President Obama recently agreed to deport 97,000 people. More than 40 people will be ripped away from their families every hour between today and August as a result of his recent announcement to delay his review of deportation policies for another three months.
Obama apparently decided that cowering before do-nothing Republicans in the House, in the belief that they would suddenly change their anti-immigrant ways and pass immigration reform, was more important than delivering now the relief needed and promised to keep immigrant families together. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) recent loss in his primary election and the subsequent consensus that immigration legislation is now officially dead further underscores the need for immediate action from the Obama administration.
Sadly, I’m also a victim of these unjust immigration policies. My father was deported six years ago after being pulled over for not making a complete stop and taken in for driving without a license. He’s missed his four daughters grow up, graduate, and get married. But my story is not unique, and I fight so that other families don’t go through the pain of family separation. Is taking my father away from his loving family the President’s idea of humane policy? Should I be asked to wait as families like mine are destroyed every day?
We were in Colorado recently, urging Sen. Mark Udall (D) to come out against unjust deportations and to stand on the side of the Latino and immigrant community of his state. We were pleased that Udall did just that, recently calling on Obama to take executive action on behalf of immigrant families when it is clear that legislation is dead.
We’ve also pressured Democrats in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Washington, and other states and have been heartened that leaders like New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (D) and Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis (D) have joined our call for Obama to take action. We are calling on the president to reform deportation policies and to build on the success of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and expand its focus to include our parents and others still at risk for deportation. Yet, the president suggests we wait.
He suggests that we wait while Imelda Gonzalez, a Colorado mother of three fights to stay with her family. She fell victim to a scam that promised her legal status, but instead landed her in deportation proceedings. Imelda had to close her business, a beauty salon that she started on her own to support her family. Imelda’s case is just one of thousands of similarly heartbreaking stories across the country. These families that we fight for every day are the reason we can’t wait.
Directly preceding the president’s announcement of a delay, some other immigration and labor-focused organizations “strongly urged” the president to allow the legislative process to fully unfold before administrative steps are taken. They refer to the legislative process that has languished in the Republican-led House for almost a year, with no action in sight. But these coordinated attempts to provide cover for the President’s announcement only strengthened the rest of the immigration movement, and the calls for the president to act now are louder than ever.
The anger and push back from those working directly with the immigrant community has been swift and justified and has helped create a new moment. If the President had designs on simply announcing small-bore changes at DHS and being done with executive action, he has now locked himself into the need for broad and inclusive affirmative relief for millions, after legislation fails and he eventually takes executive action.
During his first presidential campaign, Obama said he was running for president not to fulfill a long-held personal ambition, but because of what Dr. Martin Luther King famously called, “the fierce urgency of now.” United We Dream, and other organizations who work with the immigrant community, are wondering what happened to that candidate and why, as president, he is now asking us to wait for justice for our families?
We are committed to fighting for now, for our families cannot wait any longer. We will escalate. We will not stop. Politicians will have to decide to stand with our families or stand with the “Deporter-in-Chief.”
Martinez is a field organizer for United We Dream from Dallas, Texas. Originally from Hidalgo, Mexico, she came to U.S. at only months old. She co-founded the Council for Minority Student Affairs at Texas A&M University, an affiliate of United We Dream.