How Can We Make Immigration Reform Happen

Categories: Immigration Lawyer Blog San Diego

Roxana Bacon, an immigration attorney, former general counsel for USCIS, and a staunch advocate for immigration reform, recently wrote a detailed article for Bender’s Immigration Bulletin on how she thinks we can make immigration reform happen. One point that struck home with me is her reference to a story of our not too distant history and the correlation with the fight for civil rights.

In the 1940’s A. Philip Randolph, an African American leader and President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The President asked Randolph to share his views about the concerns and aspirations of the Negroes. As reported in “Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation” by Clarence Jones: “Randolph eloquently outlined an agenda for presidential action point by careful point, underscoring the justice of his outlook, its economic value, and its moral fiber…Roosevelt took a moment to process it all. Then he essentially told Randolph that he agreed with everything that he had said.” “The president turned to Randolph and with a wry smile said, ‘Now, go out and make me do it.'”

The same is true for immigration reform. If we want this to happen we’re going to have to make Congress and the President do it. For too long we have been naively listening to campaign promises and dealing with Congressional gridlock. For example Obama ran on a campaign of:

  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform
  • Implementing the current laws equitably
  • Promises to recognize the legitimate rights of large groups of undocumented people to remain in the United States.

Instead he has done the opposite, touting his large numbers of deportations, but failing to explain how they qualify as dangerous. He has also refused to use his political clout to separate the DREAM Act and get it passed.

The DREAM Act is a great place to start. The kids that would benefit from this are only here because of their parents decisions, and many of them don’t know any other country. It seems downright cruel (not to mention economically stupid) to deport someone who has lived in the United States since the age of 2, went to school and graduated from college. This type of person is ready to positively contribute to society and pay taxes.

How can we make Congress pass the DREAM ACT? We need to assess who are our partners in reform, and how we can leverage various resources to work together. Bacon points out several potential partners

  • Some states- such as Utah, California, and New York. California recently passed a law stating that undocumented immigrants can receive in-state tuition. You can bet that California isn’t subsidizing their education with the goal of deporting them afterwards.
  • Some Countries- Bacon mentions the radical idea of Mexico using its trade leverage to get the DREAM Act passed. I argue the opposite, Mexico probably wants all of these U.S. university educated graduates  deported to Mexico. Someone else paid to educate them and they are now ready to positively contribute to society, start new businesses, create new technologies and pay taxes.
  • National Security Groups- the 12,000,000 undocumented immigrants are not leaving. The vast majority of them are not a threat to our national security, but a few of them might be. Providing incentives for them to come forward and self identify, allows us to gather information on the few that might actually be a threat and would thus actually improve our national security. As Bacon points out this turns the Tea Party’s most vicious arguments on its head.
  • Churches and religious organizations- Most religious organizations see the inherent wrong in our immigration policy of deporting DREAM Act kids. Some churches have even openly threatened to provide safety to undocumented individuals. We need to strengthen our alliances with influential religious organizations, as the public and politicians are loathe to openly debate and fight their morality.
  • Social Media- We saw how it created the Arab spring. We saw how a DJ started a big march in favor of immigration reform. We saw its impact in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
  • Law School Clinics- these are intelligent impassioned youths ready to take action. We should help organize and guide their efforts.

Most recently a group of individuals has started a DREAM ACT March across the country from California to Washington, D.C. Let’s support them and Make the DREAM Act happen.