Finally – a victory that counts!
By Elvira Arellano
“We organized for a moratorium not only to protect the undocumented but because a moratorium is the only way, we believe, to get the Congress to move on comprehensive immigration reform.”
The President’s announcement that the administration will allow nearly one million people to apply for two year, renewable, deferments and work permits is an important victory for our movement. Those eligible have to be 30 years or younger, have been bought to this country before they were eighteen and resided in the U.S. for at least five years. They must also have achieved a high school degree or be in school. Those now charged with immigration violations will be able to apply for the deferred status now. Others will have to wait some 60 days until the application process is established by USCIS.
Familia Latina Unida first initiated the demand for what the administration calls “Prosecutorial Discretion” in November of 2010. Working with Congressman Gutierrez, we took the campaign across the country and to the doorsteps of the White House. You will recall that for one year the President’s response was, ”I don’t have the power to do that.” The persistent pressure and the closeness of the upcoming election changed his mind.
While we are very pleased with the protections we have won for the undocumented for the first time in nearly twenty years, we also hope the movement will understand the strategy we have pursued. Since June of 2007 Familia Latina Unida has organized for the President to call a moratorium on deportations until the congress can pass immigration reform. We organized for a moratorium not only to protect the undocumented but because a moratorium is the only way, we believe, to get the Congress to move on comprehensive immigration reform.
We will never get republicans – and those democrats who basically want to see Latino’s driven from the country – to support comprehensive immigration reform as long as they are getting what they want: the deportation of millions of people. You don’t negotiate with your boss for a raise by working harder, you negotiate by threatening or going on strike.
If we can use the strength of the Latino vote, and our coalition partners in the unions and in the churches, to continue and to expand the moratorium on deportations we have just won, then we will bring Republicans to the table and we will get a change in the law.
Familia Latina Unida, sometimes alone, stuck with the demand for the moratorium for years. It was our demand while I was in Sanctuary. I am so proud of the families that have continued the fight and the young people who grew up in the movement that took it to a new level. I am so proud too of Congressman Gutierrez who also had to stand alone many times in this struggle.
The movement now has important work to do to help people gain the benefits we have won. Still this victory should only give us the courage and the unity to demand more. If work permits and deferred status can be given to those who came here before they were 18, they can also be given to the parents of U.S. citizen children.
The more people we win protection for, the more likely it is that we can force the Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. We are on the right track! Keep the pressure on!