A New Playing Field

Posted on September 22, 2010


By Elvira Arellano

Every mother in raising a child notices that a child can be very selfish and, in only a moment, can surprise you with an act or a word that is completely unselfish. We human beings have both these possibilities. Usually, it is the realization of the truth of another’s suffering that brings about unselfishness.

As I write this column, it is unclear whether or not the effort to pass the dream act as an amendment to the defense appropriation act will work in the U.S. Senate. What is clear now is that the playing field for the struggle for immigration reform has changed. We have a new chance.

The democratic leadership, led by Senator Dick Durbin, had refused to advance a bill for legalization in the U.s. Senate for the two years since the Democrats took control of both houses of congress and the White House. Senator Durbin continued to press for the dream act. His argument was that it was more acceptable to conservatives and therefore less of a liability for democrats to support. Why? Because democrats could argue that the dream students were “innocent”. They had no part in the decisions of their parents to cross the border without papers and only wanted to be part of the society they had grown up in. Some, perhaps many, would be ready to join the army and die for their new country if their country accepted them.

If the dream act fails, the democrats can blame the republicans and restore some of the credibility they have lost with the Latino community – and they will not be branded with attempting to legalize millions of people who crossed the border and who now have families and U.S. citizen children.

To get the Latino caucus to agree to this the President and the Democratic leadership had to agree to allow a bill for comprehensive immigration reform to finally be introduced into the Senate. This bill will be introduced by Senator Melendez in a few weeks.

After the November election, our movement will have the opportunity to fight for passage of that bill. We will also have the opportunity to demand that President Obama stop deporting 1100 people every day and destroying hundreds of thousands of families every year as he has been doing for two years.

Just as President Obama agreed with Senator Durbin to give the dream act students a moratorium on deportations until the dream act was passed, he must now agree to stopping the separation of families until comprehensive immigration reform is passed.

It is now in our hands. We must be prepared to Rally for Reform and Mobilize for the Moratorium in November as we have never mobilized before. Familia Latina Unida has called for marches in cities across the country on November 15th.

It is a new day and there is new hope. Still, we should remember that it is truth that brings about unselfishness and it is only unselfishness that will solve the problems of immigration. The parents that crossed the border did so because U.S. policies like NAFTA destroyed their jobs in their own country. They did not create the global economic policies and the system of undocumented labor – they just tried to survive within it.

During the Presidential primaries, both Obama and Clinton promised to revise NAFTA and take responsibility for the damage the U.S. has done to the economies of Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean. We must hold them to their promise.

The Latino community, on both sides of the border, knows better than anyone the pain of separated families. We also know the purpose and strength that family gives our lives. The pain of separation and the struggle to keep our families together makes us a witness against the economic choices that destroy families. Perhaps God has chosen us to bring this witness to a nation which, in their culture of individual advancement, has forgotten the gift of family that God gives us

The Latino community in the United States has been given a special role in U.S. history. As we grow in numbers and power, we can take our fight for immigration reform to the next level. We must fight for the families that have been formed in the U.S. and we must fight also to change the policies that forced them, and still forces others, to make the dangerous journey to the north.

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