It’s Like #CIR All Over Again

There is so much hype about what comprehensive immigration reform could be that the rhetoric about what may happen is really an industry on it’s own. Every organization needs to have an email blast and are lining up their “experts” for commentary and analysis. There are numerous petitions and countless press releases. Rallies and marches are being planned in major urban areas and in Washington D.C. The media is in a frenzy about what comprehensive immigration reform will include and who will be the major players. It all feels vaguely familiar.

I was present at some of the rallies and conferences that immediately followed Obama’s first successful election. I was also present on many of the conference calls where it became clearer that there was a disconnect between what communities wanted and needed and what politicians on both sides of the aisle were willing to give. Some didn’t want to include a pathway for citizenship for same-sex couples because it would offend and threaten the coalition built with conservative evangelicals, for example. When it became clear to many that CIR would not happen during Obama’s first term, some rejected support for stand alone measures like Ag-Jobs and the DREAM Act in favor of “comprehensive” rhetoric.

It’s expected that on Tuesday President Obama will reveal his immigration reform plan in Las Vegas. The setting seems apt since the community investing hope in what could be more hype is a gamble. Again the both Republicans and Democrats claim to want to cooperate with one another to come up with a solution. But there are signs that don’t bode well for those who hope that this time, this term will mean something resembling just immigration policy changes.

Some are anxious for a real sign that President Obama is serious about reform. His tenure in office has brought increased funding for enforcement and record deportation numbers. While there have been small efforts such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, these temporary actions are meant to calm the push against him. On Friday, Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, asked via a statement  for the president to show real leadership by declaring a moratorium on deportations.

But while there is much unknown about what may be, it’s more clear what is happening. States like Arizona continue to push laws meant to terrorize immigrant communities and block access to basic rights. Most recently,  Rep. Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) introduced legislation  that would require hospital workers to determine the citizenship of patients without insurance information. Latinas in general face multiple barriers in terms of accessing care for themselves and their families. This would just another one as well as shifting the focus of health care workers from healers to enforcers.  In California , Border Patrol has detained as many as 20 men who gather to offer their work as day laborers in several raids at the corner where they meet employers. From a statement released by NDLON :

“They came into my workplace, they asked me for my documents, and when I couldn’t show them any, they loaded me into the van.” said Meinardo M., a father of citizen children who has been in the country for over twenty years and who witnessed day laborers being arrested as he himself was detained at his job nearby. Gustavo, another day laborer, added “The agents came, and didn’t have arrest warrants or anything. They filled up their van and left.”

Most people don’t need to wait till Tuesday to hear what the basic points of this term’s version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform will be. It will be based on securing the border first, the rule of law, people will have to pay a fine or back taxes, pass some sort of moral/criminal background check. Only the most “skilled”, those with college degrees, those willing to go to war will have a clear pathway to citizenship. The laborers, on farms and those standing on street corners will have to jump through more hoops,perhaps become part of some guest worker program. We’ve heard it all before and we are sure to hear it millions of more times. The question that remains is how high will our demands be while politicos offer migas de pan to feed our hunger.

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