National Day Laborer Organization Network and United Methodist Church Protest Deportations at White House
Earlier this month, the National Day Laborer Organization Network petitioned Obama to extend his Deferred Action for childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to “the fullest extent permissible by law.” The petition also requested the suspension of deportations of individuals who would likely benefit from future immigration reform legislation. Congressional Democrats have also raised the issue with Obama to extend DACA to include family members of the young people who qualify and to working immigrants to allow them to qualify to stay in the country legally under visas.
DACA, a program created a bit over a year ago by the Obama administration has made it possible for hundreds of thousands of applicants to stay in the United States legally under two-year visas. People under the age of 30 who were brought into the United States as children, have completed or are currently enrolled in high school and/or college in the United States, and have not left the country recently or committed serious crimes currently qualify for DACA.
On President’s Day, the United Methodist Church and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network organized a protest attended by over 50 people. Religious leaders, immigrants, and supporters gathered in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House to sing songs and hold signs protesting Obama’s deportation policy which has caused 2 million people to be deported in the five years he has been in office. By comparison, 2 million people were deported in the full eight years George Bush was in office. After three warnings, police began to make arrests.
Obama stresses that there is only so much he can do to extend this program and enact immigration reform without congressional approval, urging members of Congress to continue to push for immigration legislation.
Source: Delmore, Erin. “Immigration protest sparks arrest outside White House,” MSNBC. February 17, 2014. http://www.msnbc.com/all/activists-arrested-outside-white-house
House Republicans are internally divided on how or whether to move forward on immigration reform legislation. While most embrace moving forward on reform step-by-step in a piecemeal process that ultimately sorts out immigration legislation, some have embraced comprehensive immigration reform while others refuse to move forward altogether. In consequence, House Republicans have opted to attempt to delay passing legislation until 2017.
House Speaker John Boeher explained, “There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce out laws, and it’s going to be difficult to move on any immigration legislation until that changes.”
While the GOP claims the Obama administration cannot be trusted to enforce immigration laws, including their priority of tightening border security, deportations have hit record highs during this administration showing that he will carry out legislation even if he doesn’t agree with all of it. Unfortunately House Republicans have omitted what President Obama could do to win back their trust and are skeptical of whether or not they’ll be able to trust the next administration in 2017 either.
“That’s not a reason to not do an immigration bill, that’s an excuse not to do it, and around here, you have to always differentiate between what is a reason and what is an excuse,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded to the House GOP’s announcement. She explained that the United States government is built on a series of checks and balances to address issues of distrust and inability to carry out one’s duties appropriately. “We’re the first in the Constitution–the legislative branch. And what we’re supposed to do it legislate, and not make up excuses as to why we don’t,” said Rep. Pelosi.
Source: Siddiqui, Sabrina. “Nancy Pelosi: If GOP Can’t Trust Obama on Immigration, Congress Should ‘Pack Up And Go Home,” Huffington Post. February 6, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/06/nancy-pelosi-immigration-reform_n_4739705.html
House Republicans unveiled an immigration reform plan outlining the standards they assert must be met for them to be willing to pass immigration reform legislation. This plan, however, is not actually a plan. It vaguely outlines points and principles leaving much vagueness and ambiguity around what their standards actually are, and does not set forth an actual plan, or even promise of a bill.
Their outline does embrace the ideals of the DREAM Act, including citizenship opportunities for minors and young undocumented immigrants who were brought illegally into the United States as children. It also mentions creating avenues for adults living in the United States illegally to live and work in the country legally without threat of deportation. They mention that they would support a comprehensive immigration package to provide many of the 11.7 million people living in the United States illegally pathways to stay here without fear of deportation.
However, they also insist that border security “must come first,” and that pathways to legalization cannot “happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented.” The problem is, like many other terms and principles put forth in the House Republican outline, “specific enforcement triggers” are undefined and may be used to stave off completion of comprehensive immigration reform. Legislation is defined by the details and the details in this outline are left vague and undefined.
The Republican immigration reform plan is a whole 858 words written on one page. After rejecting immigration reform legislation negotiated across the isle and passed with bipartisan support, and support from religious, labor and business leaders in the Senate in 2013, House Republicans wrote up negotiated amongst themselves to outline their standards for agreeing to vote on immigration reform legislation. In the words of Republican House Speaker John Boehner, “These standards are as far as we are willing to go.”
Unfortunately, these hard standards can only be so hard when they are vague. Another example are the “special pathways,” to citizenship, another term left undefined in the Republican’s outline. They write, “There will be no special pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrant adults, even though they could be eligible to legally stay in the country to live and work.
The upside to a vague and undefined outline of hard limits is that it leaves wiggle room for bipartisan negotiation.
Source: Benen, Steve. “House GOP outlines immigration principles,” MSNBC. January 31, 2014. http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/house-gop-outlines-immigration-principles