09/02/2014 02:37 pm ET Updated Nov 02, 2014

Mr. President, It's Your Time


On June 30th, I sat across the table from President Obama along with my friend and colleague Mary Kay Henry and a number of other ardent immigration reform advocates. Before I addressed the president, I thought carefully of how far we had come to arrive at this moment.

The Latino electorate sent a powerful statement to Congress and the president: immigration reform had to happen. We demonstrated, lobbied, rallied, and the Senate delivered. We hit the streets, congressional home offices, got arrested in the name of civil disobedience, fasted for endless days and brought to light the American immigrant stories and faces... and the House Republican leadership gave us nothing.

For our community, the deportations had long reached crisis levels with families paying the terrible price of a broken system. It had become abundantly clear that Republicans had no interest politically or morally to pass immigration reform. Telling families to wait seemed to be okay to them because it wasn't about their own families suffering in a limbo of fear, separated from their loved ones and depending on a solution that seemed to never come to fruition.

Then, as I sat before the president, I wondered which path he would take -- would he act alone to give relief to the scores of immigrant families who had long made America their home? It would be difficult, but this was his moment to embrace and lead in the interest of our nation and its people.

His response to my thoughts: he would take administrative action. The country could wait no longer. He would act.

I said to him this was the right decision. We had all fought and waited for Congress to deliver. For more than a decade, I had seen a trajectory of hope, disillusionment, determination and weathered patience that had all taken a toll on those who desperately needed a path out of the burden of not knowing.

He could now take the first step for immigrant families and hasten the day when lasting reform could finally emerge from Congress. I felt proud and humbled to be witness to such a moment.

Now, Labor Day weekend has given us a whirlwind trip of speculations where the game of politics is harping on the timing of the president's administrative action.

Mr. President, there's a saying my mother once told me, "No hay peor lucha que la que no se hace." She meant to tell me that there's no worse struggle than one that's not even done. I didn't understand then what I know now and what you know as well that decisions that impact those around us are always difficult and will undoubtedly challenge us.

We can let politics, pundits and ambivalence on strategy rule us, or we can live by our words and our moral conviction to do right by those who depend on us.

Mr. President, it's not politics, it's your time. Right now. No more delays. It's the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

History will have many writers about this summer, but the children of our future will write their own with the proverbs of their parents and grandparents, just as I have, and they will have done so because they had chance to remain in their arms. You can give them something great to write about by taking action for the countless families who want to step into the sunshine of our society without fear.

It's your time.