In November and December of last year Congressman Gutierrez began to develop a campaign around the moratorium in two appearances in New York and Los Angeles. The Congressman laid out several principles: 1) the movement cannot be determined by the priorities and timetables of elected officials concerned primarily with their next election; 2) We should put the mixed status family unity principle at the forefront of the struggle in combination with dream act eligible families; 3) We should focus on the power of the President to interpret existing law and regulations to give relief to these families 4) We should link a national campaign for a moratorium with local struggles against criminalization legislation and programs and 5) U.S. citizens must get out of their comfort zones to move this struggle – i.e. civil disobedience.
Following these events, the dream act legislative initiative was made in Congress and failed the supermajority required in the U.S. Senate. The Obama administration then “put the immigration issue to bed”, taking the position that they still wanted “to try” to pass the dream act but would continue with the deportation of 1100 people a day, continue with 287g and secure communities and continue with increasing border enforcement. Republicans publically committed themselves to more repressive legislation, including challenges to citizenship birthright, while a few Republican leaders discussed a legislative reform initiative which would allow them to penetrate the Latino vote. Privately the President said, “I am going to win the next election and then we will do something. In the meantime we will stop bad legislation from happening: Get behind me. Stop putting pressure on me.”
The Moratorium Campaign
Our point of struggle for the national campaign is over the administration’s ability to “interpret” existing regulations in a way that stops the deportations of families of the 5.1 million children. Our primary focus is the families of the 5.1 million children under eighteen – both U.S. citizens and dream act eligible – with one or more undocumented parent.
Our second point of struggle is to develop non-cooperation with Federal Enforcement Programs at the local level in an effort to curb these programs nationally.
Strategically, we want to collect cases – U.S. citizen and dream act eligible children with undocumented parents – which we can bring as a group to the administration to demand the more liberal interpretations of the law for them which ice memos have brought forward; e.g. humanitarian parole, parole in place, etc.
Collection of cases
We will highlight the collection of cases in public forums the way we did the first tour – but we encourage churches and organizations to collect cases on an ongoing basis. We will also bring forth cases where deportations had taken place, or were in process, showing that 287g or secure communities act had dragneted these people under the guise of going after criminals or threats to the nation.
As we did before, only U.S. citizens will come forward so as not to expose undocumented persons. Moreover, we will do this under the “protection” of the Congressional Hispanic caucus with the public intention of bringing the cases to the attention of the white house, relying on the white house position that cases brought to their attention, especially by members of congress, will not be turned over to ice for prosecution.
We have set a goal for 5,000 cases by May 1st. We are asking organizations and churches to take the lead in the collection and documentation and in the organization of mass events with public testimonies.
What makes this different is that we will have an affirmative approach to the interpretation of the law that would get immediate relief to the list of families we present.
“Enforce the ‘laws on the books'”
We enforce the law for national security
We should enforce the law for family and children’s security, too
In the absence of reform, our current immigration laws should be applied to better protect our children and secure our nation’s future. Where it is in the public interest to remove criminals and dangerous individuals, we should–and we are. But where it is in the public interest to keep a family together to raise a child or to help a child reach their dreams, we also should. Instead, the enforcement regime is used indiscriminately, treating children and their families like common criminals and banishing them to years of separation with no hope of relief in sight.
Under current law, there is another way. Parole-in-place (PIP), while used sparingly today, provides DHS the authority and the means to allow deserving individuals to remain in the U.S. without threatening national security or public safety. PIP, like other forms of Administrative relief, would protect mixed status families and DREAM students from removal and allow them to apply for work authorization. However, unlike other options, it also allows the beneficiary to pursue adjustment of status where he or she has a legitimate claim under current law to apply for LPR status, such as through their spouse and, to a far lesser degree, their employment.
With regard to mixed-status families where a parent is outside the country, DHS could lessen the standard of “extreme hardship” for those applying for waivers to the 3- and 10-year bars.
U.S. citizen children in mixed-status families, DREAM students: Parole-In-Place (PIP)
DHS should issue guidance that the undocumented parent(s) and siblings of a U.S. citizen child and DREAM Act-eligible students shall be granted humanitarian-based parole-in-place. While PIP in and of itself does not confer any immigration status, it does protect individuals from deportation, provides them with a work permit and grants them “admission” under the INA.
Because the beneficiary has now been admitted, they are allowed to apply to adjust status without having to leave the United States for consular processing overseas and trigger the unlawful presence bars to admission. Without the barriers of the bars, husbands and wives can petition for each other and pursue adjustment of status–just like people who overstay their visas or qualify for 245(i) (without the fine). And DREAM students would be allowed to adjust through their own families (if applicable), if they ever get married in the future or successfully acquire a work visa that puts them on a path to permanency.
There is a precedent for granting PIP to individuals and defined groups. The agency is already granting PIP on a limited basis to undocumented dependents of citizens enrolled in the military. PIP was also extended last year to residents of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who are at risk of falling out of status because of the imposition of the INA and federal immigration laws to the Islands.
Example 1: Maria came to the United States illegally at the age of 20 to work hard and send money back to Mexico to help support the aging parents who lost their farm. She eventually married a U.S. citizen and has three children. She has lived here 15 years and stayed out of trouble. PIP would allow her to apply for parole (admission) into the U.S. without leaving the country and facing a 10 year bar. Once paroled, her husband can petition for her and she will be on her way to getting her green card.
Example 2: Carmen was brought to the U.S. at the age of 10 by her parents. She’s a high school graduate and putting herself through community college. Once granted admission under PIP, she no longer has to fear being deported, can work legally to pay for her college and successfully earns her engineering degree. She applies for a job with a big firm, acquires an H1-B visa and is on her way to getting her green card.
U.S. citizen children whose parents have been deported or are stuck outside the U.S.
DHS should issue guidance that lessens the standard for demonstrating “extreme hardship.” The waiver available to spouses, sons and daughters of U.S. citizens for the 3- and 10-year bars are only granted in cases of “extreme hardship,” which has been interpreted in extremely narrow terms. USCIS should issue guidance to make the standard for “extreme hardship” easier to meet, such that more spouses, sons and daughters of U.S. citizens qualify for the waiver and are allowed to return to the U.S. to join their families.
Example: Janina, the wife of Tony Wasilewski, who was forced to leave the U.S. with their citizen son, Brian, when a path to a green card was closed to her. If the standard were made more generous, individuals like her would have a far greater chance of qualifying for it and reuniting with their families
CHILDREN UNDER SIEGE
THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE IRRESPONSIBILITY OF A NATION
We are talking about 5.1 million of our children:
Who are the 5.1 million children with unauthorized parents?
*4 million or 80% are U.S. citizens
*1.1 million are themselves unauthorized or legal permanent residents
What percentage of the U.S. population do they represent?
These represent 7% of all the children in the United States under 18.
*U.S. citizen children (the children of mixed status families) are younger so that 90% of pre-school age children with unauthorized parents are U.S. citizens whereas only 60% of children in high school with unauthorized parents are U.S. citizens.
*One out of every 16 K-12 students is a child of unauthorized parents; 70% of these are U.S. citizens; 1 out of 50 is themself unauthorized.
Is this population of children growing?
Yes. Although there has been a slight decline in the number of undocumented adults, the numbers of children of unauthorized parents is increasing steadily.
*The number of children has grown 42% faster than the population of unauthorized adults.
*The birth rate of these children is much greater than of the citizen families because:
1) There are more two person head of family households. Over 50% of the families of the 5.1 million children are two person head of household families, and are married, while the average for U.S. citizen families is only 21%
2) The average age of the families is younger than the median age of U.S. citizen families
3) There is a higher fertility rate
What percentage of the population – and the potential workforce – will the 5.1 million represent in the future?
A growing percentage…
*The children of unauthorized parents now represent 7% of all children in the U.S. under 18. This percentage will continue to increase over the next five to ten years. As the aging U.S. workforce declines, children of the undocumented will make up as much as 10% of the U.S. workforce.
*The U.S. citizen Population is much older than the immigrant and mixed status population – and is having fewer children – and therefore the children of unauthorized parents will represent an increasingly large percentage of the U.S. population and workforce.
*The U.S. will require more young workers – and more well educated young workers – than are being produced by U.S. citizen families to provide for an economy strong enough to support the increasing number of retirees in the global economy. (The average retirement age for the baby boomers began last month!)
Are these families and their children likely to leave the U.S. voluntarily?
No. In fact, while there has been an increase in the number of undocumented workers leaving the country voluntarily this year – because of stricter enforcement and declining opportunities – families with U.S. citizen or dream act eligible children show no evidence of leaving voluntarily.
*In addition, most of these families are Mexican: about 75%, with easier access to return if deported.
*Over 100,000 U.S. citizen children saw one of their parents deported by official estimates in 2008. Anecdotal evidence shows that a great number of these, motivated by their responsibility and ties to family, returned or attempted to return illegally.
Is there evidence that women are crossing the border to have children born as U.S. citizen children?
*90% of children born to an unauthorized parent were born after the parent had been here 15 months or more. 50% were born of mothers who had been here 5 years or more.
*Instead, the high birthrate reflects the high percentage of marriage and the youthful age of the young workers who come to the United States to work without papers.
What is happening to the 5.1 million children?
These children are growing up with unequal access to education and health care and in poverty – although in strong families.
- 1 out of 3 live in poverty, higher than the national average of less than 1 in 5
- Studies show they have a slower rate of cognitive development because of lack of access to programs like Head Start, Day Care Centers, Program offerings both in the schools and in the communities because their parents can’t qualify for them or don’t have access to information about them.
- Children of unauthorized parents are twice as likely to lack health insurance as children of citizens or legal residents.
These children are growing up in high stress homes
- Because of the constant threat of deportation of one or more parent
- Because of the necessity of hiding information and avoiding the risk of exposure of their parents
- Because of the long work hours often below the minimum wage of their parents.
Children are growing up in families where one parent has been deported
*Because they cannot afford to follow the deported parent who often is unable to
find work in the country to which they are deported.
*Because the remaining parent seeks to maintain their children’s right to continue their lives in the only community they have ever known with the opportunities for a future that they have a right to.
What would happen to the 5.1 million if they returned with unauthorized family members to their native countries?
*Economic realities in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean mean that they would be raised in severe poverty with poor access to education and would return when they were of age, as early as 15 or 16, to claim their rights as U.S. citizens, unprepared to participate successfully in the U.S. economy and become a part of a permanent underclass.
*Because many of the families have one parent that is a citizen or a legal permanent resident, the children would be separated from one parent or the other because economic realities would require that the parent who can stay legally in the country stay and work to provide for them when the other parent is deported.
THERE IS NO FREEDOM WITHOUT RESPONSIBILITY!
Saying that this is a “nation of laws” does not free this nation from taking responsibility for its failure to observe these laws. The Reagan administration recognized that the nation itself had failed to comply with immigration law and sponsored the first amnesty after implementing a moratorium on deportations. Following that partial remediation, the nation and its businesses actually offered employment to 12 million more undocumented workers, accepted their irretrievable contributions to social security, gave many of them tax numbers and collected their taxes, while banks and unscrupulous mortgage companies sold them mortgages.
While it is true that millions of workers crossed the border without authorization and worked without authorization, it is also true that almost every component of this nation’s economic system knowingly utilized their labor and every citizen of the nation received the benefits of their labor and their financial contributions to the government. Meanwhile, neither Democratic nor Republican administrations moved to enforce the increasingly stringent laws against employers.
It should be said that the current enforcement only policy – leading to 1100 deportations every day – punishes the most vulnerable of those who violated the laws of this nation. At the same time, those U.S. citizens who benefitted from the frequently cruel exploitation of the undocumented have pocketed their profits and have gotten off scott free.
Because undocumented labor was not officially recognized for its part in the nation’s economic system, the hard won protections for and right to the dignity of workers were never applied to these 12 million workers. Principal among these rights is the right to form families and raise children.
As a consequence of the nation’s irresponsibility and violation of its own laws, there are now 5.1 million children, 80% of whom are U.S. citizens, the rest children who know no other country but this one, who face discrimination, inequality and perhaps the greatest violation of their human rights – the right to be raised in the covenant of a family.
Morally and spiritually, this nation must redeem itself for the wrongs it has committed and the consequences now visited on these 5.1 million young human beings. Economically, the nation’s economy may well depend on preparing them for the roles they can and should be allowed to play in the future of this country.
The failure to accept responsibility for the consequences of unethical practices has plunged this nation – and the world – into the greatest economic collapse since the great depression. Our government has responded by rewarding the majority of those responsible with greater wealth. A nation which does not take responsibility for its actions is a nation doomed to failure.
The consequences of this nation’s permissive exploitation of 12 million human beings, driven here not by the search for “the American Dream”, but because of what the American nightmare did to the economies of their own countries, are in front of our eyes: the consequences are 5.1 million children who are being denied equal opportunity and the fundamental security of family.
There is no freedom without responsibility. The dignity and human rights and necessary role in this nation’s future require that action be taken to stop the separation of families IMMEDIATELY by moratorium and then by reform of the law.
LET US REMEMBER, AS THESE CHILDREN GROW ANOTHER YEAR OLDER, THAT JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED !