Change Comes to Washington: Interpreting the First 97 Days

Deepak Bhargava, the Executive Director of FIRM’s parent organization, the Center for Community Change, has penned his reflections on the first 97 days since Barack Obama was elected.

These brief reflections are based on the experiences we at the Center for Community Change and the Campaign for Community Change have had engaging the new Administration, advocating with Congress, and developing and advancing policy in concert with national and grassroots allies on the set of issues we work on. (For more on this, check out this recent post).

He notes that there are five main lessons he has taken away from these first 97 days. Number 4 on the list?

4.  Immigration remains a flashpoint in the national debate—on issues that have nothing to do with immigration, from tax policy to infrastructure spending to access to health care for children in poor families. The importance of getting immigration reform done—not just for its intrinsic value, but because of its significance to the larger social justice agenda—is becoming more and more clear.


Nothing could be more on target than this analysis of the current immigration debate. We have seen anti-immigrant proponents try to inject their agendas into everything from healthcare to poor children to the stimulus bill – and that’s only in the first 3 weeks of the new Congress!

Not only do we need Comprehensive Reform for the sake of the immigrants caught up in the broken system, but we need reform for the larger agenda of social justice. Until immigration policy undergoes a complete overhaul, we will see the anti’s continue to use it as a wedge issue, giving them the opportunity to delay and even block laws that will benefit the nation’s most vulnerable populations.

Immigration will be one of the critical tests for the Obama Administration: will we see an end to the raids that have devastated families and a push for comprehensive legislation this year? Early signs are positive, but inconclusive. Given the “canary in the coal mine” quality of the immigrant community in America today, an embrace of this constituency by the larger progressive community will be a key moral benchmark.

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