02/13/2013 02:42 pm ET Updated Apr 15, 2013

Bravo Mr. President, Now Let's Get This Done!

Yesterday, President Obama gave his State of the Union address to the people of the United States of America. In response to the State of the Union Address, I have issued the following statement:

President Barack Obama gave his State of the Union address to the people of the United States of America, while the entire world watched. As a Gamaliel-trained organizer, the President knows how to unite people around American values of caring for our neighbors, and he brought the crowd to its feet several times with a powerful vision of the future.

Last week, Gamaliel's 'Dream for All' campaign held press conferences in 17 cities, calling on President Obama to aggressively push for just and compassionate comprehensive immigration reform in the State of the Union address. While the President stopped short of support for a moratorium on deportations and a just path to citizenship, we admire the tone he has taken. Last night he stated, "Now is the time for immigration reform." Although we feel the time is way overdue, and by decades.

We had also hoped that the President would prioritize healthy families and communities over border security in his statements about immigration reform, and we oppose the narrative of penalties and "the back-of-the-line." However we see hope in the President's statement that 300 million [U.S. citizens] are also depending on true immigration reform and so is the revitalization or our economy.

As Executive Director of Gamaliel, I was energized by his economic vision, which lines up with the priorities of our faith-based community organizing network. I can't remember the last time I heard a president call for raising the minimum wage in an address like this. We believe that, far too often, families have to choose between paying the bills, feeding the family and paying the rent, even though they work full-time and 'hold down' two jobs.

Furthermore, we stand with the President in opposing austerity measures that would compromise our children's education, lay-off teachers, police and firefighters or cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, something our seniors have worked for their entire lives. Gamaliel affiliates throughout the county continue to fight for retirement security, fair taxes, and quality public services like public transit and public schools.

I was also pleased that President Obama took this opportunity to talk about the need to invest in infrastructure as a path to economic growth and progress. Gamaliel's Transportation Equity Network (TEN) campaign has similarly advocated such an approach for more than a decade. However, between the lines of the President's speech, there was acquiescence to the notion of handing over control of infrastructure development to corporate monopolies. It is vitally important that public-private-partnerships incorporate standards for transparency, equity, and democracy so that everyone can share in the benefits of investment.

The President of Gamaliel National Clergy Caucus, Rabbi Ron Symons, shared his perspective:

President Obama charged us to remember that each of our individual rights is wrapped up in the rights of others. Whether speaking about good jobs or affordable housing, education or immigration reform, women's rights, the federal minimum wage or the right to vote. He reminded each of us of the God given hope and promise every person has. It is now our responsibility as a society to treat each other according to those God given hopes and promises.

Again we are more optimistic now than ever that this President will make sure that human rights and dignity are restored to those who need it the most, whether it is newcomers to our country or working families and individuals -Bravo Mr. President. Now let's get this done.


Ana Garcia-Ashley
Executive Director