Yesterday at a press conference in Washington D.C., the organization Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), some members of Congress, and some individuals whose lives are impacted by the current federal deportation policy, called on President Obama to “deal with the immigration crisis” and meet with those directly impacted as opposed to his recent meetings with alleged stakeholders including Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Tony Choi, an undocumented Korean-American student, spoke directly to the President after telling his story: “We ask you, Mr. President, to provide safety and protection to those in our communities – the families and students – who look to simply live their American lives.”
Brittney Babo, whose husband Serge was deported last August, told her story: “On May 12, 2010 Serge was picked up by ICE officials while doing dishes at our home. He was put in immigration detention and after three long months, deported to his native Cameroon.” Babo also laid out their family’s extreme hardship: “You can’t imagine how devastating this was for me and for our family. Since he was deported I have struggled to care for my two sons. I work 10-hour night shifts with a lot of overtime just to make enough money to support my family.”
You can see videos of the press conference here.
Perhaps part of the problem is a real lack of cohesion in terms of what so-called immigration activists are asking for. Seems to me the demands coming from many organizations are actually getting weaker as Obama’s deportation numbers get higher.
Take for example Tony Choi. Wouldn’t it have made sense to ask for an executive order to stop the deportations of DREAM Act eligible students?
I also found the presence of Brittney Babo interesting. Certainly by choosing to present her story and the what happened to her husband follows a narrative we all know too well. “Look at me, ” it screams, ” I am a U.S. citizen, who speaks English well and I don’t call the President out too hard, or yell or cry or have an accent”.
Would the effect have been the same if a different woman had been selected to speak?
I am by no means saying that Mrs. Babo should not speak or that what happened to her family is justified. But if the message is in the medium, what is the message when certain people and stories are presented as representing the “cause”.
And Congressman Gutierrez, for all the wonderful speaking he has done on issues in Puerto Rico, he continues to flirt with being a rebel by saying he will not support Obama and then falling back to the conciliatory tone of being grateful for the speeches and emails as if speeches and emails are stopping deportations. Now he is turning a new card by playing that American Citizenship should be prioritized in terms of the human right of keeping families together? It’s a slippery slope. Gutierrez needs to make up his mind because from here it looks like he is playing politics just as much as the President.
This approach, thanking the President for keeping open the issue while meekly asking for a little more clearly is not working.
Change takes courage indeed but it also requires actually changing the way things are done.