Support or oppose the immigration reform bill? As immigration reform moves through Congress, that is the question many in the immigrant rights community find themselves facing given what we have seen so far being drafted. Yet whether or not immigrant rights groups and their allies should support the final version of the immigration reform bill is not really the most important question to ask. The real question our communities and allies should be asking is how can we make sure that no matter what the outcome of the immigration reform bill is – passage or (yet again) death in Congress – we end up winning?
Yes, it is true that the U.S. Senate just passed an immigration reform bill with an overwhelming majority – 68 to 32. Yet while the Senate bill does include a pathway to citizenship and other good stuff, it is nevertheless filled with border wall pork aiming at ‘securing’ a border that is already militarized and would degrade the local environment even more. It is also wrought with unrealistic hurdles for the immigrant community – it stands to put almost insurmountable financial and legal barriers for millions of immigrants to even be able to access a pathway to citizenship.
No one wants a repeat of 2005, 2007 or 2010 when the immigrant rights community made zero gains in getting relief to our families. Securing no relief whatsoever for our families is not an option – we are talking about human lives here. No one disputes that. What we need is to replicate a version of the victory the DREAMers were able to secure in 2012 through the Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that was achieved by forcing President Obama’s hand during an election year.
But how do we replicate or even expand the success of 2012? For starters, as we throw around the term ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ we must first acknowledge an undeniable dynamic here – the current immigration bill is filled with some pretty repressive policies.
So how did we get to this point? Part of the problem is the obsession by some Democratic politicians – with Chuck Schumer leading the way – to give in to Republicans’ demands on ‘enforcement’. All this so that the ‘Gang of 8’ could chase after unnecessary super majorities in the name of wooing ever elusive Republican votes in Congress. We all have begun to witness how that strategy – wait for it – seems to already be failing miserably. You know the story: Democrats capitulate to Republicans even before real negotiations have begun. Democrats don’t call it ‘capitulation’ though – they call it ‘compromise’. The Republicans call it ‘we always get what we want anyway’.
So where does this leave us? For one, there is little guarantee that ‘prospective citizens’ would not be deported while ‘waiting in line’ given the whopping record-breaking deportations by the Obama Administration. We need to demand a moratorium on deportations as a fail-safe. This is especially critical in light of what lies ahead for immigration reform in the next few weeks.
There is a lot of talk as to how the House of Representatives will move forward but one thing is clear – whatever the House produces will be even more repressive than the Senate bill thanks to spineless Republicans that still think the Tea Party is relevant in national politics. Did we forget so soon that the Latino vote obliterates the Tea Party in every election cycle with ever increasing margins? In case we forget, Latinos are paying close attention too to how politicians are reacting to the immigration reform debate (here’s for example, the latest polling from Latino Decisions that should make both Democrats and Republicans very nervous).
So how do we move forward? Do we support the bill? Do we oppose it? The answer may be found in a third way. No, I do not mean a ‘middle of the road way’. I mean a rebooting of the current fight, one that sets the stage to favor us by pushing for culture change. More specifically, by pushing for a moratorium on deportations until an immigration reform bill provides permanent relief to the 11 million undocumented immigrants that already call this country their home.
Whether immigration reform passes or fails, the response needs to be the same: moratorium on deportations for the 11 million. If the bill passes, it will still leave millions of undocumented families behind – that is why we need a moratorium on deportations right now. If the bill fails to pass, that is why we need a moratorium on deportations too – Congress will have failed to act and it will be necessary for the President to step in.
If the President does not put a moratorium on deportations, he will go down in history as the President that deported and tore apart more families than any other President before him. Yes, the first non-white Democratic President in the history of the United States and a son of an African immigrant, nonetheless. That’s what his legacy will be.
This will continue to be a long term fight to strengthen our political muscle and we must constantly push for a culture of accountability to the Latino/immigrant vote when it comes to both Democratic and Republican politicians. We need a moratorium on deportations for the sake of the 11 million that live in fear of having their families torn apart. The President will deny that putting a moratorium on deportations is something he can do, just like when he used to say he could not provide relief to DREAMers – until he actually did it last year. We have been here before, and we can do it again.