In the same week the nation celebrated Martin Luther King Day, it’s another issue involving civil rights that has Dreamers seeking immediate resolution, even if it falls short of the ultimate goal. It’s not exactly what the original advocates of hardline immigration reform had in mind.
Specifically, advocates recently released a letter that rebuffed the current position of citizenship or nothing, which is the mindset driving the recent immigration reform political soap opera.
“The purpose of the letter is to remind the advocates that we’re not fighting to win Democrats more seats,” Dream Action Coalition co-director Cesar Vargas told Voxxi. “We’re fighting because there is this urgency of deportations and family separation that we’re seeing, and that people need to see this. Rather than use ‘Citizenship or nothing,’ we cannot afford to walk away with nothing this year.”
The Deportation Crisis in the United States
The impetus behind the letter is what Vargas is calling an urgent crisis. That is, there is a desperate need to stop the onslaught of deportations. Since President Obama took office in 2009, his administration has deported more than 1.9 million people. This is more than any other administration in history.
What concerns advocates is a calm among Democrats regarding the issue. Just as the Republicans have stonewalled Obama’s agendas, the Democrats are using the immigration debate as a political football in hopes of continued curried favor of the Latino vote.
“Simply, we can’t afford to walk away with nothing this year and that’s what some Democrats want,” Vargas said. “They’re willing to say, ‘If they don’t have a special path to citizenship then we’ll walk away,’ and everyone gets nothing. What we’re saying is, ‘We can’t afford that type of hard line.’ Our approach is, let Republicans release their bill, and let’s try to work with what we can get and accomplish this year.”
Vargas said the issue is similar to that of an emergency room case, where the bleeding needs to stop first before addressing the bigger issue.
As far as living with any Republican bill, advocates are interested in seeing what gains it offers, knowing that no matter how little is offered, citizenship can’t be fully blocked. Meaning, the Republicans have talked about allowing legal status, which doesn’t allow citizenship and voting rights. The latter is a key for Republicans, who fear agreeing to immigration reform will result in bolstering the Democratic rolls. Those who want hardline reform are looking for citizenship.
“The idea is [undocumented] will have a visa, and people can then tap into an existing channel of citizenship,” Vargas said. “So people could become citizens in five to seven years versus 13 years the Senate bill put forward.
“Some are saying the Senate bill that passed in May, 5 million people were left out of citizenship. So for people to say you’re giving up on citizenship is wrong because the Senate bill already left millions of people out of citizenship.”
Is the Immigration Reform Movement Splintering?
Ultimately the recently released letter has some wondering whether immigration reform advocates are starting to fragment.
Vargas said this isn’t the case. Instead, he quotes Martin Luther King, “The plea for unity is not a call for uniformity.”
“Just because we’re trying to make a division in the movement, we need to divide those who are trying to use immigration debate for political electoral purposes, and those who are willing to work on immigration for the sake of achieving and reforming immigration policies,” Vargas said. “In one sense, we are trying to tell them right now we need immediate relief, and that includes addressing other aspects that will bring relief like legalization through channels.”
He added, “As Dreamers, this is just the beginning of our fight. And next year, after the election is over, we’re going to go again and again until we put all of our communities into a path of citizenship and then people can become a part of this country.”