By Angelica Chazarro
Even before the White House announced the decision to yet again prioritize elections over immigrant rights, Latino, labor, and immigrant leaders saw the writing on the wall. The announced delay was sadly predictable when President Obama has refused to meet in person with the people he is trying to deport every single day.
“I will not meet with the White House until he meets with the real leaders of this movement: those directly affected.” With those words last Friday, in a room full of Washington DC immigration advocates, the Vice President of the AFL-CIO, Tefere Gebre, announced his support for a boycott of White House meetings until those persons most directly impacted by the President’s deportation policies are included in a meaningful way.
On the same day, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda—a coalition of 39 organizations including MALDEF, the HNBA, and NALACC—announced they would also join the boycott of immigration meetings with the President until they meaningfully include persons impacted by deportation policies.
These endorsements underscore the fact that the real energy and persuasive power on immigration lies far from the DC beltway. Rather, it rests in the hands of the same people who got us this far to begin with—those individuals, communities and families fighting their own deportation cases.
To exclude these voices at this moment is really to ignore and dismiss the sweat and tears that brought us to this point. For DC insiders, a couple of extra months mean little; for those across the country fighting deportations, we know that for thousands of our community members, one more month will be too late. Our work on #MyOwnAdvocate and the White House boycott recognizes that reality.
By persisting with his deportation machine, its quotas and the S-Comm dragnet, President Obama has decided to deny justice and peace to millions of men, women, and children. Will he, at the very least, meet eye to eye with them? Whether the President agrees to meeting with those directly affected by his policies will be the real measure of his commitment to one of the basic principles of democracy – self-representation.
Angelica Chazarro is a UW professor and member of the Not1More Campaign Blue Ribbon Commission of current and formerly undocumented people, established to provide independent recommendations to DHS and the White House on current deportation policies.