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Esther J. Cepeda

Esther J. Cepeda

Posted January 21, 2009 | 06:00 PM (EST)

Day After Inauguration, Obama on the Spot for Immediate Immigration Reform


In the 48-hour time period between Monday and Wednesday three events will collide to put newly-inaugurated President Barack Obama in the crosshairs of those pushing the anti-"anti-illegal" immigration agenda in this country.

First, on Monday - in a stunning last-minute move - then-President George W. Bush granted clemency to the two border patrol agents who were serving eleven and twelve year sentences for shooting a Mexican drug smuggler in the buttocks back in 2005, then conspiring to cover it up.

The campaign to "Free Ramos and Compean" was taken up both by rabid anti-immigrant types as well as by the more moderate sorts who - though they certainly don't advocate shooting people in the back - didn't believe that officers Jose A. Compean and Ignacio Ramos deserved to be put in solitary confinement for over a decade for their crime.

Either way, the border patrolmen's plight was just one of the many points of contention that boiled over in the thick of the pro-vs.-anti-illegal-immigrant rhetoric that successfully drowned out July 2007's attempt at comprehensive immigration reform.

Next, of course, came Barack Obama's Tuesday inauguration when the world stopped to sigh happily that "a new day has dawned" not only in the United States, but also across the globe.

Fast forward 24-hours and the honeymoon is over: Wednesday at 11am in Washington, DC, the "National Capital Immigrant and Fair Immigration Reform Movement" held an immigration rights march to demand (all together now!) quote:

"[A] Moratorium on the Raids and Deportations -Just and Humane Immigration Reform -Health Care for All -

Worker Justice Obama's decisive victory signals a sea change in U.S. politics.

This is a historic moment ­not only because the U.S. will have its first African American president, but also because a decisive majority of Latino voters, and many white voters were central to Obama's victory. We are entering a new era­, one where real social change can happen. Mass movements for social justice must play a crucial role."


Not to be left behind, Chicago's very own March Mastermind Jorge Mujica - now best known for successfully engineering the takeover of the Republic Window factory and getting those employees the severance they were owed - has his own gig here in Chicago.

The "Solidarity Rally" - to (altogether now!) "Demand an End to Raids and Deportations" - starts at 5:00pm Wednesday at Federal Plaza (corner of Dearborn and Adams, Downtown, Chicago, if you're interested in showing up).

Naturally, because I like to talk to the Devil's advocates - just a manner of speech, of course - the first person I called with this news was Rick Jones, the Deputy Director of the Illinois Minuteman Project.

Despite leading three years of protests in front of Illinois legislators' offices demanding Ramos and Compean be freed, he was none too impressed with Monday's surprise clemency.

"No, we really don't feel justice has been served," Jones told me over the phone just a few hours after Obama had been sworn in as the 44 president, "I'm so happy this finally culminated in a happy ending - we're all elated - but we felt they should have gotten a full pardon."

Despite his partial disappointment, though, Jones did take the time to weigh in on what this new wave of demand marches and the new Presidency means for the future of the United States.

"I dunno...I like Obama, I've met Obama, I've had him on my [radio] show, he's a popular guy," said Jones. "I don't know his philosophy on immigration but I do know his philosophies in general don't coincide with mine - I know he tends to run with the open-the-borders crowd but that doesn't mean anything. Still, I don't want to judge a book by its cover."

"If I could give him one piece of advice," Jones continued, "it would be this: if he obeys the letter of the Constitution and puts American workers first - and I don't mean Anglo-Saxon only - by that I mean Hispanics, blacks, Guatemalan, Nigerian, American citizens and legal residents...if he puts them first, then who knows? Maybe things will change."

I'm going to stop while I'm ahead on this historic Inauguration Day - and going to go to sleep happy.

I can't imagine I'll broker a warm embrace between Jorge Mujica and Rick Jones tomorrow - though I'm going to challenge myself to make that happen sometime this year. But I am witnessing a time where people will assemble peacefully and those who tend to be inflammatory are striking a moderate tone, so I hereby predict a better tomorrow.

And if that's not audacity of hope, I dunno what is!

Esther J. Cepeda writes about immigration - among many other things - on www.600words.com