The president won reelection not on a tide of hope and change, but because voters – especially Latino and immigrant voters - came out and voiced their support for the president’s promise to make immigration reform a top priority in his second term.
Latinos comprised ten percent of the electorate in 2012 – a historic number – and voted for President Obama by a nearly 50 point margin. Their votes kept the U.S. Senate Democratic and played a critical role in electing progressive candidates who stood up for immigration reform that will keep families together. They were galvanized by the president’s bold action to stop deportations for 1.4 million DREAM students. But they also know that DREAMers are only the beginning.
Latino voters know that we also have to fight for citizenship for the DREAMers whose mothers and fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins still live in the shadows. Too many families are being torn apart by our current patchwork of failed and mismanaged immigration policies. This election was a major wake-up call that voters are ready to transform the political environment to demand real change now.
Voters are ready for immigration reform and politicians in both parties realize that it’s time to get serious about a comprehensive solution. How many issues on the Hill can boast support from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner, Grover Norquist and Sen. Chuck Schumer?
We cannot wait any longer for reform. We have heard too many stories of families separated by deportations. FIRM launched the Keeping Families Together campaign to lift the voices of these families impacted by our broken immigration system and call for a path to citizenship for our nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
We work to lift voices like that of Luis, who came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was nine. He recently graduated from law school at UCLA, but he may be forced to leave the country. A year ago, his parents were duped into applying for green cards they weren’t eligible for and included Luis in the application – now they all face the very real possibility of deportation. He may have to leave the U.S. to process his green card application, leaving behind his wife (who is a citizen), her ailing mother and three young nieces and nephews who depend on him and his wife after their parents died.
The president’s dream for immigration reform is tied to Luis’ dream and the millions of families just like his who want unity and stability. Moving forward on immigration reform will ensure that the legacy of the Obama presidency does not end at deportation but is instead one of compassion, fairness and keeping American families together.
Matos is a spokesperson for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.