Friday, July 12, 2024

DREAMers Weigh In On Obama’s Immigration Reform Plan

For some dreamers, President Barack Obama demonstrated a new form of leadership on Tuesday when he unveiled his own framework for an immigration reform. But for others, he fell short of expectations.

Cristina Jimenez, managing director of the United We Dream Network, said she welcomes Obama’s immigration reform proposal, but criticized the president saying he could’ve been more “bold” in his speech. Jimenez said she would’ve liked to see him acknowledge that families are still being torn apart due to deportations.

“Our families still live in fear of being separated,” Jimenez, who traveled to Nevada from New York to hear the president speak, told VOXXI. “We shouldn’t be fighting to stop the deportation of families case by case. We want the president and Congress to take action to put a stop to this.”

Dreamers and immigrant rights groups have criticized Obama for policies implemented during his administration that have separated hundreds of thousands of families. About 1.5 million undocumented immigrants were deported during Obama’s first term, more than under any other president.

Astrid Silva, a Las Vegas Dreamer and activist, said Obama’s speech “was a good start” to the plight for an immigration reform. Though she too would’ve liked Obama to speak about family separation, she commended the president for emphasizing that a path to citizenship must be included in an immigration reform.

“I feel that this is an issues that we talk about at our kitchen table, and I’m happy to see that it’s finally being brought to the table of America,” said Silva, who described the event as a quinceanera because it brought together the large “family” of advocates who have been working for years to pass an immigration reform.

Obama’s immigration reform plan is ‘very conservative’

But dreamers from the Orange County Dream Team were not so pleased with Obama’s speech.

They released a statement Tuesday night saying they are “deeply disappointed” with the president’s immigration reform proposal. They also said the proposal is composed of “very conservative set of principles” that ignore “our community’s decades of hard work contribution.”

Obama broke down in his speech on Monday the four parts that make up his immigration reform proposal.

It includes strengthening border security, cracking down on businesses that hire undocumented workers and streamlining the legal immigration system for immigrants who want to come work in the United States. It also includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who must first pay taxes and a penalty, go to the back of the line, learn English and pass a background check.

The president’s proposal came a day after a bipartisan group of senators announced their own principles for immigration reform. Obama noted that those principles “are very much in line with the principles I’ve proposed.”

But dreamers from the Orange County Dream Team said they were disappointed to see Obama’s proposal call for more enforcement measures instead of ending tough immigration programs, such as Secure Communities. Such programs, they argue, have led to the “criminalization, persecution and removal of thousands of innocent people.”

“The pathway to citizenship starts with an end to the criminalization of our communities,” the group stated Tuesday night. “Therefore, the Orange County Dream Team demands an immediate moratorium on deportations [and] the enactment of a bill that allows for the legalization of all undocumented people with a humane, inclusive and clear pathway to citizenship that will take no more than five years.”

Dreamer says border enforcement is necessary

One dreamer who does support ramping up enforcement at the border is Manuel Guerra Casas, who came to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 16-years-old.

“When it comes to enforcement nobody likes it, but it has to be in place because if not we’ll see more Manuel’s coming here in 10 years,” he told VOXXI.

He added having enforcement measures at the border and a path to citizenship “are both necessary” and “both go hand in hand.” Guerra Casas’ support for more enforcement measures puts him at odds with most dreamers who argue enough enforcement is already in place.

Should same-sex couples be included in immigration reform?

Guerra Casas is also at odds with most dreamers when it comes to allowing citizens and permanent residents to sponsor a visa for a same-sex partner. He said drafting an immigration reform that would give visas to same-sex partners would “scare away” Republicans.

“They would never support anything that recognizes same-sex marriage, and President Obama should know that,” Guerra Casas said about Republicans.

A key difference between the principles for immigration reform offered by Obama and the bipartisan group of senators is that Obama calls for keeping same-sex families together.

According to a White House fact sheet, Obama’s immigration reform proposal “treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner.” However, Obama didn’t mention same-sex couples during his speech on Monday.

Guerra Casas said he doesn’t necessarily oppose same-sex couples. His concern is that a provision giving visas to same-sex partners would hurt the chances of passing an immigration reform this year. That is why he proposes that any provision addressing same-sex couples should be included in a separate bill and not be part of an immigration reform.

Gerson Cortes, a dreamer and member of Orange County Dream Team, told VOXXI that Guerra Casas’ proposal to create a separate bill for same-sex couples “is not a new thought.”

“We’ve been told that it shouldn’t be included, because it wouldn’t sit well with Republicans and that it would anger them,” he said. “But the dreamers movement has grown, and it has become more inclusive.”

Cortes said he sees more support for LGBTQ undocumented immigrants and thinks “now is the right time” to include them in the plight for immigration reform.

“For us to be told again to go to the back of the line and hide behind the dreamers who give off a better image, I personally feel that it doesn’t help the movement,” he said. “If we are going to go through this, we need to join together.”

This article originally appeared on Voxxi.