Tag Archives: immigration reform

Today Obama meets with Brewer. Will leadership ensue?

By guest blogger, Elisabeth Lesser.

Today, Governor Jan Brewer will meet with President Obama regarding border security and Arizona’s SB 1070. This will be the first meeting between Governor Brewer and the President since the Governor signed SB 1070 into law in April, and the tone set tomorrow by the President will send a clear message about his priorities and agenda in the face of such blatant disregard for social justice and basic civil rights.

Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, released the following statement regarding the meeting:

“We don’t expect much from a governor who’s clearly more interested in winning a primary election than she is in protecting her state. She’s firmly dug her partisan heels into the Arizona sand, and will only use the meeting with the President as a platform for even more political grandstanding.”

I’d like to add that there are plenty of good reasons why Governor Brewer doesn’t inspire confidence. She stands beside Sarah Palin in the ranks of smug, uber-conservative female politicians. Asked by CNN how she would respond if the Department of Justice attempted to challenge SB 1070, Brewer responded firmly:

“We’ll meet you in court… I have a pretty good record of winning in court.”

And even when confronted with proof that her reasons for enacting SB 1070, namely increased crime, are not true, she dismisses the facts and sticks to her misrepresentations.

Back to Bhargava’s statement:

“But from the President we do expect action. He should immediately cancel the 287 g and Secure Communities programs that opened the door to the racist, divisive law Brewer signed last month. By ending local law enforcement’s role in immigration law, the President will leave no doubt that immigration law is solely the federal government’s purview.  The President must also call for an immediate moratorium on deportations until comprehensive immigration is enacted, thus making a statement that hardworking men and women will not be separated from their families simply because Republicans have chosen to continue obstructing progress.”

Fortunately, the fight against the startlingly discriminatory Arizona law has been flooding national headlines. Yesterday, nonviolent civil disobedience in New York reached a pinnacle as 56 protesters were arrested, the latest in a campaign of civil disobedience that has led to the arrests of people in DC, LA, Chicago and Seattle. And in Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to join the Arizona boycott. CCC pledged to join this boycott on May 6th, and you can learn more about why you too should join us here.

As we watch the immigration debate rekindle in full force and Arizona strips its residents of  adequate civil liberties, it is clear that the people of this country are up in arms, and that the federal government needs to act. Let’s hope the President has heard the united voices against SB 1070 and will finally deliver on his campaign promise to actively reform our nation’s broken immigration system, once and for all.

RNC meeting yields conflicting stories (nothing new for Michael Steele)

Yesterday, 10 FIRM leaders met with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele to discuss immigration reform. The meeting was a direct result of a sit-in that activists staged on March 22nd at RNC headquarters. After the meeting, the leaders reported that Steele committed to:

…work with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and the party’s leadership to enlist another Republican senator’s support for comprehensive and bipartisan immigration reform

However, only a few hours later, a spokesperson for the RNC issued a statement denying any such commitment and backing away from support of immigration reform.

From the New York Times:

Doug Heye, a spokesman for Mr. Steele, dismissed that account as “100 per cent inaccurate.”

Mr. Steele “makes it a priority to meet with different grassroots activists who are concerned with the direction of our country,” Mr. Heye wrote in an e-mail. “Today’s meeting was meant as an opportunity to listen to concerns and discuss the Republican Party’s strong support of legal immigration.

“Any claim that the RNC made any policy commitments is a clear misrepresentation,” Mr. Heye said.

April fool’s? Josh Hoyt of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights had this to say about the mixed messages:

“Steele seemed legitimately moved by the need to broaden the GOP tent on this issue.  He seemed to understand the political dilemma of continuing to offend immigrant and Latino communities by politicizing this issue rather than moving forward with practical and what he termed ‘holistic’ reform.  But the sun didn’t even set before we got the message they were just kidding.”

The leaders present for the conversation insist that the meeting was, in fact, productive and feel it’s unfortunate that the RNC is choosing to back away from their commitments.

“It was a productive meeting,” said Pramila Jayapal, executive director of OneAmerica. “I’m surprised that Chairman Steele backed away from all of the next steps we outlined together.”

While it’s frequently been said that immigration reform will be a bi-partisan issue, this event continues to expose the willingness of some members of the GOP to use immigration as a wedge or a political football.

“The future of their party is not with extremist and often hateful anti-immigrant tea party activists. Up until yesterday, activists across the country were focusing their anger on the Obama Administration whose enforcement policies are tearing apart immigrant families and congressional Democrats who have shown very little leadership on CIR. But yesterday, we were reminded of another central problem: GOP obstructionism.”

Oh and if you’re wondering why conflicting stories are nothing new for Steele (or if you’ve been living under a rock), you can learn more here.

Michael Steele will meet with immigration reform advocates tomorrow

While Michael Steele has been in the news for some… less than savory activities lately, he has also been making news for a good cause.

From Jackie Mahendra at America’s Voice (and cross posted on DailyKos):

In light of the recent, um, developments this week, I’m wondering if RNC Chairman Michael Steele will be keeping his hard-won meeting with grassroots Latino and immigration reform advocates on Wednesday. These community leaders staged a sit-in at the RNC last Monday, just one day after 200,000 people from across the country traveled thousands of miles to march for real immigration reform in Washington, D.C.

In case you couldn’t hear it, that’s Joshua Hoyt, Executive Director of ICIRR stating:

Family values are about not destroying families

When it comes to immigration reform, Republicans certainly could use an image boost with Latino voters.

From the Fair Immigration Reform Movement:

Meeting participants include: Tony Asion, executive director, El Pueblo, Inc. (North Carolina); Xiomara E. Corpeño, director of organizing and membership, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles; Ricardo Perez, founder and executive director, Hispanic Affairs Pastoral Project (Colorado); Joshua Hoyt, executive director, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; Luis Huerta, student at Rio Hondo Community College and steering committee member of the California Dream Network; Pramila Jayapal, founder and executive director, OneAmerica (Washington); Eun Sook Lee, executive director, National Korean American Service & Education Consortium; Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director, Voces de la Frontera (Wisconsin); Tim O’Harrow, member of the Council of Rural Initiatives and the Dairy Business Association; Julien Ross, executive director, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition; and Sergio Suarez, successful businessman and entrepreneur (Chicago)

WHY: Less than two weeks after bringing more than 200,000 people to Washington to demand Congress and President Obama step up efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform, immigrant rights leaders are continuing to press for action. They are meeting with RNC Chairman Michael Steele to demand that the Republican Party and Republican members of Congress work with Democrats to enact comprehensive immigration reform this year. Participants will be available for comments and questions following the meeting.

The meeting was granted to leaders of the immigration reform movement following a peaceful sit-in at the RNC headquarters last week. A group of about 40 protesters occupied the RNC lobby on Monday, March 22, 2010, with more than 40 other protesters singing and chanting in the rain outside. Legislative efforts in the House and Senate have drawn public support from only one Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham. The leaders intend to ask Steele, who has publicly expressed concerns about his party’s future if it continues to be perceived as hostile toward immigrants and Latinos, for help in persuading more Republicans to come out in favor of reforming our broken immigration system.

We will be keeping you updated about how the meeting goes. Let’s just say that this could be a chance for Mr. Steele to help out his public image and we hope he takes advantage of it.

On to the next one: After the march, activists shut down RNC

While everyone was still riding high on the wave of excitement from the March For America, there was a group of 75 activists that woke up that next morning ready for more.

Early Monday morning, the group of youth, faith leaders and immigration advocates entered the Republican National Committee (RNC) headquarters with one goal: a meeting with RNC Chairman Michael Steele about GOP support for immigration reform.

The group quietly and peacefully walked into the headquarters and staged a sit-in, praying, singing and sharing stories while RNC employees tried their best to ignore them and go about business as usual.

Nathan Ryan of ICIRR was there:

As people at the RNC continued to try and operate normally, we prayed for families destroyed by deportations, waived signs that said “Destroying Families is not a Family Value” and chanted.

Then we added another layer of pressure: dozens of supporters picketed outside the office in the pouring rain, chanting and singing.

Here I would like to note that while we were marching by the hundreds of thousands on Sunday, the nation’s capitol was drenched in sunshine and warm weather. I think it only fitting that this action was done under adverse conditions, adding to the show of unrelenting pressure on the Republican party to support immigration reform.

And we won. Eventually, we got a hold of RNC Deputy Director of Coalitions Manuel “Manny” A. Rosales, who talked to Steele. Steele agreed to a meeting on March 31st with 6 of our representatives from around the country.

It has been stated over and over that immigration reform is a bipartisan issue. But with much of the GOP ready and willing to throw immigrants under the bus for political gain, the road ahead is a steep one. Republicans would do well, however, to heed the research being done by groups like America’s Voice, when considering their position on this issue. There is a midterm election in just a few short months and Latino and New American voters are a force to be reckoned with.

“Immigration reform has always been a bipartisan issue, and we need today’s Republican Party to show the same leadership as Bush and Reagan,” Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, told the activists rallying outside the RNC. “If Republican politicians choose to play politics with the lives of immigrants and their families, Latino and immigrant voters will not forget who stood against reform in November.”

In the mean time, the hard-hitting organizing happening at both the local and National level will continue. As it should be

March For (the hopeful) America

March for America 2010
There is plenty to say about the political moment we find ourselves in after the March For America, but I wanted to take a moment to personally reflect on the day. While there is no way to do the full experience justice, I’m going to try.

Sunday, I was on the National Mall with 200,000 of my closest friends making history. The March For America exceeded my expectations as I watched communities from across the country come together to bring joy from suffering and hope from pain. I heard stories of people from across the country who were uniting to raise one voice for justice and humanity in our immigration system. I saw more American flags than I thought possible in one space. I felt the sun on my face as we “stood at the doorstep of history” and made our mark on this moment in time.

I was live-blogging the day on the March For America site and despite the shaky internet connection and the inch of dust on my laptop from the National Mall grounds kicked up during the party, I was able to capture a lot of the day and had the privilege of others joining me and commenting on the action.

For me of the most powerful thing about the day was the festive, almost jubilant mood that ran through the crowd. Despite the frustration we all felt and despite the continued terrorization of communities, the separation of families and the broken dreams, people were dancing in the streets.

On Sunday, a friend of mine in the crowd said this (via Twitter):

“Singing, smiling, hugs, music. This is not just a demonstration, its a fiesta.”

In stark contrast, there were anti-immigrant counter-protestors throughout the crowd, trying to incite arguments and frame our day of triumph as an invasion of the scary, scary “illegals”. At one point, a bodyguard of one of their leaders even assaulted a peaceful protestor.

The New York Times ran a great piece this morning comparing the March For America with the anti-healthcare rally from a small group of Tea Partiers just yards away from our 200,000 person crowd. The full piece is well worth the read, but the last few paragraphs especially bring it home:

Many tens of thousands of immigrants and allies were pressing for immigration reform. It’s an issue for which they have marched and waited, marched and waited — their hopes dashed repeatedly. Sunday’s rally was a demand for action.

“We’ve listened quietly. We’ve asked politely,” said Representative Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat. “We’ve turned the other cheek so many times our heads are spinning.”

If anyone has reason to fear government, it is immigrants like those at the rally, which Mr. Obama addressed via a jumbo TV screen. The government has violently invaded their lives, broken into homes, torn parents from children and sent them away to distant prisons. They have law-scoffing sheriffs and brutal employers and unjust laws aiming just at them.

This is a fear the Kill-the-Billers will never know. No matter how darkly they loathe Medicare, unemployment insurance or Social Security, the safety net is theirs for life.

It’s usually best to avoid depicting life in black-white contrast. Not this time. Here were two rallies: one good, one loathsome. One hopeful, one paranoid. One trying to repair how Washington works for all America, and one looking to break it so the system can go on failing.

Kill the bill! Sí, se puede! Same beat, different drums. I’ll take the one that rings with patience and hope. Sounds more American.

Sunday showed me the best of what it means to be American – something that I don’t always see from mass demonstrations on the Mall (to say the least). It was a day that gave our movement hope. It was a fiesta, it was la lucha and it was a breakthrough in the struggle to bring justice to the millions of people who live each day in fear. Sunday there was no fear, there was only hope and light. (And dancing).

State of the Union: Disappointment and Determination

Last night, along with many of you, I tuned into President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address. While I was genuinely interested to hear the President speak on the full scope of the issues facing our country right now – and there are many – I was, of course, especially interested to hear what he would say about immigration reform. More pointedly, I wanted to know if he would say anything at all.

Towards the end of the speech, word 6,300 of 7,000 total to be exact, President Obama did mention immigration.

“We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system to secure our borders, enforce our laws and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.”

While I was glad that the issue was mentioned and that the President noted the current system is broken, I think I speak for many passionate immigrant rights and immigration reform advocates when I say I was more than a little disappointed.

After words of commitment at key times, after the Latino and New American vote helped put him into office, after months of  lip service to the idea of just and humane reform, after years(s) of hard work and organizing, after flexing our political muscles on the Hill, in the streets and across the country, we deserve more.

As Maegan at VivirLatino pointed out, last night was a missed opportunity to demonstrate to the American public why immigration reform is inextricably linked to the other major issues facing our country.

He failed, as so many do, in pointing out where health care reform and immigration reform intersect.

And where the economy and immigration reform intersect and where immigration reform and jobs intersect. At one point, the President said:

“In this new decade, it’s time the American people get a government that matches their decency.”

And it’s time that government produce an immigration system that matches the country’s decency too. Too many people are suffering right now at the hands of this broken system, for it to just be a passing thought in laying out the domestic agenda.

So, where do we go from here? For those of us who remain committed to seeing this through in 2010, for those of us who refuse to believe that last night was the “death knell” for reform?

First, we organize. We keep knocking on doors, holding town halls, protesting in the streets and marching on Washington. We win hearts and minds and political power the old-fashioned way: through action.

Second, we keep the pressure on Congress. Today alone, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly stated the Senate’s commitment to immigration reform, Senator Chuck Schumer noted that progress is being made on the legislation he is currently drafting and Rep. Luis Gutierrez took it to the blogosphere to remind Congress that the responsibility rests squarely on their shoulders:

Though he clearly supports the notion that our laws must reflect the contributions immigrants have made to literally build this country, it is clear to me that Congress cannot wait for the President to lay out our time-line for comprehensive reform.

Third, we raise the stakes. We start demanding reform, rather than asking. It is clear that Congress is still more swayed by their fear of the political complexity of this issue than they are of the power of the immigration reform movement and the political power of the Latino and immigrant electorate. Its time to change that.

In the next few months, there are some big things planned, including a large-scale march on Washington, DC on March 21st. Its time to show Congress that we WILL hold them accountable and its time to force President Obama to take the leadership he promised on this issue.

With this said, it’s worth noting that using one speech as the barometer for the likelihood of a huge issue’s success or lack thereof is probably not the best approach to take. While I will admit that I was disappointed and a bit disheartened last night, it has only stoked the fire of my commitment to see this issue through in a real and tangible way.

But determining the future of immigration reform on a “word count” in the State of the Union address is bad strategy. Instead, immigration advocates should keep Presidential promises in perspective, redouble their efforts and continue to hold Congress’s feet to the fire.

Who’s with me?

CIR ASAP – Who wants to make some history?

I’ve fallen off the blogmap in the past week or so. Between the introduction of CIR ASAP by Representative Luis Gutierrez and preparations for 2010 actions, I’ve been struggling to find time to write. However, there has been so much to write I feel like it will take a while to catch up. But I’m going to try.

First, and foremost, there was the introduction of the CIR ASAP act by Representative Luis Gutierrez. I wrote a round-up of coverage at the RI4A blog that I think captures the excitement and importance of this moment in the fight for immigration reform.

Like Rep. Gutierrez said, there is no longer an excuse for inaction from this Congress and especially from the administration. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and President Obama have continued to reaffirm their support for CIR, but we need to see more firm leadership on this issue and now is the time to step up. All reports indicate that a Senate bill from Senator Chuck Schumer is in the works for early 2010. Now, more than ever, we need each and every voice to join in the fight.

While CIR ASAP is not perfect (the exclusion of LGBT families being a key point of contention) it is by far the best version of an immigration reform bill that we are going to see. It is absolutely essential that we show widespread support for the bill, in order to frame the debate as we head into 2010. You can send a fax in support by clicking here.

As Frank Sharry of America’s Voice noted, this is just the beginning of the fight.

“[CIR ASAP] is the first step in what I anticipate will be a six month, all-out-fight to pass real, comprehensive reform that restores justice to our broken immigration system.  When it is signed into law, this legislation will be one of the largest leaps forward for civil rights that our nation has seen in over 30 years.”

Last week, Representative Gutierrez signaled that its game on for immigration reform. We have the opportunity to fight for (and win) legislation that will improve the lives of millions of Americans and will be a giant victory for the rights of all people. Who’s ready to make history in 2010?