Is Obama’s Immigration Action Too Little, Too Late?
DREAM Action Coalition organizer Erika Andiola describes how millions, including her mother, will be excluded from the action and says a comprehensive immigration plan deals with why undocumented immigrants come to the U.S. in the first place
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
President Obama laid out his plan to give some 4 million undocumented immigrants temporary legal status. In order to qualify, you must be a parent of a U.S. citizen or legal resident and you must have resided in the United States for at least five years. Immigration reform activists like DREAM Action Coalition have been behind pressuring the president, as well as both Democrats and Republicans, to take some action.
Our guest today is one of them.
Erika Andiola is the government relations director at DREAM Action Coalition. You can see her here, in this video, confronting Arizona Republican congressman Steve King and Republican Kentucky senator Rand Paul. You see Rand Paul over there scurrying off when she mentioned that she’s a young immigrant was brought to the United States when she was a minor, otherwise known as a DREAMer. Let’s take a look at what ensued.
ERIKA ANDIOLA, GOV. RELATIONS DIR., DREAM ACTION COALITION: [incompr.] me and every DREAMer [incompr.]
STEVE KING, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE (R-IA-4): Yeah, please don’t do that. Use your objective reasoning skills that you have.
ANDIOLA: No, like, [crosstalk] Democrats and Republicans. Like, why don’t you–you’re the one that’s been trying to get rid of DACA, and that’s why for me [crosstalk] so much for DACA.
KING: Right. Did you hear me? I told you why.
DESVARIEUX: Wow. Erika, I saw the rest of that video, and it gets pretty heated. You say that the president has the power to use executive action, and he finally did. He took some action. Your organization was very critical of the president for not acting before the midterm election. But now he finally acts. But for you, is it too little too late?
ANDIOLA: Yeah. Well, first of all, thank you for having me.
And yeah, I mean, we’re really happy. And I think for us it’s sometimes [incompr.] the community, the grassroots, the folks who were pushing for this for so many years have actually been able to accomplish this, which is 5 million people, almost a million people who are going to be helped, and in many other different policy changes that happened.
But at the same time, we know that we’ve asked the president to go bold, to go big, and this is not necessarily going as big as he could have. Unfortunately, some folks were left out. Unfortunately, people like my own mom, right, was left out of this announcement. And for us it’s really just one more step. It’s a partial victory. And we’re really happy about it. But we also–part of us is really saddened to know that there’s going to be about 7 million people who are left behind and who we have to continue to fight for.
DESVARIEUX: You mention your mom being one of those people being left behind. Why is that?
ANDIOLA: Yeah. So, unfortunately, parents of DREAMers only, meaning that we have no siblings who are U.S. citizens or residents, are not included in this relief. So, unfortunately, my mom doesn’t have any other children who are citizens or residents. And she, even though she works so hard, she also fought with me alongside many other undocumented mothers who were in this fight, were not able to qualify because of the same reason, right? They don’t have any children here born in the U.S. or be residents.
DESVARIEUX: So why do you think the president is doing this now, Erika? I mean, some advocates for immigration reform have called the president’s record on immigration really dismal, sort of deporter-in-chief, since he’s deported more than 2 million immigrants, which is more than any U.S. president in history. Is this all about courting the Latino vote?
ANDIOLA: Yeah. I mean, I think, in terms of the politics of this, one of the things that for us–you know, our main reason and our main purpose for the president to do this as undocumented folks, as the immigrant rights, many people in the immigrants rights movements, was to make sure that our families were being protected, that our families were not being deported while we waited for that legislative solution that has been promised forever and that hasn’t come.
But politicians have different motives, and I think for us, we were trying to let the president know, do this before the midterms, make this happen as soon as possible, because we know that the Latino community is not as motivated to go out and vote.
Many people took it the wrong way. Some thought that we were telling people not to vote. That’s not the case. What we were telling the actual party was, you need to do this now or else our undocumented, our immigrant community, or the Latino community who can vote are not going to feel as motivated to go out. And that’s exactly what happened. You know, in Colorado they lost the Senate seats. A lot of Latinos didn’t come out and vote. And there was other seats that were also really short of the Latino vote. And for us, it’s really letting those politicians know it takes courage and it takes action to get people to go out. And in this case, they didn’t show that before the midterms.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Let’s switch gears and talk about the Spanish-language media, specifically Telemundo and Univision. What has been their coverage like of this executive action by the president?
ANDIOLA: Yeah. I think that some of that media is–you know, it’s important in terms of getting the word out of what this is, making sure that people are not getting caught up into fraud, that they know exactly what they’re supposed to be applying for. But at the same time, we always got to make sure that we’re skeptical about sometimes who’s speaking and who’s specifically speaking for the undocumented community. I think in many instances it’s not necessarily those who actually pushed for this to happen, those people who are blocking buses full of people being deported, those who were getting arrested, those who were really putting their bodies out there in the middle of this battle. They’re not necessarily being portrayed sometimes in those outlets, right? So I think for us it’s important that that happens, because we have a fight ahead and many times we need those voices of those people who are actually affected and those who are actually in the middle of this whole battle to continue having that voice in that media and many times are not necessarily there.
DESVARIEUX: Erika, I want to present the counterargument, of course. You know, people always bring up the issue of legality. And if we’re going to talk about immigration, we’re going to talk about immigration reform, we first have to address this issue that undocumented workers broke the law and you shouldn’t be allowed to be granted a path to citizenship or even temporary legal status. What’s your response to those type of arguments?
ANDIOLA: Right. You know, I think that unfortunately our immigration system is so dysfunctional that it’s very hard for people to actually come to the U.S. any other way. I mean, there’s folks who have requested for their family members to come or who are here and applying for a visa who sometimes have to wait until, like, 20 years, right? There’s very little opportunity for some folks who have–to come from countries like Mexico, South America. A lot of people that have the need to migrate, they don’t have that legal opportunity to do it.
And so I think at this point, you know, I think we’ve made the case that we need immigration reform. But, again, that hasn’t happened, because Congress cannot get their stuff together. And at the end of the day, you’re going to have a lot of folks coming who don’t have the same opportunities in their home countries because of what is happening over there, right, in Central America and Mexico. And all we’ve got to do is really try to figure out a way to open those opportunities for folks like that, like my family, right? We came [in diaspora as (?)] we came through the border. We didn’t have a visa, but once we were here, we gave so much back to the community, and now we’re just really asking for an opportunity, because otherwise there is no other way to do it the right way. That doesn’t really exist right now.
DESVARIEUX: Yeah. Well, we kind of want to turn the corner and talk about what a possible right way would be or some sort of solution here. For you, you mentioned how Congress has gridlocked any sort of legislation to really reform the immigration system, and people have been critical of the president’s take and his executive action and saying that it’s not really the solution. What do you see as a solution if we were to come up with a policy that honors the fact that we are allowed to have borders as a sovereign country, but also that we are human beings and we should have a humane system? What would policy look like to you, a fair and equitable immigration policy?
ANDIOLA: Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s a very complicated issue. It’s a huge system and it’s a very dysfunctional system that we’ve got to fix from the roots. And many times it also involves a lot of foreign policy, right?
And I think that many times people don’t understand that our border right now, it’s actually pretty secured. I mean, if you ask folks at the border–I mean, I live in Arizona. I live about three hours away. So I look work a lot with border folks. And we realize that there’s tons of border patrollers, tons of different systems that the border is actually secure right now. The president has done a lot to secure the border through executive powers in the past.
But folks keep on focusing on that to being able to pass immigration reform. And for us, that shouldn’t be the case, right, for us, as there’s so many more things I need to have focused, and specifically, right, how can we address and how can we work with other countries that right now need a lot more support, that need less militarization, that need–like, you know, Central America’s going through a lot of violence. And we’re not going to stop having folks coming here that are fearful of being in their own countries.
So there are so many things that we need to get done. But I think most of all people need to realize the human side of it and that you’re dealing with human beings, you’re not dealing with numbers, you’re not dealing with just people who can be kicked out of a country when they have roots here, when they have family, and when all they have is really dreams, right, to be here and do the best they can to survive.
DESVARIEUX: Alright. Erika Andiola, joining us from Phoenix, Arizona.
I hope you come back and we get more of an update on how the DREAM Action Coalition is doing out there on the streets and trying to push for further immigration reform. Thank you so much for joining us.
ANDIOLA: And thank you so much for having me.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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