So many thoughts rushed through my mind as I stood in the United We Dream office waiting to hear President Obama’s executive action on immigration. I was surrounded by immigrants, Dreamers, allies, and many others who have courageously led the way for this moment to happen.
I thought about my relatives who lack legal status and are forced to live in the shadows. They live with fear of deportation and of being separated from their children every day.
I thought about my friends back in New Mexico who didn’t qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012 because they arrived to the United States a month after the deadline.
I thought about the parents of my friends with DACA status who also need relief. They deserve to be recognized as human beings, contributors to society and to live a life of dignity and respect. Relief from deportation and a work permit could be a step towards that.
As eight o’clock drew closer, the crowd grew tremendously quiet. The moment we had been fighting and pushing for had finally arrived. We watched Obama give details of his plan which included granting relief to parents of citizen or resident children, expanding the DACA program, and shifting the focus on deporting felons rather than families.
I looked around the room as the announcement came to an end. The scenes I saw were heartbreaking: young people hugging their parents, tears coming down their faces. I saw friends comforting each other. I saw the pain and disappointment in the faces of all those who fought so hard for this victory, yet didn’t qualify.
Despite all the sadness and disappointment that six million people will continue to live in the shadows and leave their houses every day not knowing whether they will see their families again, there was excitement and hope.
There was happiness and joy for thefive million people who will qualify and are now closer to living more fulfilling lives with dignity and respect.
This moment was also a celebration. It was a huge organizing victory! People across the country joined forces and pushed for broader relief for families. People everywhere took part in rallies, protests, marches, hunger strikes, petitions and civil disobediences to bring attention to the fear our communities live in, the1,100 deportations that occur daily and the suffering that comes from family separation. Through hard work and determination, immigrant rights activists were able to move the President of the United States to take action.
This is a moment to celebrate the victory, but to also acknowledge that this isn’t enough! The fight continues for the six million undocumented immigrants that were left out. Our communities are tired of being thrown bones every twenty to thirty years and being told to be grateful. They need and deserve something bigger and better. It is time for this pressing and growing issue to be addressed with something more permanent in Congress.
And so I challenge Congress to get something done this year because a half-way measure just isn’t enough.