After a series of broken promises over five years, it was hard to believe that last week President Obama was going to do something about immigration. As a community organizer who has benefited from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), I’ve found it heartbreaking to see parents who are so hopeful when they bring their children to see if they qualify for DACA, only to be denied.
The North Bay Immigrant Youth Union was founded in 2010 out of frustration over the Dream Act failing to pass. We joined state and national efforts to stop deportations. It has been a challenge to educate our undocumented community in the North Bay because many people fear being deported. Sonoma County had one of the highest rates of deportations in the state. The rate has dropped, but the fear remains.
We felt a mixture joy and anger after hearing the president’s announcement Thursday. Among our members, only half of our parents will qualify for the relief offered by Obama. He made a distinct separation between two groups: the deserving and the undeserving. He is almost letting those who are left out become targets for immigration enforcement. Obama’s plan, despite offering relief to some 4.6 million people, comes with more militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, the most militarized border in the world.
Obama left out those still waiting for asylum. Since the beginning of his presidency, Obama has said that he could not act alone to “fix” our immigration system. Four years after being elected, he finally acted and gave relief to under a million immigrant youth. Now, almost six years after first being elected, he made his second announcement on immigration.
It is important to point out that we don’t owe as much thanks to the president for his actions as we do the people who have organized. It has been immigrant-rights organizations and our undocumented community that have worked to make this happen. The fight is not over, and we are ready to advocate for all the people left out.
Sandy Valenciano is Northern California coordinator for the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance.
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