despite campaign promises of immigration reform, President Obama's administration has increased deportations. Guest columnists Pramila Jayapal and U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez argue the president can do more to push reform forward.
Special to The Times
Call for immigration reformU.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez and Pramila Jayapal will participate in "Change Takes Courage," Sunday at Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave.
The free public meeting will run from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
EARLY one February morning, Ricardo was awakened by his mother's screams and someone pounding on his bedroom door. When the high-school student and U.S. citizen answered the door, a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was pointing a gun with a scope light straight at him.
Ricardo was thrown to the floor. His brothers were treated the same way. Residents throughout their Ellensburg trailer park were raided as well. His parents were taken away in handcuffs and are facing deportation.
Janet is also a U.S. citizen who lives in fear. As she started her freshman year of high school, she said goodbye to her father through a glass wall at the Tacoma Detention Center as he was being deported. Three years later, she lives in fear her mother will be deported, too.
She has seen families all around her being torn apart as the Obama administration has deported even more people than the Bush administration. When Janet turned 18 last month, she registered to vote. She is like the majority of registered Latino voters, 53 percent of whom know someone undocumented, while one-fourth know someone who is facing deportation or has been deported. She is ready for her voice to be heard.
Janet and Ricardo are among 4 million U.S. citizen children with an undocumented parent whose fear of deportation for a family member is a daily reality. They will join other U.S. citizens whose families and lives have been turned upside down by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — speaking at a Seattle rally Sunday against the harsh immigration enforcement that sadly has been a hallmark of the Obama administration. Today, we are a far cry from inspirational campaign promises to fix the broken immigration system.
Moderate Republicans and some conservative Democrats who used to support immigration reform have chosen politics over values, even refusing to pass the DREAM Act, a piece of common-sense legislation that exemplifies American values. And President Obama not only has failed to fight for immigration reform but has increased deportations through programs such as the misnamed "Secure Communities," the "Criminal Alien Program" and 287(g) agreements, which fundamentally erode trust of law enforcement in the community by blurring the lines between immigration enforcement and local law enforcement.
Already, 12 Washington counties have signed on to participate in Secure Communities, causing panic in immigrant communities. President Obama has argued that if he increases enforcement, perhaps some Republicans will support him on immigration reform. Yet he also acknowledges he would never satisfy some in Congress who put politics ahead of real solutions.
So what is stopping this president — a legal scholar known for the inspiration of where he comes from and what he achieved — from standing up for immigrants, for the economy and for our values by taking executive action that is within his power?
People across the country are making this plea to President Obama: Provide relief to our families who have deep ties to the United States.
President Obama has the power under existing law to pass administrative reforms that would allow DREAM Act students to stay, to stop the expansion of Secure Communities and similar programs, and to allow family members of U.S. citizens who are eligible to legalize to do so without leaving the country.
With any real option for comprehensive immigration reform stalled in Congress, this is the bare minimum that must be done and that is within the president's power. As the president delays, fear is growing in our families and our communities. Workers are suffering. And kids, who could make the United States the envy of the world with their vision, talents and dreams, instead languish without hope.
Our country, our economy and our kids deserve better. We're waiting for you, Mr. President.U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., left, is chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Pramila Jayapal is the founder and executive director of OneAmerica.