Let’s face it: it's not just the lack of compassion towards children at the border seeking asylum; the House of Representatives neglected its duty to provide leadership on immigration reform long ago.
When the House refused for over a year to pass the bipartisan immigration bill that the Senate passed, and when House Republicans scuttled the numerous national actions from groups such as We Belong Together that demanded action from the Hill, they made their position clear—the House will refuse to make any productive steps towards fixing our broken immigration system.
July 15, 2014 - Oracle, Arizona, United States of America - Approximately 50 people gathered in Oracle, Ariz., 50 miles from Tucson, to pass friendly messages to unaccompanied minors of Central American origins expected to be delivered by bus to a private holding facility in Oracle where they will await their deportations or release. Image Credit: © Will Seberger/ZUMA Wire
But last Friday, Congress hit a new low. After months of doing nothing on immigration reform, and just moments before the start of August recess, the House passed HR 5272 which would halt and prevent the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Instead of finding real solutions the House decided to take a cheap shot at kids, many of whom have been in America their entire lives. "We always understood you wanted to uproot their parents. But now, late on a Friday night, you are going after the DREAMers who have known no other country but this one," said Representative Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. in a speech on the House floor on Friday.
HR 5272 is a mean-spirited attempt at using immigrant youth as political pawns. It’s become apparent that in a desperate attempt to secure Tea Party votes in the upcoming election, Republicans have become comfortable targeting children.
Now more than ever, President Obama must fulfill his promise to counter Congress’ hostility toward immigrant families and break the political stalemate that’s left countless families and children hanging in the balance. That’s why women across the country are calling on the President to grant the broadest possible administrative relief, enact enforcement reforms that meet the needs of women and address the suffering of families torn apart by our broken immigration system.Here Are 6 Things the President can Do Today:
1) Use his legal authority to allow immigrants to remain and work legally in the U.S.—any such program would need to recognize women’s work both inside and outside the home.
2) Address the 4 million backlogged cases in the family immigration system by allowing family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to live and work in the US as they await the processing of their immigration applications.
3) Update the Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement priorities to make sure families can stay together and children can live free from the fear of being separated from their parents by deportation.
4) Protect workers on the job and ensure that women who are victims of workplace violence can access safety and justice. He should also fully recognize women’s abilities and contributions by allowing spouses of visa holders to work in the U.S.
5) End enforcement programs, like the so-called “Secure Communities” program, which allows local police to act as immigration agents. Programs like these not only incite fear in communities of color, they create barriers for survivors of sexual and domestic violence to life-saving services and protection.
6) Immediately end the detention of families, ensure safety and due process, and pay special attention to the needs of immigrant women and children caught in the detention system.
Right now we are facing a humanitarian crisis coupled with political extremism—I cannot think of a more acceptable time for the President to exercise his executive authority. It’s time for the President to ignore the noise of party politics and midterm election fever, do what is right and uphold our true American family values.
Andrea Cristina Mercado is a Co-Chair of We Belong Together, Women for Common Sense Immigration Reform.
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