The President should mark the one year anniversary of the implementation of deferred action by expanding it to the rest of our family members. Marco Rubio might warn that Obama could act alone if Congress fails to pass immigration reform. But the truth is that the President to should act now in order to help immigration reform’s chance of passing at all.
Ironically, in a quote being spread widely, Rubio said that Obama could issue “an executive order as he did for the DREAM Act kids a year ago, where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen,” and doing so doesn’t require the intolerable compromises we’ve seen in Congress. Rubio goes on to say, “We won’t get any E-Verify. We won’t get any border security. But he’ll legalize them.”
As someone who’s lived with the fear that comes with being undocumented since I came to the US and continues to live with the worry that my mother could be deported at any moment, hearing the option that Rubio laid out for the President actually sounds pretty good. The question isn’t will the President expand DACA if Congress fails to pass reform. It’s why hasn’t he done it already?
Deferred action, a program that has granted relief from the threat of deportation and legal status to hundreds of thousands of Dream-eligible youth, is neither amnesty nor a new policy invented by Obama. It’s a long-standing form of executive power used as far back as 1971. The fact that Rubio warns against its expansion shows us two things. First, his statement is really a warning that Republicans in the House don’t want to move on anything that recognizes the political equality of the undocumented. And second, he actually highlights the responsibility of the President to take immediate action.
Obama leading on immigration reform and showing that our equality is not to be bargained with is not a last resort after a logjam in Congress but a step that needs to be taken now to prevent it. The militarization that Rubio warns won’t come to fruition is a $46 billion waste that meets the interests of defense contractors but not the American people and not those who want to see the inclusion of the 11 million people who already call the US home.
As we celebrate the anniversary of DACA this summer, we also mark the anniversary of immigrant youth meeting with the White House attorneys and proving that the President had full authority then to grant administrative relief to Dream Act eligible youth. It’s been a year since we gave them an ultimatum and since immigrant youth sat-in Obama campaign offices, finally forcing the President to create the program. This summer also marks the anniversary of the No Papers No Fear riders who were arrested at the Democratic National Convention asking him to expand it. It’s been the courage and sacrifice of the immigrant community that’s got us this far. Now it’s time for the President, Rubio, and other politicians to stop playing politics with our lives and have a fraction of that same courage to make real progress.
Marco Rubio and the President actually have a lot in common. Both have said they want to see legalization for the undocumented and both have done little to stop the deportations of those same people. Except where immigration is a talking point for Senator Rubio, deportations are daily policy for the President. What Rubio warns as a potential reality if immigration reform fails, the removal of the threat of deportation for those who call the US home without any increase in criminalization and militarization, should be the President’s next step in the debate. Doing so would be within the tradition of past presidents, and unlike much of current immigration enforcement practice, relief from the executive branch would be completely constitutional.
Neidi Dominguez is the statewide campaign manager for the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance. She was born in Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico. She migrated to the United States at the age of nine with her mother and younger sister, eventually settling in Pasadena CA. Neidi graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts with honors. In 2006 at UCSC, Neidi co-founded a support group for undocumented students called “Students Informing Now”, SIN. In 2010, Neidi helped lead a national effort to pass the Federal Dream Act to grant a path towards citizenship for undocumented youth in the country and in 2011 she lead a victorious campaign to gain administrative relief for undocumented youth in the nation through Deferred Action.