Last week, I had the honor of speaking to one of my favorite Democratic clubs, the Kingwood Area Democrats. While the Democratic/National Latino Organization narrative has been one of support for Senate Bill 744 (which sits idle in the U.S. House), the Republican narrative has been the same old negative vitriol.
The dissonance can be frustrating for those who truly support immigration reform. In the case of my visit to KAD, I chose to offer a little truth about Senate Bill 744–that not only is it not a perfect bill, as President Obama has told us, but it is quite imperfect. My colleague Rey Guerra also writes about this, and we look forward to posting the second part of his series on S.744.
No doubt, the one bright spot in the last couple of years has been Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive order for DHS to defer the deportation proceedings of undocumented children. Some of these kids may otherwise qualify for a future DREAM type act. Unfortunately, Republicans have called it a “back-door Amnesty,” which it is not. And Democrats have compared it to the DREAM Act, which it definitely is not. (The Kingwood article in which I am quoted state DREAM Act, but I actually was talking about DACA in that instance).
All DACA does is bring these undocumented children out of the shadows, allowing them a work permit or the opportunity to continue their studies without fear of deportation for a two-year period. It is not a cure, it is not an amnesty, it does not include any type of family reunification (the foundation of immigration in the US), and, there is one big problem.
The problem is that it is quite political in that many of those who were applying last year were literally praying for an Obama victory because there was no promise from Romney to continue the program. If anything Romney was non-committal and caught with his pants down with his whole “self deportation” scheme. And if immigration reform does not happen, what then? Pray for Hillary Clinton victory so that these kids can remain in limbo?
The result has been over half-a-million applicants for DACA, with over 70% of them having been approved. Only 1 percent have been denied for various reasons. The Brookings Institute provides some facts on DACA. Back to the political aspect of this, there are well over 800,000 children who may be DREAM-eligible, so that means a few hundred thousand have not applied for DACA, perhaps because of financial restraints or a preference for a more permanent plan like the actual DREAM Act.
What this proves is that an effective process of providing the 11 million undocumented a path out of the shadows toward legalization and ultimately citizenship is administratively possible. It would be a given with a better investment into the legal immigration system.
Instead, s.744 forces folks to the back of a line that doesn’t move, thus leaving people in a second class status. As I’ve stated before, it is currently a back of a line that does not move, and there isn’t much political determination to truly improve the infrastructure that would allow the line to start moving at a faster pace.
As my sister, Toni Medellin, states in her presentation, there are those in the “legal” immigration system being processed for a green card who applied back in 1992. This is not a working system; if anything, it is archaic and quite broken.
So, while many celebrate DACA and a temporary deferral of deportation proceedings, we must keep in mind that the bigger system under President Obama has already deported over 1.7 million immigrants. And this Congressional recess has around 40,000 more immigrants scheduled for deportation.
Let’s just contemplate that while we continue to break apart S.744. Because we are still of the opinion that America can do much better than what is being offered.