Below is an opinion piece from Blanca Hernandez, a DACA recipient and paralegal in Washington, DC who interrupted the President during his speech at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Gala.
It isn’t easy to stand up and interrupt the most powerful man in the world but it is also impossible to sit through a speech of his at an event celebrating Latino culture while he continues to deport our families.
I interrupted because I am tired of listening to the same song and being expected to dance despite there still being no action behind it.
People may say this speech was different. Senator Menendez introduced President Obama saying we need immediate relief, a position not reflected in the political cover the Caucus as a whole gave the White House last week. Observers will say the President was firm and committed to action. But he was firm and committed when he announced and delayed his executive immigration reforms since this past Spring.
Instead, it sounded to me like the same promise we’ve heard a million times before. And as always, alongside the pledge to act, he made sure that his political party interests were included in his speech.
While he talked, I stood up from my seat, only able to think of the many who are currently detained in line for deportation and the many who have already been deported.
Had the President kept his promise of his first term, so much pain like her’s could have been saved. So many families would still be together. And there would be so much more to celebrate. The President talks about the value of family and CHCI had the audacity to invite him to celebrate “our heritage.” But our heritage is celebrated through family, not through the separation of them.
When we criticize the President’s policies, we’re often told that DACA, the program that immigrant youth’s organizing forced him to create, is a sign of where he stands. But as a DACA recipient, it is insulting to hear when it is so far less than what the President promised and something used to divide instead of to benefit the undocumented community at large. It is a bandaid that he has placed on a major wound and that, in comparison to what he promised, has left so much still undone.
Our communities continue to be terrorized by the deportation machine and children continue to be separated from their parents. This year’s Congressional class has the most Latinos in history and the most deportations as well. And so far, the former has yet to exercise its power to stop the latter. And so it was impossible for me to stay in my seat last night.
Those around me last night may have been uncomfortable with my speaking out, some even shushed. But their uneasiness should have been directed at a celebration with the President who had just broke his promise but still expected our applause.
As inconvenient as it can be, you know you’re speaking the truth when it “comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.” It’s how we won DACA. It’s how we’ve moved the President to the promise of further executive action. And it’s what was being said by the families outside the black tie affair who simply want their loved ones home again. The fact that the President was on stage instead of the heroes who have overcome their fear, endured such suffering, and still came to the gala to be heard is exactly why I had to speak out and why the protests will continue until undocumented people have their rightful place on stage at our celebrations, at the table in our negotiations, and fully included in the country they call home.