The closer we get to the end of the year, the more rumors we are hearing about the potential announcement that President Obama had promised to make, in which he plans to use his executive authority to reform deportation policies and provide millions of undocumented immigrants a temporary relief.
Some say that will happen as soon as this week. The media is also speculating about the policy changes that will be included in this executive action. Some say it will include 3 million, others 5 million, and it seems like parents of U.S. citizens that meet other eligibility criteria would be granted some sort of deferred action similar to DACA. One important question remains for me though: will people like my mother be included?
Exactly one year ago I was working in Congress, trying to figure out how we were going to pass comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). As I worked in DC, I started to figure out that CIR was more of a talking point and political issue to appeal to the base for both parties rather than an actual reality at that point. Like many congressional staffers on the hill who aspire to continue up the ladder in their careers, I could have ignored what was happening and continued to give false hope to the community about CIR. There was something on my mind, however, that constantly reminded me that there was something more important for me than my career: stopping my mom's deportation.
It had been a year since my mom and my brother were arrested when my home was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. With the intention of avoiding another traumatizing raid, I quit my job. This was to bring attention to not only my mother's case, but also to send a clear message to the community that we were being used by both parties and needed to change our strategy.
The only one who had the power to stop those painful moments, to stop the separation of families like mine and reverse his record of deportation, was President Obama. Of course many thought I, and the few organizations in the movement who were calling on Obama to do this, were wrong, and maybe even a bit crazy.
With my mother in mind, I decided to continue pushing alongside those who had the same urgency. Mostly those of us who were directly affected by deportations and who were familiar with the strategy that we used to win DACA. Sometimes it felt like we were swimming against a current of skepticism as we heard over and over again from Democratic Members of Congress, Senators and even some within the organizations closer to the White House that our strategy was not the right one; that it was not ok for us to target our Democratic "allies". What they didn't understand, however, is that we could not afford to be left with nothing after CIR was declared unfeasible in the current Congress.
Little by little, we pushed the envelope. Undocumented youth, workers, mothers and allies started closing down detention centers, stopping deportation buses, going on hungers strikes inside and outside of detention centers, fasting at the White House, interrupting the president's speeches and stopping deportation cases one by one with campaigns like the one I did for my mom. It created such momentum that it inspired some organizations closest to the White House to eventually publicly denounce Obama as the "Deported in Chief."
As elections neared, many of us warned the president and the Democratic National Committee that, if they delayed Executive Action until after midterms, Latinos were not going to be as motivated to go out and vote. Courageous undocumented mothers risked arrest at the Democratic Headquarters and DREAMers continued to ask tough question to Democrats like Senator Hagan and Hilary Clinton about the president's record number of deportations. As predicted, Obama's delay didn't help Democrats keep the Senate, and perhaps cost candidates like Senator Udall in Colorado their election.
Today, we are at a different moment. For the first time since we started pressuring the president, we have a huge coalition of support amongst Democratic elected officials, Immigrant Rights organizations, labor, Latino organizations and many others. For the first time, we heard from the president's mouth that he has deported people who should have not been deported, and defend his ability to stop those deportations.
Perhaps all of the frustration from the many delays, the hard work and the sacrifice of so many people will pay off this week. Perhaps we will win another down payment towards a permanent solution. But one painful question still remains for me:
Will my mother, who is my inspiration and the reason why I do what I do, be one of those celebrating the fact that she will no longer be deported? Or will we have to take her to her December ICE appointment, not knowing if she is going to come out of there?
My mom has no U.S. citizen children, but she, just like millions of others, is also asking for an opportunity to stay here with my siblings and I.
Mr. President, for families like mine, this is the time to go big. There is nothing to lose: irrational Republicans will attack you as "King Obama" no matter what you offer, and we are prepared to defend our victory. DREAMers across the country have given their lives to this fight, and I ask you to not leave our parents and those who might not have family ties to U.S. citizens, behind. Please don't leave my mother behind.