Across the USA, DREAMers prepare to be free

Since June 15, undocumented youth across the country, or DREAMers, as we’ve come to known them as eligible to participate of a future DREAM Act, started relishing a short-term opportunity of becoming free to be, to participate and work, as beneficiaries of the latest in a roller coaster of maybe’s in the last four years, the deferred action policy.

This new policy, which will start taking applications August 15, offers to defer a potential deportation and stabilize the youth’s life for two years. It includes employment authorization.

Benny Veliz, who became one of the first faces of the DREAMer movement when her story made national news in 2009, finally got her deportation charges dropped last year and although she’s been protected from deportation, Benny has been in an immigrants’ limbo ever since and could be deported, even after being stopped for a minor driving infraction.

Benny says that she will definitely apply this Monday.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney has already made it clear there will be no DREAM Act if he becomes president and has declared he will have a ‘permanent solution’ to the problem of undocumented immigration. As a matter of fact, he’s said striking down deferred action policy will be one of the first things he’ll do as president.

President Obama has continued to play a carrot and stick number, and stated that he won’t give up on immigration reform as long as he is president. Detractors have pointed out that if low priority enforcement is not taking place, why would deferred action be any different.

Still, DREAMers remained positive that this will at least provide breathing room until a true immigration reform takes place.

Lizardo Buleje, who recently graduated with an Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and faced an uncertain future when he woke up on the morning of June 15th, was brimming with excitement and anticipation that afternoon.

“This morning’s Breaking News has been the best news I have received in years. Finally, the hard work of all Dreamers has paid off, but this is only the beginning, this is only the first step. Tonight, Dreamers are united again and will be celebrating the amazing news; however, tomorrow is time for us to go out and show the United States and the world that this was NOT a mistake. We are going to finish school (in my case, my Master’s Degree), get jobs, become professionals, and help our home and beloved country, the United States, succeed,” said Buleje after hearing the news.

Buleje was part of a group of undocumented youth who went on a hunger strike to demonstrate for the DREAM Act a couple of years ago. He’s now counting the hours to August 15th and will be applying to get a fresh and more exciting start in life as a free man.

On your marks, get ready, go
Around the country, more than a million young undocumented have a file filled with documents they’ll be ready and excited to turn in on Monday, their life in the United States documented through school and college transcripts, record of vaccinations, driver’s license, passport, and other papers. They’ll be more than happy to pay the fee of $465 in exchange for coming out of the shadows.

“When a million or more young immigrants begin signing up for deferred action on August 15, it will be hard to hold back the tears.  You cannot overstate how important this moment will be in immigrant communities and Latino neighborhoods across the country. The excitement is electric and will not be dampened by House and Senate Republicans threatening to sue the President or take other actions to squelch young people’s dreams,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), Chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case by case basis:

  1. Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum (June 15, 2012);
  3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
  5. Are not above the age of thirty.

Organizations across the USA have been holding seminars, conference calls and webinars to instruct the potential beneficiaries as to how the process will work and what do they need to apply. Many will congregate this Monday to celebrate the date and start filing applications.

Rep. Gutierrez, with the help of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, will hold a DREAM Relief Day event in Chicago on August 15. The event will take place at the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier, from 9:00 am to 2 pm. At that event, Gutierrez will be joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Senator Dick Durbin, community organizations and volunteers and they expect over 1,000 eligible young people to come forward to get informed about the application process and to sign-up.

Rep. Gutierrez also said that they know of at least 20 events planned at different points in the country and that on August 2nd 20 Members of Congress pledged to help young immigrants receive clear and accurate information and get them signed up if they qualify.

For more info on the event and to check if you qualify for deferred action policy, click here.

To check the listing of events held for DREAMers on or about August 15 compiled by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement click here.

Video: Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez takes the floor of Congress to explain the new policy and send a special message to DREAMers

Who benefits from the Deferred Action Policy?
A report by the Immigration Policy Center sheds light over who will benefit.

There are approximately 1.4 million immigrants currently in the United States who might meet the requirements of the deferred action initiative, either now or when they are older. Roughly 936,930 immigrants between the ages of 15 and 30 might immediately meet the requirements of the deferred action initiative. They comprise 69 percent of all potential beneficiaries. Approximately 426,330 immigrants between the ages of 5 and 14 might meet the requirements of the deferred action initiative at some point in the future if the initiative remains in place. They comprise 31 percent of all potential beneficiaries.

The IPC also stated that most DREAMers are Mexican and are found in big immigrant-receiving states with large unauthorized populations, such as California and Texas. Yet DREAMers, IPC recognized, are also found in virtually every state, and significant numbers are non-Mexicans who hail from all corners of the globe.


Chavez says Obama is a good guy, Republicans take advantage

The kiss of death. President Chavez portraying Barack Obama as a friend to his regime could cost Latino votes to the U.S. president. Photo source: Benetton ad

Over the weekend, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez made a devastating comparison. He said his opponent, Henrique Capriles, is like Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and that U.S. president Barack Obama is a ‘good guy’, hinting his preference and implying a damaging relationship between a virtual dictator and the incumbent U.S. leader.

In a campaign speech Saturday night in Maracaibo, Chavez equated the agenda of his challenger, Henrique Capriles, with that of Romney, saying both men represent the callously selfish capitalist elite.

While the White House and the Obama campaign have remained silent on the subject, the GOP immediately pummeled the president.

“To Hugo Chavez, Barack Obama ‘deep down is a good guy.’ The Venezuelan strongman clearly would prefer to maintain the status quo in the White House. But Chavez’s policies of systematically dismantling democracy in Venezuela and playing nice with America’s enemies abroad need to be vigorously challenged. Mitt Romney will stand tall against Chavez and against all dictators in our hemisphere and around the world,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

This follows an earlier shocking comment by President Obama, who said on a Spanish-language TV interview that President Chávez represents ‘no threat’ to national security.

“Given the way Barack Obama has downplayed the threat posed to the United States by Hugo Chavez, it’s not a surprise that the Venezuelan dictator harbors strong hopes that President Obama wins re-election, going so far as to say that President Obama ‘deep down is a good guy.’ That a close friend and ally of Fidel Castro would voice his strong preference for President Obama is deeply troubling. We urgently need a change of course, and a new President in the White House,” said Rep. Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL).

Latino voters in the U.S. are paying attention more closely than ever to the relationships between this administration and Latin American countries. Implications of some sort of friendship between Obama and Chavez could result in wariness, even repulsion in the case of Venezuelans, and lost votes in a very tight election.

Romney is not making inroads with minorities

Mitt Romney at the NAACP Conference. Photo: Romney campaign

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney only showed up at one large Hispanic conference this summer: NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected Officials). There, he proceeded to unveil his Immigration Reform. Sorry, his legal-only-screw-the-undocumented Immigration Reform. He skipped the LULAC conference and sent a bizarre video to the National Council of La Raza event yesterday. Today, he did show at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) conference, the largest African-American event, but was vigorously booed when he promised to repeal health care reform during his speech.

What was he thinking when he made these decisions? With only four months to go, the aspiring president is openly showing his true colors, and they do not include brown or black.

As a voting Latina I find it hard to listen to this candidate, I keep looking for something that would sound remotely convincing, but even reading through campaign press releases and emails makes me feel utterly powerless and bitterly depressed. I already know where the country is going with Obama, and even though it’s not optimal, not even close, at least there’s no uncomfortable sensation that my president hates me or is plotting to destroy one group to benefit another. There is a performance issue with President Obama, not a Nazi mentality, not an upcoming Apartheid, not a Berlin wall or a special sticker stamped on the foreheads of the undocumented, there is no self-deportation or vetoing of a DREAM Act. There are promises that continue to be unfulfilled by our current president; there’s dragging of feet and a sensation of being taken for a ride, there’s more deportations than in the Bush era and way too many emails asking to chip in $3, but they are not this ominous cloud of Apocalypses coming for minorities vaguely sprinkled on the Republican candidate messages and actions.

Hateful behavior and disrespectful speech does not go unnoticed in ethnic minority communities. And payback time does come at the voting booth –with 36 percent of the electorate, you bet it will.


California, Chicago set the tone on rational handling of undocumented

A highway sign by Brave New Foundation shames anti-immigrant states

It’s happening! Reversing ‘cowboy-style’ anti-immigrant attitudes, laws like the ones enacted in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, and programs such as Secure Communities, that unfairly target Latinos and Asians and bring about massive deportations of non-criminals and family separation is starting to click throughout the country.

Just this week, in cities like Chicago and states like California, notable advances in Anti-Arizona-like legislation were celebrated.

California is the first state to step up and pass a bill (TRUST Act) instructing police to release undocumented immigrants if they haven’t committed serious crimes — instead of handing them over to the federal government. The bill is a rejection of the federally-imposed Secure Communities, it’s a first for the nation and was sponsored by Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. The bill goes now to the governor for signature.

“In the wake of the Supreme Court decision on Arizona v. United States, faith, labor, and immigrant rights groups in over 12 cities are coming together to demand local officials take their own initiative to turn the tide on Arizona-style laws and federal deportation programs like “Secure Communities,” says says Sarahi Uribe, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, who is organizing several events across the country to promote legislature such as Ammiano’s.

California had seen an increase in deportations since the launching of S-Comm.

“We congratulate the California Senate on its leadership in passing this legislation, which is a model for states seeking to reject Arizona’s approach of immigration-based policing,” says Jennie Pasquarella, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, in an ACLU statement.

“Today’s vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford to be another Arizona,” Ammiano said in a statement after the Senate floor vote. “The bill also limits unjust and onerous detentions for deportation in local jails of community members who do not pose a threat to public safety.”

And yesterday in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the introduction of the “Safe Families Ordinance.”  The ordinance clarifies and extends Chicago’s existing policy of creating a firewall between federal civil immigration law enforcement and the relationship the City of Chicago, and especially the Chicago Police Department, has with its residents.

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL), Chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus applauded the mayor’s vision that sets Chicago apart from other jurisdictions, like Arizona.

“The City of Chicago has been at the forefront of U.S. cities in how it handles the reality that thousands upon thousands of immigrants, families and entrepreneurs are seeking opportunity in our city and the reality that the United States has failed to modernize its immigration system for decades. We no longer have a reliable and responsive legal immigration system. Too many individuals are faced with the impossible choice of abandoning their families or going around our legal system because they can find no way through it to meet their responsibilities as spouses and parents. And we give almost no opportunity to immigrants here illegally to take any action that would allow them to earn legal status,” Gutierrez said.

The Congressman also stated the difference is how states and cities are dealing with the consequences of the federal government and the Congress not facing Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

“In Arizona, they deal with this reality by enacting laws to sanction racial profiling and by condoning the irrational acts of cowboys — sometimes ones who happen to be Sheriffs and carry guns — and set them loose on immigrants or anyone who looks or sounds like an immigrant. We know from the experience in Arizona, Alabama, and many other places that this undermines public safety, wastes precious and scarce law enforcement resources and weakens the bonds of trust between police and the communities they serve and protect. In Chicago, we do things a little differently because we put public safety above political stunts, and we put creating a united, cohesive society over trying to draw dividing lines or driving political wedges,” Gutierrez explained.

The ordinance protects everyone because it allows anyone who witnesses a crime, who knows about criminal activity and anyone who wants to make the city safer to come forward and share that information with police. Most importantly, it targets police resources on criminals and threats and minimizes the amount of city resources devoted to holding non-criminals and non-threats, just because they were flagged in a federal database as possibly violating federal civil laws.

Gutierrez also said that instead of dealing with immigrants by using a ‘building a wall and rounding them up’ approach, the country needs to look forward. “We need laws that match the reality that people are here, people are coming, and that every level of society is more efficient if the federal government sets up a functioning legal system to deal with that reality and keeps up with our modern society,” he said.

A growing number of cities have enacted these progressive policies, including Washington DC, Santa Clara, CA, and Cook County, Illinois and more.

In a press conference in 2011, ICE Director John Morton said that that they estimate there are about one million undocumented immigrants with criminal records and that those individuals are their main target for deportation.

Per the rule of prosecutorial discretion, here’s the deal: if of an estimated population of eleven million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., only one million falls under the “criminal” label; that means that ninety percent should not be the targeted or profiled or deported, including about one million youth that would fall under the deferred action policy or the DREAM Act criteria; and, even better, could qualify to legalize their migratory status once they comply with the list of requirements specified in most comprehensive immigration reform bills brought forth in the past.

I think this new mentality involving fairness, practicality and safety is where the country is finally heading. If Congress could say: ‘ampay me salvo y salvo a todos mis Compañeros,’ before Obama’s first term is over, it would be fantastic. If not, deals like the one we are seeing in California will definitely change the tide, set the tone for a grown-up conversation about immigration and eventually open the hand and turn it from a menacing fist to a welcoming gesture.