By Dulce Saavedra, a Santa Ana, CA resident and ally member of the Orange County Immigrant Youth United.
The fact that over one thousand immigrants are taken from their homes and deported each day has become an easy one to recite but a hard one to accept, especially once my family became one of those statistics four years ago.
It was early in the morning when I was getting ready to go school that I heard a loud knock on the door. I didn’t know who it could be, but I opened as I had done on countless other occasions. I regretted it immediately. That morning, five ICE agents took my dad, leaving my mother with four children to take care of. And leaving us all fearful of even walking outside.
That scene continues to repeat itself as deportations continue under President Obama, but there is one difference. After building such an irresponsible deportation record, the President has felt the pressure of a well deserved and well organized backlash that is forcing him to pick up his pen to provide Relief to many in our communities.
Today there isn’t a day that goes by without me hearing or reading in the news that President Obama is planning to expand some sort of Deferred Action program for more than just those young people who qualified two years ago. As I think about this, I think about all the pain, the stress, and the fear my family could have been spared if such a program existed before ICE came after my dad.
As I pour over the latest article, I reflect on how much my family stands to gain for what the President could do. Rumors are everywhere about how many and who will get included But it seems like even the people following the orders to “right-size expectations” are saying that parents of citizens, like me and my siblings, would qualify.
When I hear that, my thoughts revolve around the question of why only parents of citizens should be deserving of relief when it was the collective efforts of undocumented people from all backgrounds that made this moment possible and, especially after ICE deported my dad, it was a collective effort of the undocumented community to help my mom raise me and my siblings.
I think about people like Miguel, my little brother’s godfather, who takes him and my little sister out to eat ice cream and hang out on his free time. He has no family of his own, so he lives in a house full of other young men that work hard. Like a father figure, he often uses his earnings to provide a small allowance for my little brother. On Christmas he hosts parties with my family, in which he prepares tamales and mole for his chosen family. Should he be considered any less deserving of relief or any less a part of my family?
Congress has given the Executive Branch broad latitude to exercise discretion, something which legal scholars agree grants the President the broad power to offer relief. Immigrant led movements have built the political space for him to act and DACA has shown how politically transformative such a move can be. So if the legal authority exists, the political space has been made, and most importantly the unnecessary suffering of so many continues, why would anyone advocate for any less than what’s possible?
If President Obama is serious about humanizing immigration policies with the tools at his disposal, he should take full advantage of existing authority to grant relief to the fullest extent under the law. This wouldn’t be a radical departure of immigration precedent as anti-immigrants on the right have suggested, it would be the just and commonsense thing to do after two million deportations that have plagued everyone in the immigrant community, not just mixed status families like mine.