January 29, 2013
More of the same: We Need Real Change for Immigrants
We cannot keep talking about immigrants as criminals
The President and the Senate have placed themselves in the irreconcilable position of trying to both criminalize immigrants and argue for a pathway to citizenship. The only way that immigration reform can be accomplished is if the president chooses to stop treating immigrants as criminals.
The president cannot continue to talk about immigrants—no matter their status—as people who ought to earn civil right and civil liberties. All people deserve rights under the law. When the president expands programs like 287g and Secure Communities, he perpetuates the belief that immigrants do not have rights, are suspicious, or require constant policing. While his words were less specific than yesterday’s Senate proposal, we cannot take comfort in what he did not say, nor what he did.
There was national attention around the detention of Maria Arreola, the mother of well-known immigrant rights activist Erika Andiola. Under the plan laid out by the bipartisan group of senators yesterday, Arreola would not be eligible for eventual citizenship. Once more, the plan to create a “border commission” of governors and attorneys general would leave the gate to pathway to citizenship in the hands of Governor Jan Brewer and other virulently anti-immigrant politicians. Left in hands like hers, would it ever be open? It would likely be closed for years.
All immigrants deserve rights, and Washington cannot continue to allege that immigrants owe this country more than they have already given. They have been kept in fear, have had their wages stolen, and have long paid income taxes. They have also faced continued harassment under vast expansions of police power, supported by state and federal governments.
In the past two days, amid speeches and constant discussion online and in the news, thousands of immigrants face detention and deportation. Washington may have forgotten them, but we have not. We know they are not criminals, that they deserve rights, and that they deserve to be free and at home with their families in the United States.