Recently President Obama spoke publicly about the need to get immigration reform passed. As he was closing his remarks, he said the following to the people watching him at The White House: “I want to thank you for your passion and your heart when it comes to this issue. And I want to tell you, you’ve got to keep it up. Keep putting the pressure on all of us to get this done.”
So in the interest of “keeping the pressure on all of us to get this done,” it is imperative that the President hears from all those who are pushing for reform, and not just the ones who are taking a more moderate approach and saying all we need is for the GOP-controlled House of Representatives to start moving on a bill. Those moderate voices have been doing a very noble job in raising that awareness: from a vibrant immigration rally this month featuring Los Tigres del Norte to symbolic arrests of several pro-immigration leaders.
Yet, that only goes so far. Remember, this is about “keeping the pressure on all of us.” Not just Republicans. But Democrats too, and yes, even President Obama.
Ever since the President gave that speech, it is safe to say thousands of people have been deported. We are currently living in the Land of Two Million Deportations, and no matter how you spin it, this falls all on the President. Obama supporters are quick to say that you have to blame a Congressional quota, but they tend to ignore that he can enact executive powers to defer and even halt the process. That is what Congressman Luis Gutierrez said recently, but my guess is that such “pressure” is not something the White House wants to feel. You still have to look tough in the eyes of Republicans, but hey Latinos, thanks for all your votes.
It is within this context that two actions, #Not1More and the #Dream30, need to placed. To the immigration moderates, both these actions are seen as “radical” and destructive. How dare does anyone try to upset the immigration reform apple cart now? Obama is our friend, why are you making him look bad? We have private prisons to fund and border fences to build. Don’t you know that immigration reform will die?
That is the point. These two acts of raw civil disobedience have never been needed more so that right now. As The New York Times’ editorial board wrote this weekend:
The deportation surge is fed by programs like Secure Communities, which does immigration checks on everyone arrested by local and state law enforcement, and Operation Streamline, in which border crossers in the Southwest are prosecuted en masse, with little access to legal representation. Mr. Obama turned the dragnet on, and can turn it off. In marches and vigils across the country, protesters have made one plea on deportations to Mr. Obama: “Not one more.” He should heed it.
On Friday, I spoke to two immigrant mothers who went to the D.C. office of Senator Bob Menendez. Their goal? To ask for Senator Menendez’s assistance in helping their children, who are both members of the #Dream30, a group of Dreamers who tried to get back to the U.S. after going to Mexico and are still detained in an El Paso center. Those two mothers were arrested on Thursday, but after getting released, they headed back to Menendez’s office. The Senator’s office explained, as issued in a statement, that “unfortunately, congressional offices are not able to single-handedly interfere with and influence deportation cases. Senate Ethics prohibits “demands” to the agencies about individual cases.”
The Senator’s office also said it was “unfortunate that some advocates have chosen this route.”
Yet when I spoke to the two mothers in Spanish, I didn’t hear the voices of two women who were being manipulated. I heard two strong women who wanted someone, anyone, to help their children. And yes, it is very easy to just criticize the #Dream30 from afar. But life is not some political science class. It is real. These are authentic voices, true stories. What these actions are doing is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, just like when #Not1More protesters blocked deportation buses.
The moderates praise civil disobedience at a Los Tigres del Norte rally, but when two moms do the same, cries of immigration reform dying and manipulation emerge.
Such a moment in Menendez’s office was a stark reminder of how distant Washington has become on the immigration issue. I hear that the mothers will not give up until the “pressure on all of us” is a reality.
In the end, anyone who is pushing for immigration reform should be celebrated. Different tactics aside, this issue matters. The time to say that one way is better than another has long passed. Once we get beyond that, we become a better country.
Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77 ) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. In the past 12 months, Julito represented the Rebeldes on Face the Nation, NPR, Univision, Forbes, and The New York Times.