Gratitude: More families Together

One week ago, President Obama issued an executive order that would stop the deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants. We asked several justice partners and UUs to share their thoughts, especially those who would be directly affected by this administrative action.

Whether or not you observe Thanksgiving, let’s take a moment to think about families and communities who can now stay together. While many of the reflections below mirror the sentiments of people across the country who had hoped this action would include more people, there is recognition that there are glimmers of hope for many families who will now no longer live under fear of deportation.

We wish you a happy season of thanks and gratitude and send you off with a reminder that when we stand on the side of love, we recognize that Love respects the worth and dignity of all people, Love has no borders, and Love keeps families together!

In faith,

The SSL Team & Partners

P.S. We are grateful for all the ways you have stood on the side of love this year.

Marisa Franco, Lead Organizer with the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON) Read her full statement here.

We are making real the idea that truly, a secure community is an organized one. In a system built to (dis)function with the grey area of having people work, produce and form part of community without rights and recognition, more and more people are showing they are unwilling to live in the shadows. Its been tested, with success, that there is protection in community.  {This} was not the first time people hear bad news. However this time for many, perhaps, it was not received watching television at home alone. In Arizona, for example, after years of Arpaio, of a succession of anti-immigrant bills people received the news together. There was a space to express the frustration, to cry or to simply react out loud. It was very clear that the job was not done, that we must not leave anyone behind… What we win, we defend. And we keep fighting and pushing to expand and build on our advancements. Poco a poco, inch by inch, the way we got here.

Carlos Garcia, with Puente Arizona. Read his full statement here.

If #Not1More has shown us anything its that there are multiple paths toward winning rights and stopping suffering.  Organizing to stop deportations isn’t giving up hope on immigration reform or legislation in Congress.  It empowers and allows people to be engaged in our own liberation. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals came in the shadow of the DREAM Act’s failure but it was no less of a victory.  Deferred Action for Parents is much much less than what the President could do and nowhere near what the people who have fought for it deserve.  But we will never allow either to be undone and we will press forward at every level of government, starting from the bottom up.


La Santa Cecelia sing outside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles at the NDLON watch party on the night of the Executive Order announcement

Some personal reflections following President Obama’s speech -

Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, UU Church of Phoenix, Arizona

We can be hopeful and proud of the amazing organizing work of the migrant and immigrant community, and their allies.  This victory is a result of the power that undocumented immigrants have built through their courage, their truth telling, their dreams and their relentless hope and struggle.  Millions of people including families, children and parents, will be given relief from fear of being separated, fear of deportation.  This is an undeniable good.  We can be hopeful, joyful and yet still unsatisfied at the same time.  Indeed, we must.

I am encouraged that the President included major changes to Secure Communities in his actions. This failed policy undermined community trust in law enforcement, by making any contact with law enforcement, even a minor traffic stop, a potential path to deportation.  The President has repeatedly said he will not deport people who are not serious criminals, but Secure Communities has resulted in many such people being deported who are no threat to community safety.  Ending Secure Communities has been a key ask of Puente here in Arizona and significant changes to the policy to bring it into line with due process and to make it voluntary is a big shift.  We must watch to see how these changes unfold over the next many months.

Finally, I realize the importance and need for compromise and I am celebrating the actions of the President and the difference it will make to millions of people.  At the same time, despite all the soaring rhetoric of the President’s speech, what came across loud and clear was the message that undocumented immigrants are criminals, and this I cannot, do not support.  His speech put all the responsibility, all the blame, on the shoulders of immigrants.  The President was silent on the foreign trade policies, NAFTA  being a huge one, that actually fuel migration.  No culpability for our own country’s reliance and insistence on a large, undocumented, exploitable labor force was acknowledge.  No responsibility was taken for the decades when the United States relied on and encouraged workers to come north but refused to provide legal pathways.

Migration will be an issue the world will face ongoing.  Global trade policies that further impoverish marginalized communities as well as the realities of climate change will make migration a reality we must adapt to.  I cannot be satisfied with criminalizing migrants.  As a person of faith, I believe it immoral to criminalize people who flee to other lands to survive, whether they are fleeing violence or starvation.  We must reverse laws and policies that criminalize the poor.   One day, it is my hope we will embrace policies that seek the full opportunity of all people and all nations, that highlight the interdependence we have as one human family, and the interdependence we have with our one home, the earth.

Leila Pine, Retired Attorney and Volunteer with No More Deaths, a ministry of the UU Church of Tucson

Obama’s Executive Order a Good First Step, But We Need Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Several friends and acquaintances have asked me, as an advocate for undocumented immigrants and immigrant rights for the past 16 years, what I think about President Obama’s executive order to allow up to four million undocumented immigrants to apply for a two-year protection from deportation.

Militarization of the border, which has wasted billions of dollars of taxpayer money on an impossible goal, has been a huge profit-maker for the defense industry, meanwhile creating an ever-deepening humanitarian crisis at the border, with at least 6,000 men, women and children, many of whom have died in the desert while trying to return to their families in the U.S.

An expired visa used to be a civil administrative issue, not a crime leading to prison. But it seems when the immigrants have brown faces or Hispanic or Asian last names, we’ve always had different standards for them. Our first immigration law was the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1880’s, when we deported thousands of Chinese railroad workers whom we had exploited for 10 years to build our railroad system. And until 1953, our federal laws still stated that only white immigrants could apply for U.S. citizenship.

Obama’s executive order is a great first step that will save four million immigrants from having their families torn apart by deportations. But now we have to fight for the other seven million people.  Contrary to what Republicans and the media allege, the executive order does NOT give them any legal immigration status or a path to citizenship, just a two-year reprieve from deportation, and a work permit.  It does not fix our seriously broken immigration system.

And many immigrant families, as well as those of us in the immigrant rights movement, still mourn the fact that Obama has already deported a record high two million undocumented immigrants, far more than George W. Bush ordered during his entire eight years in office.

More than 75% of the children of undocumented immigrants are U.S.-born citizens, so that is a disaster for those families that can’t be remedied. The trauma, disruption and clinical depression those children and their parents feel over being torn apart are real and devastating, as they would be for anyone’s family in the U.S.

Some immigrants are also worried that when Obama leaves office in two years, a Republican president and Congress will use all the information they sent to the Department of Homeland Security to simply deport everyone who has registered in good faith for this program or for DACA.

So once again, things are never as simple as the politicians or some of the mainstream media make them out to be.  But it’s still the first ray of light we’ve seen in a couple of decades, so we are grateful for these small crumbs of justice, and will continue to fight for a fair, rational and humane immigration system for all.