The good news is that both the Senate and the White House seem to agree that a path to legalization for the 11 million undocumented people in the country right now is necessary (the House seems less convinced, though they have yet to put out anything solid). But as it stands, the path to citizenship seems as though it will be rife with socioeconomic barriers. Both blueprints emphasize the need for undocumented people to “take responsibility for their actions” and pay taxes and a penalty (I’m guessing the U.S. won’t be taking any responsibility for a foreign policy that devastates economies in the global south and makes it so that folks have to come here for work in the first place). How steep will this penalty be? Who will be able to afford it, and who won’t? Moreover, the blueprints lay out a pathway to citizenship that includes a criminal background check. While on its surface this may not seem unreasonable, we need to be watching out for the details on what kinds of crimes will block this path. What will make a “serious” criminal? Will it include the kinds of crimes – sex work, petty drug convictions, theft – that low-income and undocumented queer and trans folks often turn to as strategies for survival? We know that convictions largely play out along lines of class, race, and gender identity, and if we’re not diligent about calling out the details of completing this path it’s likely that citizenship will remain inaccessible to many undocumented people.
After the application fees, fines, and background checks, immigrants who have cleared these hurdles will be given a provisional legal status, and will have to wait for existing immigration backlogs to be cleared before they are eligible for lawful permanent residency. Both blueprints have made it clear that during the time that immigrants have this provisional status, they will not be eligible for public benefits. While we don’t know exactly how long the wait between the provisional status and permanent residency will be, it seems likely that the wait will be at least a few years. Add to that the five-year bar – which forbids immigrants with legal permanent residency from accessing most public benefits for the first five years they have that status – and it becomes clear that for low-income undocumented people who are able to get through the initial hurdles, relief in terms of very basic needs such as health care and housing will not be coming any time soon. This is particularly disturbing when thinking of undocumented children and young people, who may literally go a lifetime without access to health care or food assistance.
Both blueprints emphasize that employers who deliberately hire undocumented workers must be held accountable. To do this, employers must be able to verify that their workers have the appropriate documentation to work, and herein lies the problem: in the past, verification systems (such as E-verify) have been rife with errors. As it happens, these errors disproportionately affect people who tend to change their names – that is, women and trans folks (possible extra bonus: being outed as trans at work!). Though the White House’s blueprint mentions a pilot program for people to check their own records and make sure that everything is accurate before applying to a job, it is unclear what recourse a transgender person, for example, might have for changing their information in this system.
But it is important to remember who and what kind of political action got us to a point where immigration reform finally seems inevitable after many, many years of need and just as many of political inaction. And here I have to give mad props to DREAMer youth, many of whom are queer, who have spent the last few years on an unapologetic campaign to get the country to face the fact that non-action on immigration is unsustainable by engaging in direct actions and refusing to give up and go away – even when the odds seemed so far out of their favor. If we are going to make immigration reform meaningful for queer and trans immigrants, we must stay steady on our hustle. We have to remain diligent in watching out for all the ways the most marginalized immigrants could be excluded from this process, and demand better for our communities.
At the tail end of 2012 and of their careers, retiring Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) introduced the ACHIEVE Act, which would provide legal status to a narrow group of undocumented youth. However, this proposal does nothing to appeal to Latin@s because it provides no real path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Whereas the DREAM Act provides undocumented youth with legal permanent residence and then citizenship, the ACHIEVE Act offers a W-1 visa, which leads to a W-2, and then a W-3, with no direct path to citizenship.
Although Hutchison calls this proposal her version of the DREAM Act, it is not. The core purpose of the DREAM Act, first proposed in 2001, is to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youth, who are Americans in all ways but one–legal citizenship rights.
The ACHIEVE Act had no chance of passing in the lame-duck session, yet Hutchison and Kyl hope their successors, Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), will take it on when the new Senate convenes. They want this bill–not the DREAM Act–to be the basis for negotiations, with “no citizenship” as their bottom line.
This isn’t going to work. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 86 percent of Latinos in the United States believe that migrants to this country–even unauthorized ones–deserve a chance to become citizens. This belief is shared by 72 percent of all Americans. It is the core of true immigration reform; the rest is just bells and whistles.
A path to citizenship is the politically astute route; it is also the only route that is not morally bankrupt.
I’m usually bored or irritated by election buzz. While I consider voting an important and hard fought for tool in our toolboxes for change, I certainly don’t consider it the end all and be all and frankly I am sick of the rhetoric that reduces non-voters to ignorant lazy asses. I am also extremely bothered by the way DREAMers are being used and patronized in this election by saw called progressive organizations and labor unions. The idea that this group of relatively young people who have made great strides in terms of pushing the conversation of immigration in this country do not have a voice and require people to be their voice is paternalistic and does nothing to build movement. I was very excited to vote today though. Today marks the first time I vote outside of my home city of New York and the first time voting as a Los Angeles, California resident.
The presidential election isn’t very exciting or enticing to me even. I voted for president this morning, accompanied by my partner, a lifelong Angeleno. What is simultaneously fascinating and confusing for me is the whole ballot provisions thing. In California there are 11 state measures and in Los Angeles County 2. The propositions are about sex, death, and taxes.
With the “papers please” provision of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 immigration law now in effect, Bill Clinton roused an overflowing crowd at Arizona State University last week with a special shout out to the state’s “dreamers,” the highly organized ranks of undocumented youth seeking permanent residency either through education or the military (and sometimes both). Appearing on behalf of the former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, whose surging campaign to become the first Latino Senator in Arizona now leads in the latest polls, Clinton drew some of his biggest cheers for his support of the DREAM Act merely by calling it the “right thing to do.”
Welcome to the Arizona showdown.
Underscored by Gov. Jan Brewer’s latest act of defiance in denying state benefits to undocumented youth affected by President Obama’s deferral of immigration action against them, the Republican Party’s full embrace of Arizona’s immigration policy at its summer convention drew a clear line in the state’s sand. The “Arizonification” of America continues to frame the national immigration debate. It has cemented the state’s frontline image as so hopelessly wedded to a punitive approach of “attrition through enforcement” at any cost that “The Daily Show” once referred to Arizona as the “meth lab of democracy.”
Not that the headline-grabbing nativists, frontier justice sheriffs, neo-Nazi marchers, gun-toting militiamen and Tea Party political figures don’t exist in Arizona. But as the estimated 5,500 in attendance for Carmona and Clinton reminded the state, the fringe elements dominating the media and Arizona’s state house may have finally met their match. Case in point: An electrified citizens’ campaign has mounted the most serious get-out-the-vote effort against Joe Arpaio, the notorious Maricopa County Sheriff, in his 20-year reign.
The resurgence of this “other Arizona” signals a revival of the state’s century-old legacy of fighting against such anti-immigrant and thinly veiled racism, a movement that began almost as soon as Arizona’s entry as a territory in the mid-19th century. For example, in Tucson, the pioneering Mexican immigrant Estevan Ochoa not only salvaged public education but single-handedly faced down the Confederate occupation of the Old Pueblo. When the Tucson Unified School District dismantled its acclaimed Mexican-American Studies program in Ochoa’s hometown last spring, Latino youth were quick to rekindle his memory.
Benita Veliz (right) will be discussing the plight of DREAMers in her speech tonight.
Back before the deferred action program took effect — the same week the DREAM Act was introduced into Congress, bringing hope to undocumented youth who furthered themselves through college or military service — Benita Veliz’s deportation case was making headlines.
In the U.S., Breakthrough has largely worked on immigration issues, providing games, curricula and music that help people educate themselves and each other. While they, like many people, celebrated recent administrative changes benefitting young undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for the DREAM Act if it ever were to pass, they found it critical to support the parents of these young people too. “So now it’s time to ask: what about their mothers?” writes Dutt in a recent OpEd. “Now that police officers can inquire about immigration status based solely on how a person looks, thousands of women—many the primary breadwinners for their families—have stopped leaving their homes entirely. They’ve stopped going to work. They’ve stopped going to the doctor….They’ve stopped living their lives.”
The “I’m here” campaign, then, is recruiting people who pledge to stand with immigrant women, who are vulnerable to enormous abuse by employers, romantic partners, and immigration authorities. Last week, for example, I was shocked to see the ruling in the egregious case of Encarnacion Romero, a Guatemalan woman whose baby was with a Missouri couple when ICE detained Encarnacion following a raid at her workplace. The couple adopted Encarnacion’s baby illegally, but the latest judge has ruled that she abandoned the baby and the adoption will stand. If you stand with women like Encarnacion, you need to send in your picture to the “I’m Here” photo wall.
Take a photo of yourself holding a sign that says “I’m here.”
Go to the Tumblr and click “submit.”
Upload your picture.
Write a caption and confirm. You’re done!
Hard core policy organizers tend to dismiss actions that don’t have a clear “demand” but I think it’s critical to change the way people think as well as the rules of our society. In immigration, we need immigrants themselves to feel part of a large community, to be able to ask for help, to understand that someone is watching. We also need non-immigrants to see that lots of people, not just undocumented immigrants, support immigrant rights.
Angela Davis, former Black Panther, is the go-to commentator on any protest or political uprising these days. (And, apparently, the go-to stencil for “street artists” designing nostalgic protest fliers.)
So why hasn’t anyone asked her how she feels about the DREAM Act — the national push to grant undocumented students and soldiers their citizenship, and one of the greatest civil-rights fights of the 21st century?
… as interviewer Derek Washington noted in a recent sit-down with Davis, there’s somewhat of a disconnect between the black struggle for equality and that of Latinos.
Washington said a lot of black people feel like, “That’s not my fight.”
We’ve observed some resentment among local black leaders toward Latinos who come to California to find work. Long Beach City Council candidate Robert Wideman, a top supporter of the Republican push to repeal our in-state DREAM Act, recently called the Latino influx an “invasion.”
Davis doesn’t see it that way. Here are her words on the importance of fighting for the DREAM Act, from the “Citizens for Immigrants” interview:
"It’s important because it represents one of the most important arenas in the ongoing struggle for civil rights in this country, and particularly those of us who have a history of struggling for civil rights — I’m speaking very specifically about the African-American community.
"It is a cause that black people should embrace. One of the things that we need to remember is that the victories that have been won in the struggle for black freedom never would have been possible if only black people were the ones who were active in those struggles. … I know my case would not have been won, as it was, had not it been for the activism of the Chicano community in San Jose when I was tried on charges of … conspiracy. In San Jose, there was a very minuscule black community there at that time. And it was in the Chicano community that the major organizing took place.
"I don’t understand how people can assume that its possible for each racialized ethnic group to go it alone.
"As people who have benefited from these freedom struggles, it is our responsibility to continue justice as Martin Luther King, Jr. pointed out is indivisible, and justice for black people must be used on behalf of justice for Latinos, and justice for immigrants, and justice for undocumented immigrants."