A project of the Center for Community Change

Grassroots leaders demand reform, not deportations

Yesterday, grassroots leaders gathered at a stand-up press conference in Washington, DC and denounced the Obama administration’s current immigration policy.

“Millions of citizens and new Americans voted for change, and what they got, as far as immigration issues are concerned, is more, much more of the same,” said the opening speaker, Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).  “We demand an immediate stop to the deportations because each one of these deportations equals a life destroyed and a family devastated.”

After 8 years of enforcement only policies at the hands of the Bush administration, advocates were hopeful that last year’s inauguration of Barack Obama would usher in a new day for immigration reform. As the last year has come and gone, the patience advocates once held for Obama has worn thin and the time has come to denounce the current policy for what it really is.

“(President Obama), you have not only broken your promise to move immigration reform, you have made the situation worse by deporting more people, separating more families and breaking more children’s hearts than did the Republicans in their final year,” said Artemio Arreola. “You have the power. You must use it, or lose it.”

Advocates cited numbers that showed deportations had actually risen during Obama’s first year in office – 387,790,  compared to 64,503 in the last year of the Bush administration. The Department of Homeland Security, apparently embarassed by these numbers, quickly moved to “clarify” them. From the Washington Post:

A DHS spokesman said the report [where the 387,790 number was originally published] erred by lumping together in the 2009 figure the number of illegal immigrants deported with those permitted to leave on their own power rather than being physically removed by ICE, an option called “voluntary departure.”

What does this mean? Matthew Kolken summarized it nicely in his blog post this morning:

Don’t believe the hype, as this is nothing more than political spin.  Voluntary departure is a euphemism for voluntary deportation. Although an individual may avoid the stigma of an order of removal if they are granted voluntary deportation by attesting to their willingness to leave the United States within a set number of days (a maximum of 120 days) and by paying for their own way home to their native country, make no mistake about it, the individual must LEAVE the United States, and there is nothing voluntary about it.

Basically, regardless of “voluntary” or not, the number of deportations has dramatically increased, which means more families have been separated, more children have been left without their mother or father and more destruction has been wrought at the hands of our broken system. And the grassroots movement will no longer be patient.

We are marching by the tens of thousands on March 21st and we are demanding action be taken. If not now, when?

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