Full Text of DREAM Team Los Angeles Reaction to SOTU Address & Republican Response:
DREAM Team Los Angeles, undocumented activist youth advocating for the rights of all 11 million undocumented persons were surprised that though both parties stated the desire to address immigration reform, the topic occupied only two sentences in almost 90 minutes of speech.
Dream Team Los Angeles viewed president Obama's State of the Union address as well as the Republican response and we feel that it is essential to acknowledge their failure to address immigration other than in passing. It is our belief that in the face of this overlooking of immigrant issues, the immigrant rights community must actively force acknowledgement.
President Obama has publicly outlined his vision for immigration reform during his second term in office. This vision was said to include the possibility of legalization for the 11 million undocumented residents in this country. However, while he eloquently speaks about the need for bipartisanship, the president has not evolved in his approach. He continues to repeat many of the talking points that date back as far as the 2012 election-reiterating that both parties have a desire to bring legal status to many of our classmates, co-workers, neighbors and parents who are here without papers. If the president wanted to talk about the "realities" of these communities, however, he would look towards his own record on immigration as over 2 million people have been deported during his time in the White House, higher than any other previous administration. The president has seen the expansion of the Secure Communities program that has ripped mothers and fathers from their families, and has left immigrant communities in a state of fear. The president says he's done dealing with a divided Congress and will do his best to advance his agenda of moving forward. For once, we agree that this is the necessary direction. We have witnessed both political parties in the House of Representatives fail to formulate a productive plan and the Senate's sole achievement is in passing a deeply problematic bill.
The president claims that he is no longer waiting for Congress to get work done in this country and thus, we call on him to use executive authority to provide administrative relief for the larger undocumented immigrant community, as he did in June 2012 with younger immigrants, whom the general public refers to as "Dreamers." If the president really thinks of himself as a champion of immigrant rights, then he will not waste time in taking administrative action on this human rights issue. We feel that it would be morally irresponsible to not pressure the president as he sits by while another million innocent community and family members get deported in the coming years. Our immigrant community cannot longer afford another workplace raid or a family member in deportation proceedings. He has the authority to make institutional changes such as eliminating the Secure Communities program or providing discretion to give undocumented immigrants lawful presence while the nation awaits humane immigration reform. This country faces challenges with the economy, poverty and civil rights, among many others, but immigration can begin to be repaired immediately if the president so chooses. Anyone who believes that legalizing immigrants and granting them immediate relief will not move us closer to a more prosperous state is misguided and is ignoring the psychological havoc allowed to run rampant throughout our communities.
Both parties talked about "dreams" in their speeches, repeating the constantly proclaimed idea that when people come to the United States no dream is too big. But, despite needing almost 3 million new immigrant workers each year for a stable economy the government only issues about 400,000 visas, thus making the "dream" a nightmare for undocumented immigrant families. How many kids are not being kissed goodnight by their parents... How many working mothers are coming home and not being embraced in their spouse's arms due to record high deportations and congressional inaction? The answer is simple. Far too many.
On the topic of the economy and the wealth gap, giving immigrants the opportunity to earn a temporary work permit while Congress considers an immigration bill makes fiscal sense for growth. Immigrants are part of the solution, not the problem. Many immigrants lose their jobs out of fear of having to drive on a longer commute or are afraid to enter the workforce because they lack work authorization. Undocumented immigrants contribute to various work sectors in addition to filling a gap in our farm worker void. Immigrants also yearn to go to work at their business, or office, or school, and in turn, spend money in the local economy. Additionally, undocumented workers pay billions in taxes every year that ultimately help fund this nation's most critical services including Medicare, which they are currently barred from accessing.
Both parties talk about creating jobs yet continue to ignore the contribution to the economy of undocumented and immigrant workers. For every one migrant worker in agriculture, three other jobs are created in packaging, distribution and retail; jobs that are overwhelmingly filled by U.S. citizens. We don't need new programs to create jobs. We have an 11 million strong workforce that just needs to be formally integrated into the economy. This alone will increase the tax base and reduce the federal deficit. No other job creation program proposed by either party can come close to this economic boost.
An increased workforce is necessary to sustain this nation's demand for labor and will provide the benefit of creating increased contribution to our neighborhood economies. However, this boost of economic growth cannot happen as long as deportation quotas prioritize incarcerated immigrants over an undocumented immigrant having the legal right to work. Immigrants, without legal work authorization, are forced to accept jobs that, in many cases, pay below the minimum wage. Everyone in this country, regardless of their immigration status, should have the opportunity for upward mobility. It is up to the president, and the stroke of his pen, to give immigrant workers a chance to work without fear of never returning to their loved ones.
The most urgent priority for our undocumented brothers and sisters is to grant them relief from deportation, therefore, we are rather indifferent on whether legalization is achieved through a comprehensive manner, or through a piecemeal step-by-step approach as proposed by the Republicans. Unfortunately, many politicians are quick to dismiss the piecemeal approach and stubbornly focus on one huge immigration reform bill when they are well-aware of the polarized nature of Congress. And Republicans have yet to take the first step. Thus, we look forward to any immigrant-related bills in the House that help immigrants come out of the shadows with legalization, tuition equity or immigrant-detention oversight. Our community's hardships are not meant to be politically manipulated by either the president, politicians or non-profit executive directors. If a piecemeal approach or whatever legislative method achievable is needed to bring a consensus on granting a reasonable path to legalization, it would be irresponsible of us not to consider the option. We will hold each political party accountable in the upcoming month's debate on how to bring a lasting solution to our community's second-class condition.
In closing, we call on all politicians, non-profits, agencies, and all those invested in immigrant rights to press for administrative relief for the undocumented community until some sort of immigration reform takes place. Congress, until a deal can be reached you can take tangible steps towards relief like eliminating mandatory bed counts in detention facilities, and addressing the bloated budget of ICE that determines a 6-year-old child is a priority for deportation. The struggle for a humane reaction to our immigration system's woes will go on, but our community cannot wait. The president has made clear claims that he supports keeping families together. Congress has made clear claims that they support immigration reform. Now is the time to take the right course of action and acknowledge the humanity of this issue by ensuring that both parties take action today. Thank you.
DREAM Team Los Angeles