Tomorrow, there will be over 80 demonstrations in favor of immigration reform across America. One of them will be in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. There, some 40 dignitaries including a member of Congress, clergy, heads of organizations and community leaders will likely be arrested in acts of civil disobedience against unjust immigration enforcement and the political cowardice in addressing our broken immigration system. I will be one of those getting arrested.
I am willing to get arrested tomorrow because the massive deportations being undertaken by the Obama Administration are tearing apart families, separating children from their parents, risking the lives of disabled immigrants and vulnerable refugees, and spreading terror into our communities. I will be arrested because America needs to understand immigration reform is not merely a political issue; our broken system is a moral disaster unfolding in our nation. Civil disobedience is important at this point because it signals to our leaders that the current situation is so unjust and unsustainable that people are no longer willing to comply or be complicit in the injustices committed by our government.
The Arizona law that has pushed immigration into the headlines is a wake-up call to America that our national leadership has failed across the board. The President has failed to rally the country toward a solution in the same way he has for financial and health care reform. Worse perhaps, is the Obama Administration has continued and even escalated the enforcement policies of George Bush. Worse because President Obama cannot blame this failure on Congress. Worse because the President bragged about the criticism he is taking from immigrant groups to show how tough he is. A true leader doesn't play politics when the result is broken lives of real people.
It is particularly absurd that the President is letting Congress off the hook for undertaking immigration because it's been, "a very tough year, and I've been working Congress pretty hard. So I know there may not be an appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue." If the President thinks Congress has had a tough year then he ought to talk to kids whose parents he has deported. It seems pretty misguided in these times to be concerned about the tough year Congress had.
Finally, the Republicans deserve special disdain. They have either stood on the sidelines, abandoned practical ways forward or openly tried to obstruct the process. They stand for the opposite of leadership. It's appalling that they are trying to paint the recent progress forward on the immigration front as a purely politically effort by Sen.Harry Reid to achieve re-election. Sen. Reid has stood resolutely for immigration reform throughout this effort and in years past.. The Senator and other Democrats deserve credit for stepping forward with a proposal this week. The real question isn't why Sen.Reid wants reform, it's why Sen. Graham suddenly doesn't. Is it because he'd rather hurt Reid politically and punish him for health care reform than solve a serious American problem? Is it because he's protecting his good friend John McCain who has gone A.W.O.L. from his principles and commitment to the issue in the face of a primary challenge by an anti-immigrant extremist? And what about Republicans who stood for reform in 2006 and 2007 like, Sen. Kyl and others - why are they suddenly against it? Is it because the extremist and hate mongering tea partiers have them politically scared? The question should not be why are some Senate Democrats trying to fix our broken immigration system; the question should be why is the cynical Republican party trying to stop the effort.
I can't make the President lead with fervor and moral force the way he did on health care. I can't make Democratic leaders write, introduce and pass a bill. And I can't make Republicans see that they are sealing their own future as a minority party for years to come with their move to embrace hate mongering extremists. What I can do is stand in front of the White House, with American citizens whose parents, siblings, wives or husbands have been deported, with students who yearn to be part of the American dream and with friends and colleagues who share my outrage and let my views be known.
I will do that tomorrow and when I am arrested it will be because I want to live in an America that has courageous leaders willing to stand up and solve serious problems like our broken immigration system.
It is a time for choosing in America. I know what side I'm on. What about you, Mr. President?
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Follow Deepak Bhargava on Twitter: www.twitter.com/changenation