It is Time for the Deporter-in-Chief to Act

On September 6th, 2014 President Obama, sometimes known as the deporter-in-chief, announced his plan to delay executive action on immigration until after the election. President Obama caved on his own pledge to issue administrative relief by the end of summer if the Congress did not act. This delay is simply wrong.

It is estimated that about 1,100 people are being torn apart from their loved ones everyday. While families are separated everyday, this country’s so-called leaders are pointing fingers at each other and refusing to accept their responsibility to serve the people. The Republican Party, the henchmen for the Top 1 percent, is blaming President Obama because they can’t “trust” him. Spineless Democrats are blaming Republicans for not passing comprehensive immigration reform, a bill designed to minimize 11.5 million people’s pathway to citizenship while benefittingthe prison industrial complex and the military industrial complex. The Obama administration was able to recuse itself from its draconian deportation policy by blaming the Congress, but the administration cannot hide anymore.

After the National Day of Action on April 5th, it became clear that record-breaking deportations cannot be ignored anymore. On April 5th, immigrant rights organizers and advocates from 80 cities joined the National Day Laborer Organizing Network’s effort to protest more than 2 million deportations under the Obama administration. Among the 2 million people deported, 250,000 were of Asian Pacific Islander heritage. This unfathomable number simply exceeds any previous administration’s deportation record. As the esteemed Judge Learned Land said in 1920s,

“Deportation is… exile, a dreadful punishment, abandoned by the common consent of all civilized peoples…that our reasonable efforts to rid ourselves be attended by such a cruel and barbarous result would be a national reproach.” [1]

The amount of pain and suffering caused by Obama’s draconian policy is indescribable. President Obama rightly earned his title Deporter-in-Chief. His administration recently broke its own record on deportation yet again.

Personally, I am very well aware of what families experience when their loved ones are in deportation proceedings. I was in deportation proceeding myself. In 2008, border patrol agents arrested me while I was traveling alone after high school graduation. I spent about a month in detention centers until I was released on bond. During my all four years of college, I lived under constant fear of deportation. Although there was prosecutorial discretion, the 1 percent approval rate of the program at the time did not give me any hope. That feeling of hopelessness and despair still haunt me to this date. I was only relieved from the fear once the Deferred Action for early Childhood Arrival or DACA was announced.

After college, I moved to San Francisco and I joined ASPIRE, the first Asian Pacific Islander undocumented youth group in the nation. After spending my entire college career living in fear, I realized that I need to raise my voice and join the movement. Also, I need to fight for my parents, who sacrificed everything in hopes of providing for their family. Although I was fortunate enough to have temporary relief from deportation, my parents do not have that protection.

Nonetheless, it has been a painful journey to watch politicians use the immigration issue as a political tool to gain votes again and again while many pro-immigrant organizations remain unable to confront the White House’s refusal to act. Some advocates argue that there is still a chance for the Congress to act. However, Congress had more than a year to act, but is simply too paralyzed to perform its basic function. It is absurd to rely on a dysfunctional institution to address this urgent matter while millions of families remain in fear of separation. Right now, at this moment, President Obama can ameliorate millions of undocumented immigrants’ pain with a stroke of a pen. And yet, he is again positioning himself as a “neutral” observer waiting until the midterm election is over. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,

“I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a period of moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” [2]

Obama’s refusal to issue administrative relief reveals his moral bankruptcy more than anything else. It is time for President Obama to act. If he is not willing to act, immigrant rights organizers and activists need to make him act. Just like Ju Hong and Blanca Hernandez, who courageously confronted President Obama during his speech, immigrant rights activists and organizers must directly aim at President Obama to issue administrative relief for all 11.5 million undocumented immigrants.

Notes:

1. Ngai, Mae M.. Impossible subjects: illegal aliens and the making of modern America. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2004. Pg 81

2.MLK Sermon: Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam.” The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (accessed October 4, 2014).