Don't Follow the Loser on Immigration Reform

Remind me again: who lost the past election? Oh... yes, it was Mitt Romney, failing to recognize the contributions of millions of Americans, discarding 47 percent of the population as victims, and proposing that self-deportation was the cure for our broken immigration system.

"Self-deportation" is the notion that the U.S. government should make conditions for immigrants so harsh and painful that they would voluntarily leave the country. This controversial approach doesn't take into account that the overwhelming majority of immigrants have strong ties in their communities and many are parents children born in the United States.

It also ignores the fact that conditions in the U.S. are already oppressive for immigrant families -- anti-immigrant laws, increase of ICE raids, and massive incarceration of immigrants regardless of their immigration status are just part of the deplorable reality affecting the immigrant community.

On the strength of the Latino and Asian vote, Obama won. We also won the promise of a balanced approach to comprehensive immigration reform.

The current "enforcement first" proposals coming out of DC break that promise by calling for doubling down on more of the same. The U.S. already spends $18 billion on enforcement and detains nearly half a million men, women and children a year. The road to real immigration reform starts with an end to mass detention and deportation... now.

Tuesday, President Obama spoke in Las Vegas saying "I'm here today because the time has come for common-sense comprehensive immigration reform."

His speech came on the tails of a bipartisan proposal unveiled as a blueprint to comprehensive immigration reform. Sadly, this Senate proposal follows the losing "enforcement first" strategy championed by Mitt. Spending billions more on border patrol, drones and ICE raids won't help reunite families split up by our broken immigration system or create a real pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans. In fact, these approaches just follow Romney's losing path towards repression and denial of human rights.

Comprehensive immigration reform can't start with compromising the basic civil liberties that make us American. Most enforcement policies rely heavily on the racial profiling, policing, and detaining of people of color. The current system already robs children of their parents and holds people indefinitely in prison-like immigration detention centers under the label of border security. Even Obama's pronouncement on immigration reform asked for more border security instead of focusing simply on a pathway to citizenship.

We believe that approaches that continue to break up families, divide our communities, and perpetuate the "otherness" of aspiring Americans are immoral and costly.

Basic respect for human dignity should not be on the negotiation table. We need to stop the madness of dividing families. We need to stand for immigration reform that honors due process for all and focuses on a pathway to citizenship for everyone. That is how we can unite families, and heal communities and strengthen our nation.