Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Communities Lead While Leaders Retreat

Recent news coverage has indicated that immigration will not be on the legislative or White House agenda for yet another year. What gives? After so much promise and the sense that change was around the corner, advocates and communities have confronted renewed delays, back-pedaling and verbal calisthenics to stall a substantive legislative discussion and policy solutions. Avoidance seems to have become the ongoing bug of choice in the nation’s capitol.

Despite the ongoing impasse, the collective spirit of the nation's immigrant communities has not diminished. Indeed, trainings, workshops, Know Your Rights and organizing sessions have continued as have vigils, public actions, letter-writing and telephone-tree efforts to reach out to legislators and policy leaders to urge their leadership in changing the current stalemate. (Photo: AFSC New England "Know Your Rights" training in Boston - 2007/photo courtesy of G. Camacho).

How many more immigrants will be attacked, killed, vilified or deported before humane policy emerges from the White House and the halls of Congress? How many more families will be separated due to their multi-immigration status in the US? Surely, our nation’s leaders can do much better to honor the founding principles, and the basic and inherent dignity of all.

Not too long ago while meeting with the Presidents of Canada and Mexico, President Obama indicated his administration’s commitment to repair the current immigration system. But like leaves flying and spinning into the wind, there's been lots of spinning and words on the issue but still, far from substantive action. In the meantime, immigrant communities and non-immigrant immigrant allies have been pressing forward, meeting, holding discussions, organizing and working with each other to change the current policy and political impasse.

AFSC has joined more than 500 organizations calling for an end to several past punitive and enforcement actions that have now been continued by the Obama administration. In addition, immigrant and non-immigrant communities have been conveying a unified message that the continued delay of immigration reform is the wrong way to proceed.

Unfortunately, punitive programs such as 287(g) – a program that enables local police to act as immigration agents – has continued to receive support and the Department of Homeland Security has in fact, expanded the program. This has taken place despite the fact that the program has fostered fear in immigrant communities, led to racial profiling and abuses.

It is imperative that Congressional leaders and the White House moved toward a process that begins to address the current and broken down immigration system. Delays, half-baked promises and stalling will do nothing to change the reality the nation confronts. Increased detentions, deportations and family separation are not long-term solutions to the existing national and global economic, social and political realities.

But the stalling tide can be changed. In fact, hearing from their constituents can move the nation's leaders to make this a 'front and center' issue. It is not lost to elected officials or the White House when community members call to urge movement forward on key policies.

Now you can
join AFSC and many other faith, labor and community organizations in calling for humane immigration policy. Urge Congress not to dither. Urge President Obama to move with deliberate speed! It is time for forward-thinking and humane immigration policies.

§ Contact the White House general switchboard: 202-456-1414 or leave your message for President Obama at 202-456-1111. A quick e-mail will also help! Send to:

§ Contact members of your Congressional delegation and urge them to lead in efforts that repair the current immigration system.

· To contact your Senator: 202-224-3121
· To contact your Representative: 202-225-3121