The Obama Administration Must Start Speaking to DREAMers, Not Just for Us

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Commentary Human Rights

The Obama Administration Must Start Speaking to DREAMers, Not Just for Us

Erika Andiola

Those of us directly affected by immigration policies are tired of being used as a talking point. When it comes to deciding our future, the administration seems to consult everyone but us.

Read more of our coverage about the Obama administration and immigration reform here.

In the absence of congressional leadership on immigration, it has been a tough road for those of us seeking deportation relief for our community. This June, President Obama finally took initiative, declaring that immigration legislation was not going to be a reality this year. Therefore, he pledged, he would use his executive authority to fix what he could by “the end of the summer.” But we saw that become another broken promise last week when he announced a delay due to his party’s political priorities.

As grassroots pressure has continued to escalate over the last few months, the president has called for several meetings with Beltway organizations or individuals. Among those groups are unions, think tanks, and long-term immigration advocates—many of whom have very close ties to the White House and the Democratic Party as a whole. Rumors have swirled among activists hypothesizing that these meetings have become about “managing community expectations,” so to speak, on what the administration can do about the issue.

One thing is clear, however: We, the people directly affected by these policies, have not been invited to such gatherings, even though they are about our lives. Sometimes those in charge claim that undocumented people do not have the identification required to enter the White House; otherwise, we are blacklisted for criticizing the president’s record number of deportations. This is now how democracy works, apparently.

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Last Monday, Cecilia Muñoz, Obama’s immigration advisor and one of the most influential Latinas in the White House, appeared on MSNBC with José Diaz-Balart. Apparently forgetting her background as a former immigration reform advocate, she sided with her boss’s hesitation, claiming that “the situation at the border that happened over the summer has been really, really heavily exploited by the other side of the aisle.”

However, she argued, the government’s main targets for removal are recent arrivals and those convicted of serious crimes. She even stated that the president didn’t act because he wanted to protect Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA), the deportation relief he gave to DREAMers—and she mentioned me by name as an example of one of them.

As I heard Muñoz use me, and the relief that I fought so hard for, against people like my mother and the more than 1,000 other human beings facing deportation every day, I could not help but wonder what happened to her passion for immigrant rights. Regardless of my DACA status and the fact that I can currently work legally, in two months my mother will have to return to Immigration and Customs Enforcement without knowing what will happen to her. It is a flat-out lie when Muñoz says enforcement won’t be used against people like my mom, who has no criminal record and who has been in the United States for more than 16 years. This is not just about me; it’s about my family and millions of others in similar situations around the country.

Interestingly enough, Diaz-Balart himself contradicted Muñoz’s declaration, questioning her about Luis Lopez-Acabal, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who has taken refuge at a church because he fears being deported and separated from his wife and children, one of whom has autism. Lopez-Acabal is another perfect example of the fact that the deportation machine continues to target those who fall outside the priorities Muñoz stated—who do not have criminal records, and who have built lives and raised families in the United States.

I am disappointed to see that the administration continues to use its support for comprehensive immigration reform to get us to believe that the president cares about our community, even while he tries to excuse his stalling as part of a long-term strategy to elect more Democrats. But why throw us under the bus? Why deport so many of us for political gain?

Instead of talking about us on television, why doesn’t Muñoz take real action to ensure that both the public and the president hear our own stories from our own mouths? We are tired of being used as a talking point. When it comes to deciding our future, the administration seems to consult everyone but us. We become just a number that needs to be explained to the American people.

We are our own advocates and can speak for ourselves. We want to work together with the president to ensure any executive order protects families and holds accountable Republicans who have stood in the way of immigration reform. Yes, we are angry and frustrated at this delay, but it doesn’t mean we have given up. We have come far and we will continue to fight against the deportation machine. Stopping deportation is the first step to immigration reform as a whole.