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Playing Politics with Immigrant Lives

From the Editors  |  Issue: January 2015
Pro Immigrant Rallies

CHICAGO—The DREAMERS, undocumented youth brought here when children were the backbone of the pro-immigrant rights movement, yet Obama’s executive order leaves their parents out. | NEW ORLEANS: After years of fighting for legalization for all, President Obama legislates his executive order that only gives provisional status, while leaving most outside.
PHOTO: Adrian C. Garcia | Ted Quant


To line Latinos up behind the Democrats in 2016, Obama is offering limited legality to a few

The immigrant population in the U.S. is a vibrant, hopeful, fighting community. Immigrants want what everyone else wants – economic rights, democracy and health care for all.

Since 2006, when millions of immigrants and their supporters took to the streets, marching, chanting, and demanding immigration reform, they have shown us new tactics and have given hope to the rest of the U.S. population – the Occupy Movement adopted similar tactics.

Mass demonstrations by immigrants and their supporters came as a shock to both the Democratic and Republican parties. The actions of the immigrants were not acceptable to the parties’ masters, the ruling class of this country, the “Wall Street Thieves.”   And once again, politicians revived American nativism to divide and conquer workers.

From mass raids on factories to I-9 audits, we have gone through more than a decade of the most perverse wave of anti-immigrant propaganda and attacks on immigrants in American history, including more deportations than ever before, the greatest number by Obama himself.

Democratic and Republican strategists in Washington have exploited — and continue to exploit – immigrants for political gain. When they had control of Congress for two years, the Democrats refused to pass immigration reform. They remember immigrants only when it is election time or when they want to use them as leverage against their opposition.

The Republicans on the other hand, instead of talking about jobs, health care for all, and a living wage for workers, spend all of their time pitting people against each other, attacking unions and immigrants, protecting the “Wall Street Thieves,” and passing laws to ensure corporate control of our government.

President Obama’s executive order enabling parents of U.S. citizens and/or permanent residents and more young adults to get provisional legal status is being portrayed as a major victory by the Democrats and their allies. But many argue – for good reason — that this is just a show to ensure Latinos do not leave the Democratic ranks. Executive orders can be reversed by future presidents, and Obama is trying to use the fear of that to line up Latino voters behind the next Democratic candidate.

Though some 3.7 million undocumented immigrants will be able to apply for provisional relief under Obama’s order, more than 6 million will not get any kind of relief. And although some immigrants will be given provisional status, that does not mean they will get “permanent resident status.” This group, too, will continue to be under the constant threat of deportation at the whim of Washington.

As we continue the fight for amnesty for America’s millions of undocumented immigrants, the movement must understand that — as history has shown – if we put our faith in either of the two Wall Street parties, the Republicans or the Democrats, they will do what they do best – play politics with people’s lives, in this case with the most vulnerable.

As poor working families, we must avoid the politics of fear that emanate from Washington and must support the most vulnerable. For more than two decades, the Latino community has placed its hopes with either the Republicans or the Democrats, and we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past.

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