Obama announces immigration reform


Obama addresses voters | Flickr Creative Commons

President Obama announced Thursday executive actions that will remove the threat of deportation and grant work permits to as many as five million undocumented immigrants. This will apply to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for five years or more. Obama also expanded his 2012 action which authorized young people who came to the United States as children to remain legally in the country, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Since Congress has stagnated for years on creating immigration reform that changes laws and a path to citizenship, Obama issued the reform with his own presidential authority. [Read more…]

Karen Bass speaks up for comprehensive immigration reform.


Congresswoman Karen Bass talking about immigration reform.

On Saturday July 27, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) hosted a forum about comprehensive immigration reform at the California Science Center. She discussed the need to fix our broken immigration system, and the need of a pathway to citizenship to create an equal playing field for all people.

Bass, with the help of organizations like Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), broke down the analysis of immigration reform, pointing out the good and bad of the current Senate bill, and how it will stimulate the economy if it were to become law. [Read more…]

Immigration activists demand reform in Obama’s second term


Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

President Obama has called the failure to pass immigration reform his biggest disappointment. After winning 71 percent of the Latino vote on Tuesday, many of those constituents won’t accept further delays.

That’s because exit polls conducted by polling firm Latino Decisions and the Pew Hispanic Center found that immigration reform is a priority for the Latino community.

California State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo said President Obama is now in a powerful position to help not only the country’s documented immigrants, but it’s more than 11 million undocumented ones too.

“We expect that; he has been committed to that,” Cedillo said. “We think the conditions exist now for it to be realized.”

But commitment might not be enough. In his first term, Obama couldn’t gather enough bipartisan support to pass the Federal Dream Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for people brought to this country as children. That forced many states, including California, to pass their own version of the law.

Angelica Salas of the Coalition For Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said Obama needs to go further.

“The immigration question is resolved by legalizing 12 million people,” Salas said. She added that he should work with Congress to make immigration making our immigration “actually work by reuniting families instead of having them wait 30 and 40 years to be reunited with each other.”

Both Salas and Cedillo said Republicans should play a part in this process too, citing common ground among the GOP and Latinos on a number of other issues.

“Latinos in many instances are very poised to be Republicans. [They are] entrepreneurial, small business starters, very faith based,” he said. “All the values that the Republicans espouse are the values that are at the core of the immigrant Latino.”

But not everyone thinks Latinos can broaden the G.O.P. base. Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform says economic issues prevent many Latinos from ever voting Republican.

“If the party you’re representing says the opposition is cutting taxes and making government smaller – that’s not necessarily a platform that’s going to appeal to voters who pay very little in taxes to begin with and are dependent on the government for a lot of their basic needs,” Mehlman said.

Mehlman said many Republicans also want immigration reform – it just looks different than what Democrats are proposing.

“President Obama’s position seems to be that the interests of those people who came here illegally ought to be placed first,” he said. “The Republicans very often think it’s the interests of business that ought to be placed first, so there are many different perceptions of what immigration reform would entail.”

Since it could take lawmakers time to hammer out a deal, Cedillo and Salas said the President can make an immediate statement by curbing the number of deportations carried out by his administration – a number topping 1.4 million.

OPINION: Beyond the Occupy movement

By Martha Sánchez

Before getting into the Occupy movement, let me refresh early attempts to mobilize people for a comprehensive reform of the immigration laws in the United States. Such movements marked a historical precedent of mass participation in U.S history.

May day marches calling for immigration reform started in 2006. Here, people are seen marching in Los Angeles in May of 2010. (Photo courtesy of Nelson A. Castillo)

Since 2006, thousands of people have walked out from their jobs to participate in non-violent street demonstrations in support of family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and even to support themselves. The largest demonstration occurred in Los Angeles. The media reported more than 500,000 participants. Most people believe and affirmed that we were over a million.

The message was clear, the people were there, and the media helped to coordinate the voices of the people. The only thing they asked us to do was to put on a white shirt and march peacefully.

We were inspired by powerful social movements led by Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez. We were all Americans!

Some may argue whether the immigration movement has been the largest social movement in U.S. history, but for most community organizers like me, it is. I want to share my personal motivation for participating. I marched in support of my family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. I marched in support of diversity and difference, to stop violence against women, in favor of all genders, cultures and for the reunification of families, and social change.

I’m an immigrant too and I believe in the U.S. Constitution. My children are American citizens and I believe in the power of people.

For the last eight years, I have been very active in politics, advocating for low income communities in all aspects: job opportunities, decent housing, education, affordable health care and after-school programs. The most critical fight has been against the greed of corporations. Here is where the Occupy movement comes in.

After being acknowledged as “community leader” in the poorest South Los Angeles community, I have found it difficult to involve Latinos in the Occupy movement for several reasons.

First, people in the Latino community don’t see themselves represented in this movement. The media is not portraying the Occupy movement as a Social Justice movement. In fact, most people think that “it is a hippie movement, a homeless movement.”

Second, no matter how clear the message of “We are the 99%” is, we don’t think of ourselves as part of the movement. Nobody is encouraging me to put on my white T-shirt and to go out as I was told in the past.

The not-so-new plot of “divide and rule” is convincing immigrant families, fathers and husbands that anyone going out to organizing meetings might be arrested and deported.

What we the 99% should consider is the power of the “immigration movement.” Let me explain why.

Currently, we have two different scenarios ruling political debates “economy and immigration.” While some people want to bring back economic prosperity to their hometowns, others just want to close the borders and get rid of non-welcomed immigrants because they claim immigrants have ruined and exhausted our economic resources.

Beyond those political positions, the one thing that really divides us is that immigrants work in slavery-like conditions, our families are starving and many of us lack of legal papers to hold a fair competition for jobs.

If workers could see that the exodus of manufacturing jobs has forced more people to accept precarious livelihoods. If they could see immigrants as victims as well, they would turn their voices for us not against us, forcing the government to implement reforms that would provide millions of undocumented workers with legal status, and putting all people to work based on their skills, personal talents and education. That’s what I call fair competition for jobs.

So, we are forced to choose between putting on a white T-shirt to go out and chant for immigration reform, risking to be fired, arrested and deported, or to fight against the greed of corporations that no matter what, are still hiring undocumented workers.

Are there more options? I’m asking middle class people, to those involved in the Occupy movement and more affluent members of society that sympathize with this movement to think about the power of bringing a huge number of people aligned to your demands. I’m calling those organizers, leaders and community members to join voices and efforts to go beyond the Occupy movement and to rescue the lost voices from the immigration marches.

We can’t win any battle by perpetuating western tactics of “divide and conquer.” Can I say that we are the 90 of the 99 percent in Los Angeles?

Can you think of putting faces like mine in the Occupy battle by supporting comprehensive immigration reform?

imageI’m not asking people to “wear the white T-shirt” once again and chant about one single issue. I’m asking people to “put on a sweater” to shelter themselves against the cold decisions of Wall Street. I’m calling on the 99 percent to stop pushing my demands to the bottom of the list.

The Occupy movement is a global movement. We are willing to rebuild this country, just give us the opportunity to respond to our family needs as well. “We are the 99 percent.”

Martha Sanchez is a community activist and a member of the South Central Neighborhood Council.

VIDEO: South LA adult students speak out for immigration reform

ESL Adult School students in South Los Angeles speak out with messages for President Obama and the nation. Escuchan las voces de los obreros!

The students’ identities and the school are not revealed because of the sensitivity of the issue and the ruthlessness of xenophobic people (particularly on the internet).

Many of these students are factory workers, garment district workers, and after a long days work go to class at night to take English as a Second Language classes.

This video contains their messages for President Obama and all of us in the United States:

Local groups call for immigration reform

Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:


Immigration reformers and community members gathered outside Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church Tuesday morning at a news conference held by the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition.

“We are not animals,” said Helen DeLeon, one of the women speaking at the event. “We are humans, who have rights. And our children have rights. They have the right to be in Congress someday, to run for President someday.”

Many other local groups came to show their support. Peta Lindsay is with the ANSWER Coalition.

“I’m here as an organizer, as a woman, and more specifically as a black woman to urge Obama to keep his promise and implement comprehensive immigration reform now,” Lindsay said. “Black and Latina Women share a common cause. When it comes to poverty statistics, infant mortality and joblessness, women from both communities are racing to the bottom particularly during this economic crisis.”

The group’s main goals are comprehensive immigration reform and an end to immigration raids. Rosa Posades of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition called for overall immigration change but with special attention to women’s needs.

“The government should have a conscience,” said Posades. “They were born from women, too, so don’t be unfair to us.”

A specific problem raised was the breakup of families, of mothers and their children, when undocumented immigrants are deported. The Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition calls for less harsh punishment for people in the country illegally and more lenient requirements for legal immigration.

On the other side is Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies. He believes the United States should limit the rights of immigrants.

“Overall what we would want is to try and have an immigration policy that doesn’t flood the unskilled labor market, that doesn’t create so many strains for our schools and health care system, and one of the main ways to do that is to bring the numbers down on both the legal and illegal side,” Camarota said.

Camarota does not believe there will be any big changes made on the immigration front at the congressional level, but he is not averse to trying to reach a compromise with the community that demands reform.

“Maybe one this is we want to have an amnesty for some fraction of the illegal immigrants who are here, maybe Dream Act recipients, and in return we reduce the number of legal immigrants coming in, accordingly,” Camarota said.

In the meantime, the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition continues to garner support for its April 16 march in downtown Los Angeles.

New immigration bill reignites debate and country divide

Listen to the audio story here:

Supporters of the immigration bill gathered at MacArthur Park Thursday to praise Menendez, question Meg Whitman and plan what is next.