Young Immigrants Are Watching and Waiting For Concrete Action

They’re also organized and numerous enough to make political demands.

Cristina Jimenez is Co-founder & Managing Director for United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation.
National Journal
Cristina Jimenez
Add to Briefcase
Cristina Jimenez
July 10, 2014, 1 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama’s an­nounce­ment last week that he will take ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion on im­mig­ra­tion was a pivotal mo­ment. While the Pres­id­ent needs to fol­low up the prom­ise of his words with con­crete ac­tions, the an­nounce­ment it­self was sig­ni­fic­ant. Des­pite con­gres­sion­al in­ac­tion, it was the sus­tained en­ergy and act­iv­ism of those who un­der­stand the im­pact of our in­hu­mane im­mig­ra­tion policies that led to the Pres­id­ent’s an­nounce­ment in the Rose Garden.

After months of wish­ful think­ing that the le­gis­lat­ive pro­cess was alive, all ob­serv­ers now agree that House Re­pub­lic­ans have no in­ten­tion of de­liv­er­ing on im­mig­ra­tion re­form. Re­lief for our fam­il­ies will have to come through ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion and not the halls of Con­gress.

Throughout 2014, United We Dream has been re­lent­less in dir­ect­ing pres­sure at the White House and con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats, call­ing for sub­stan­tial ad­min­is­trat­ive re­lief. United We Dream’s We Can’t Wait cam­paign draws at­ten­tion to the most press­ing and most pain­ful is­sues fa­cing our com­munity: de­port­a­tions and fam­ily sep­ar­a­tion. While we have ac­know­ledged that House Re­pub­lic­ans were to blame for block­ing a per­man­ent le­gis­lat­ive fix, we ar­gued that Demo­crats and the Pres­id­ent needed to de­liv­er for our fam­il­ies re­gard­less, es­pe­cially in light of the re­cord-set­ting num­ber of de­port­a­tions that have taken place dur­ing Obama’s terms in of­fice. From tar­get­ing and con­vert­ing Sen­ate Demo­crats to join our cause to a sus­tained cam­paign of state-by-state or­gan­iz­ing and ac­tion, we have been fight­ing to make ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion on im­mig­ra­tion a real­ity.

United We Dream af­fil­i­ates or­gan­ized re­gistered voters to pass state Demo­crat­ic Party res­ol­u­tions in Flor­ida, North Car­o­lina, Wash­ing­ton State, and Texas call­ing on Pres­id­ent Obama to use his ex­ec­ut­ive au­thor­ity on be­half of our fam­il­ies. Our 53 af­fil­i­ates in 26 states en­gaged dir­ectly with prom­in­ent Demo­crats and cheered when they joined our push for ex­ec­ut­ive re­lief.

We have also re­cog­nized that our com­munity’s an­ger and dis­il­lu­sion­ment at the im­mig­ra­tion status quo can be a power­ful prod. So, we’ve demon­strated our polit­ic­al power. Col­or­ado is a key 2014 polit­ic­al battle­ground state and the home to both the cur­rent chair of the Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, Sen­at­or Mi­chael Ben­net, D-CO., and Sen­at­or Mark Ud­all, D-CO. Ud­all is run­ning for reelec­tion in a com­pet­it­ive race. As a res­ult, we made our pres­ence felt in the state, tak­ing dir­ect ac­tion to high­light dev­ast­at­ing stor­ies of fam­il­ies sep­ar­ated by de­port­a­tions and ur­ging both Sen­at­ors to call for ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion. Both Sen­at­ors agreed, with Sen. Ben­net’s spokes­per­son say­ing, “If the House con­tin­ues to drag its feet we en­cour­age the ad­min­is­tra­tion to pur­sue its ef­forts to pre­vent these in­no­cent fam­il­ies from be­ing ripped apart” and Sen­at­or Ud­all him­self stat­ing, “If Re­pub­lic­ans in Con­gress won’t act on be­half of Col­or­ado fam­il­ies and busi­nesses or the mil­lions of im­mig­rants liv­ing in the shad­ows, then the Pres­id­ent should take ac­tion to stop tear­ing apart fam­il­ies whose only crime is seek­ing a bet­ter life for them­selves.”

But des­pite op­tim­ism about the Rose Garden ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion an­nounce­ment and be­ing proud of our role in mak­ing ex­ec­ut­ive re­lief closer to a real­ity, our work is far from over. After all the prom­ises and rhet­or­ic in sup­port of im­mig­ra­tion re­form in re­cent years—only to be fol­lowed by ex­cuses and in­ac­tion—we are past the point of cel­eb­rat­ing mere words.

We need to see ac­tu­al sub­stant­ive steps for­ward that pro­tect im­mig­rant fam­il­ies. Just as the Pres­id­ent did with the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals (DACA) pro­gram, we ex­pect the Pres­id­ent to cre­ate a mech­an­ism for all in­di­vidu­als with fam­ily or com­munity ties to this coun­try to re­quest de­ferred ac­tion. Build­ing on the suc­cess of DACA, the Pres­id­ent must now in­clude the par­ents and fam­il­ies of Dream­ers, and make it easi­er for fam­il­ies torn apart by de­port­a­tion to re­unite. We ex­pect him to en­sure that all Dream­ers can be­ne­fit from the DACA pro­gram by ex­pand­ing eli­gib­il­ity by rais­ing age of entry re­quire­ment from 16 to 18, elim­in­at­ing the cur­rent age cap which leaves Dream­ers older than 30 in­eligible, and cre­at­ing a fee waiver that would make DACA at­tain­able to low-in­come Dream­ers. And we de­mand that he put a stop to the re­cord-set­ting de­port­a­tions chan­ging the lives of hard­work­ing mem­bers of our com­munity who have roots, fam­il­ies, busi­ness and homes in the United States.

United We Dream also strongly op­poses the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cruel ap­proach to the hu­man­it­ari­an crisis hap­pen­ing with un­ac­com­pan­ied Cent­ral Amer­ic­an chil­dren flee­ing vi­ol­ence. A po­ten­tial step for­ward for im­mig­rant fam­il­ies already es­tab­lished in the United States should not mean we de­port chil­dren at risk of phys­ic­al harm or even death. It is our mor­al ob­lig­a­tion as a na­tion to en­sure we pro­tect them from harm and treat them with the dig­nity they de­serve.

It is clear that Con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans are not on the side of im­mig­rant fam­il­ies. They have at­temp­ted to de­fund DACA and ad­voc­ated for the mass de­port­a­tion of Dream­ers. The Pres­id­ent’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion an­nounce­ment was a re­buke that shows they over­played their hand. After Re­pub­lic­ans at­temp­ted to use the child mi­grant crisis to at­tack DACA and Dream­ers again and to bully the Pres­id­ent away from tak­ing broad ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion, Pres­id­ent Obama made his plans clear. The Pres­id­ent’s an­nounce­ment left Con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans and their real goals ex­posed: block­ing im­mig­ra­tion re­form le­gis­la­tion and mass de­port­a­tion. The im­mig­rant com­munity won’t soon for­get who is on our side.

Two years ago, Pres­id­ent Obama held an­oth­er Rose Garden ce­re­mony to an­nounce DACA. Since then, more than 600,000 DACA re­cip­i­ents’ lives and fu­tures have been changed. We stand ready to once again force the Pres­id­ent’s hand so our fam­il­ies can ex­per­i­ence the same pro­tec­tions af­forded to young im­mig­rants.

Cristina Ji­me­nez is Co-founder & Man­aging Dir­ect­or for United We Dream, the largest im­mig­rant youth-led or­gan­iz­a­tion in the na­tion.

HAVE AN OPIN­ION ON POLICY AND CHAN­GING DEMO­GRAPH­ICS? The Next Amer­ica wel­comes op-ed pieces that ex­plore the polit­ic­al, eco­nom­ic, and so­cial im­pacts of the pro­found ra­cial and cul­tur­al changes fa­cing our na­tion, par­tic­u­larly rel­ev­ant to edu­ca­tion, eco­nomy, the work­force and health. In­ter­ested in sub­mit­ting a piece? Email Jan­ell Ross at jross@na­tion­al­journ­al.com with a brief pitch. Please fol­low us on Twit­ter and Face­book.

What We're Following See More »
Jon Huntsman in Line to be #2 at State
44 minutes ago
Ellison Bringing New DNC Chair Perez To Trump’s Address
49 minutes ago
DOJ Drops Claim Against Texas’s Voter ID Law
1 hours ago

The Department of Justice "is dropping a discrimination claim against a Texas law that required voters to present identification at the polls." The case will continue to carry on with private groups who filed the lawsuit. The DOJ dropped the claim because Texas is planning to "cure the deficiencies" with the law, according to a draft copy of the dismissal motion the DOJ sent to the Campaign Legal Center. Texas Governor Jim Abbott tweeted a picture of a headline sharing the information with a caption saying "It's a new day in D.C."

Durbin Says Government Shutdown Possible
2 hours ago
Jewish Community Keeps Receiving Threats
2 hours ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.