A march on the White House against deportations.
The fight around immigration has been pretty ugly: from the racially-charged rhetoric to comments about about DREAMers having "calves the size of cantaloupes" because they're smuggling drugs, it has been nasty all around. The GOP has become a collection of people seemingly thinking they can win a permanent job by becoming king of the Tea Party and never being flanked from the right. Realizing that nothing can pass this House of Representatives, organizers asked Obama for help, and felt betrayed after they received a no from the "Deporter in Chief." Considering that the horrible mess of our politics is now heading into midterm and then primary cycle, immigrant rights organizations have realized that their only hope of reform before 2017 is through Obama. Thursday started the fourth day of a hunger strike outside of the White House, which forms only the tip of a very angry, disappointed iceberg that is becoming increasingly influential electorally.
Looking at rhetoric alone, there is no question that, between the GOP and Obama, Obama wins. The GOP has been outright racist at times, casually dropping the term "wetback" and not even realizing it's offensive until there is an uproar. Obama, meanwhile, is a man who has benefited from the generous immigration policies of other countries, as the son of an immigrant father and a mother who lived for part of her live in another country.
Despite this, though he has the means to single-handedly cut down deportations for the 1,100 people deported every day (many of which would have received a green card in any fair immigration system), he waits on Congress while offering encouragement to people that haven't listened to him in six years; he willingly relegates himself to the position of the world's most powerful legislative cheerleader. This has had consequences.
Saturday, organizers around the country gathered in 80 cities to march for deportation relief; "Deporter in Chief" was a very strong theme for the day. In Washington D.C., this involved hundreds of demonstrators filling the streets for blocks, ending at a stage set up in Lafayette Park. Naira Zapata, a 19-year-old mother, took the stage with her 8-month-old daughter Naila and her 3-year-old son Pablito toward the side. "My husband was picked up for a traffic ticket and deported," she started, and went on to talk about how she was two-months pregnant when he was arrested. She fought back tears while she talked about how her husband could not be there when she went into labor and gave birth to their second child, and how the last time he held his son was through a border fence.
After Naira was Jose Valdez. Jose has had two sons deported, with a third son currently in a detention facility. The first son to be deported was sent back to a violent town, and was murdered shortly after. These are only a few of many, many readily-available stories of people being deported for next to nothing who most likely would have qualified for any reasonable sort of immigration reform and, especially in the many instances like Jose's son, to tragic effect. Jose and Naira are currently both on hunger strike, along with several others with detained family, just outside of the White House in Lafayette Park.
Undocumented youth being arrested during a sit-in in Sanchez' office.
Monday, undocumented youth were arrested as they sat in Representative Becerra and Sanchez' offices, refusing to leave until they agreed to meet with the families who were engaged in a hunger strike outside the White House. Tuesday, this hunger strike began and, Wednesday, Rep. Gutierrez showed solidarity and shed tears with families who told him their stories. At the heart of the demonstration is a well-painted canvass, roughly 5' x 15', with an image of the "Hope" photo that was so popular during his first election. On this canvass, however, is painted "Mr. President, Stop Deportations" in large, bold letters. This is all effective guerrilla politics, and only what I have personally seen in the past week: look across the country and you'll see far more.
Rep. Gutierrez sheds tears with hunger strikers who have family in detention.
While these may be desperate measures, we have fallen on desperate times at the hands of the agencies like ICE and DHS, eager to fill the mandatory bed quota that companies like the Corrections Company of America and GEO Group have lobbied for: they get paid based on how many immigrants are in detention facilities, after all, and are the only ones who benefit from our broken system. The children, parents and spouses of those picked up and detained in these for-profit hellholes for months or years at a time before even finding out that they will be deported are desperate enough to starve themselves for their loved ones on the outside chance that someone with the power to affect change may take notice.
We're on your front lawn, screaming until we lose our voices: will you take notice Mr. President?