Facing Obama’s Selective Immigration Reform

We won a shaky victory last night.
President Obama expanded relief to million parents of U.S. citizens and
residents. But with this victory there comes a lot of heartbreak. Over half of
our community will remain excluded and at risk of deportations. There will also
be new enforcement programs that will target those left out of relief. We must
acknowledge last night’s victory, but in doing so also commit ourselves further
to push back against enforcement and continue advocating for relief for those
excluded.

The president’s executive order
is a testament to the power of organizing, but it’s also a testament to the
cruelty of the system we live under.

For the past four years, I have been part of organizing spaces, wept when the deportations hit two million under the current administration and celebrated the small victories our communities advocated. Immediately after the president’s announcement I called my parents. The first thing they asked was if I qualified. They then asked if they qualified. I stayed silent, attempting to hold back my tears.

Obama’s executive order will allow 4.4 million parents of
U.S. citizens and Green Card holders to qualify for relief, meaning they are safe—for now—from deportation, given that they have a clean criminal record. While
this is a substantial step forward, it only accounts for a third of the
estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States.
Obama also extended the qualifications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
(DACA) program, allowing individuals who have been in the United States since 2007 (as
opposed to 2010) to receive work authorization and other benefits. This will
affect around 290,000 people.

Under these new parameters, I am now able to qualify for
DACA. The first round of the program only allowed students who had been in the
United States since 2007.

But Obama’s ‘comprehensive’ reform is not as inclusive as
it could be. My parents do not have children who are U.S. citizens. Due to this, they will be excluded and remain unqualified for relief. How can I celebrate
when my parents do not qualify for deportation relief? I seriously find it hard
to be happy when millions of other immigrants were excluded.

Many welcome the relief that will be granted to almost
five million undocumented immigrants. Immigrant youth believe that this is a
step toward ending family separation and bringing about changes to this broken
immigration system. But let us never forget how Obama began last night’s speech.
The president paraded the U.S. Border Patrol’s efforts and announced a new
round of funding for border security. 

“If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally,”
the president proclaimed, “your chances of getting caught and sent back just
went up.”

For many of us, excitement over Obama’s executive order has
dwindled to criticism for the continued enforcement and the criminalization of our
communities, especially at a time when border patrol abuses are at an all-time
high.

Immigrant communities across the country are also
decrying the trending divide that separates our community between ‘good’ immigrants and ‘bad’ immigrants. All people are allowed second chances and
should not solely be excluded over criminal convictions. Besides, the criminal
system should be separate from the civil immigration system, for they do not
work within the same framework.

Moving forward, we caution our community to stay alert of
notary and immigration attorney fraud. Details are vague, and there is no
program or set date for the executive order to take effect. In the coming
months, immigrant advocacy groups will be providing assistance for our
communities and will continue to advocate for broader and more inclusive
relief.

Immigrant youth will not rest until the deportation
pipeline is put to an end. Suffering will not end until the 34,000-bed quota is
terminated; relief is granted to all 11 million undocumented immigrants; the militarization of the border is ended; the criminalization of immigrants is stopped; and all cooperation between immigration authorities and local law
enforcement is put to an end. It’s imperative that we organize and protect each other now more
than ever. It’s the undocumented youth that made this executive order possible—the
same ones whose parents are still at risk of being deported.

Don’t let the government divide us into arbitrary
categories. Papers don’t define who we are and what we are worth. ¡La lucha sigue!

Maria Rodriguez
PZ ’15 is a sociology and Chicano studies major. She is a policy advocate
coordinator for the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition.

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