As the immigration debate continues in the Senate, issue organizations and now Congressional representatives are calling on the Obama administration to halt deportations to show good faith in its support of the Senate bill. The Senate bill would provide a 13 year long pathway to citizenship for the undocumented.
The administration has been criticized in recent years for its record breaking deportations. In the 2012 fiscal year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 409,849 immigrants, which was an increase of 12,943 over the previous year. Additionally, the deportations have created a foster care crisis with at least 5,100 children living in foster care because of detained or deported parents according to a 2011 report. More recent data from late 2012 shows that in a two year period, there were over 200,000 deportations of parents who have U.S. born children.
Yesterday in a press conference, seven members of Congress joined representatives of 500 immigrant rights organizations calling on the President to halt the deportations of those who would be eligible for citizenship under the immigration bill that is currently being debated. Organizations such as the AFL-CIO, United We Dream, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) are presenting a letter to President Obama asking him to suspend the deportations to help advance the immigration bill. They argue that by not halting the deportations that undocumented immigrants continue to remain in the shadows and that their voices are not being heard in the current debate. The seven representatives who voiced their support for suspending deportations include: Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Dina Titus (D-NV), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), and Mike Honda (D-CA).
“Today, we have before us a test of our commitment to equality – the effort to enact comprehensive immigration reform. We have a responsibility to allow millions of immigrants, those who are here already and those who want to enter the United States in pursuit of the American Dream, to participate in our civil society. As Congress prepares to vote on comprehensive immigration reform, we cannot continue the deportation of people from every community in this nation who will become eligible to remain in the United States after the enactment of this proposal,” said Rep. Clarke.
Congressman Honda added that the fight for compassion begins now saying, “As the long-awaited immigration debate finally gets underway with my colleagues in the Senate, we must fight for a comprehensive and compassionate system that begins today. Policymakers must seek to find a thoughtful path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people in our country, and as chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I will fight to stop separating families and deporting individuals who would be our future citizens. We must give this immigration debate a chance to move forward humanely.”
In addition to the formal calls to halt deportations by Congressional representatives and pro-immigration reform minded organizations, a video was released on Tuesday by organizers at United We Dream featuring a family reunion between organizers and their mothers who had been deported at the border in Nogales, Arizona. The video, “Operation Butterfly: Reunion at the Border” has been gaining traction as it shows how separated families visit each other because of the current policies. Even young people who have been granted deferred action have restrictions on international travel, which has U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has to approve as justifiable.
Photo Credit: United We Dream