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  February 22, 2015

Are Obama's Executive Orders on Immigration Too Little Too Late?

Cesar Vargas, Co-Director of the DREAM Action Coalition, says the DREAMER community is organizing to ensure the 2016 presidential hopefuls have their interests at heart.
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Cesar Vargas is a nationally recognized leader and innovator at the forefront of the groundbreaking DREAM movement. Cesar brings a unique and varied government and political background that extends to the three branches of our government including experience in Congress, Kings County's District Attorney Office, and the New York State Supreme Court. However, the opportunity to work with exceptional political and community activists is what brings real vigor to his experience. Cesar graduated with honors from the philosophy program at St. Francis College. A recent law school graduate, Cesar Vargas, quickly learned that his commitment to serve his community reaches far beyond the courtroom as he fights for others like him to be admitted as licensed lawyers. From New York to Washington D.C, he has actively been involved in the fight for the DREAM Act and immigration reform. In fact, he was one of the leading advocate during the 2010 lame duck session to push for the DREAM Act. Cesar was also the original drafter and advocate of a novel piece of legislation in New York State.


SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

In our first segment on President Obama's executive order for immigration reform in this country and the most recent action today by a judge in Texas on behalf of 26 states that have halted the executive order through a court, we're talking about that at this moment with Cesar Vargas.

So now joining me to continue our discussion is Cesar Vargas. He's joining me from New York City. And Mr. Vargas is codirector of the DREAM Action Coalition. He cofounded the organization after realizing that despite his qualification to practice law in New York, he couldn't do so because of his illegal immigrant status.

Thank you again for joining us, Cesar.


PERIES: So, Cesar, one curious thing is that the Latin-American community in the United States overwhelmingly supported President Obama's presidency during the campaign. And many people felt that he was going to be more positive and a big immigration reformer and will act on their behalf. But in the last six years of his presidency, he actually has not delivered on that promise, his first campaign promise in 2008.

And now, leading up to another campaign coming up in 2016 for the Democrats, immigration is back on the table. I'm wondering how the Latin American community, and in particular the DREAM Coalition, DREAMers Coalition, is receiving this?

VARGAS: You know, I think for us in 2012, 2008, we were definitely helpful from the president. Unfortunately, it took him six, almost the end of his term to actually take some action. It was unfortunate that he waited for a Congress that didn't want to work with him. It was very clear that Republicans, especially many of the extreme right, did not want to work with him, and that prevented moderate Republicans from working with the president. So I think for us it was very important for us to keep immigration a central issue, not just in 2008, but in 2012. We really pretty much confronted Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential candidate, to remind him that it's not okay to say that you're going to veto the DREAM Act. The Latino community, the special Latino electorate, and the Asian electorate, and the independent electorate were not going to tolerate a candidate who was going to be anti-immigrant, who was opposed to modernize the immigration system. So I think at this point we are going to continue to make that an issue in 2016 with Hillary Clinton, with Jeb Bush.

PERIES: And what sort of action might you bring about to really get their focus on this attention?

Now, we know that the Republicans are at this point fighting it. And you said Jeb Bush has added his voice through Facebook and Twitter in the previous segment. But in the past, the Republicans have all relied on immigration, and particularly the Latino community in the United States, for votes. So how do you think they're going to fare during this election campaign on immigration?

VARGAS: Well, if this recent actions are any indication, they're going to do very poor. If they're already attacking DREAMers, they're passing legislation to lift the deportation protection like DACA away from dreamers, or if they're--right now we have 26 states, all of them Republican, challenging the president's executive actions. These are actions that are keeping families together, American family together. So just this indication is looking, is forecasted to be a very, very bad 2016 election cycle for Republicans. And it's unfortunate, because there is some Republicans who do want to be able to work on immigration reform, to modernize this system. But at this point we have a interfighting Republican Party that's--really cannot get their act together and is going to cost them not only the presidency but Senate seats, congressional seats in 2016 and beyond.

PERIES: And so tell us what some of the things are that the community and your organization is engaged in in terms of countering this.

VARGAS: You know, it's no extraordinary strategy. There's no fancy consultants. It's really us just talking to the community. It's talking to our families. There is no campaign with millions of dollars that can talk to my family. Majority of my family are already U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. You know, they're going to listen to me more than they're going to listen to a commercial or a paper flyer from the mail. So we're just going to go connect to remind the community, our families, of who is against us and who is with us.

PERIES: And who's against you, and who's with you?

VARGAS: Well, what we're seeing now is that if Speaker Boehner keeps listening to Senate tech crews from Texas, if he keeps listening to Congressman Steve King, who has called DREAMers drug mules, who has compared Latino immigrants to dogs, then it's very clear we don't need a multimillion dollar commercial to realize who's offending our community and who's not taking us as seriously.

And we have candidates who are willing to listen to us, who are willing to push the administration to take executive actions. And I'm not just talking about Democrats; I'm talking about independents, new political parties who are sick and tired of both Republicans and Democratic political infighting. So it's for us to really move out there and say enough is enough with the political games between these two parties.

PERIES: Cesar Vargas, I want to thank you so much for joining us. I know you are having a very busy day today. So I appreciate you coming on The Real News Network.

VARGAS: No, thank you so much for having me.

PERIES: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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