Her words reduced us to tears, literally. Beatrice Vasques, a 15-year-old schoolgirl born in LA told her story on C-Span. Along with at least 100,000 children who have lost a parent due to stepped up deportation of immigrants in the US, she came home from school one day to find her mom arrested and deported by immigration officers.
In a press conference at the National Press Club, community organizations from around the country came to DC to appeal to President Obama to pass what he promised during his campaign, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, and to fix a broken system. They claim that he has not kept his promise. They say that during the first year of the Obama administration, more deportation has taken place than in the Bush years. 387,000 immigrants were deported last year, and many of these have native-born American children.
Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of Latin American Citizens, said that mass deportation is projected to cost the American economy 2.6 trillion dollars. Wilkes explained that there are 5.5 million children in the US with an undocumented immigrant parent. Homeland Security estimates that in the last 10 years, more than 100,000 immigrant parents were deported.
Immigration policy has been on the back burner for many years. In the eighties, President Reagan gave amnesty to immigrants. Immigrants have been the boogieman for so long. At times of economic hardship, extreme right wing politicians capitalize on that -- ignoring the fact that nearly all Americans can trace their ancestry to a poor immigrant who came from somewhere. Nativists, demagogues, and fear mongers have always pointed a finger at those voiceless immigrants. But can you imagine America without immigrants! Walk into any high- tech, IT company in Silicon Valley and see how many immigrants are in engineering departments. Walk into hospitals and see how many doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and physical therapists are foreign-born. Walk into hotels, restaurants, schools, churches, and see how many immigrants are there. Immigrants have served in our military and died in the line of duty.
Immigrant coalition organizations will have a March for America in DC on March 21 calling for an end to mass detention and deportation of immigrants and fixing the immigration system. Contrary to misconceptions, immigrants do pay taxes from day one and contribute to the economy. Massive raids, incarceration and deportation cost big money and have been taking a toll on our economy.
I worked with immigrants and refugees in Chicago, taught them, counseled them, ate and lived with them in Albany Park, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the world. And I can relate to their hard work, fear and suffering, and their contribution to this country.
We should not forget these immigrants that have come to America and made a difference like Madeleine Albright, Albert Einstein, Henry Kissinger, Charlie Chaplin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ted Koppel, Pamela Anderson, Andy Garcia, Elizabeth Taylor, Sammy Sosa, Khalil Gibran, Gloria Estefan, Carlos Santana, and even your own father, Mr. President.
Aladdin Elaasar is the author of Silent Victims: the Plight of Arab & Muslim American Americans in Post 9/11 America.