by Maria-Jose Soerens
Advocates for immigrants rights have been waiting for years for a Comprehensive Immigration Reform. President George W. Bush was a big proponent of a bill that would recognize the complexity of immigration, and President Barack Obama has declared that he is committed to a reform that “[...] provide[s] lasting and dedicated resources for border security, while also requiring accountability from both individuals in the U.S. illegally and unscrupulous employers who game the system for their own economic advantage.”
For months, immigrants rights advocates have been preparing for immigration to be the next topic on the table of congress, yet, it continues to be displaced over and over again. As midterm elections approach, the chances of getting anywhere are dire. The DREAM Act, a bill that would give undocumented youth who entered the US following their parents the opportunity to go to college, was mixed with “don’t ask don’t tell,” thus getting lost and finally rejected in a political mess. Now, neither Democrats or Republicans seem to have the nerve to stand up for the rights of immigrants because it could hurt their chances of being elected. It reminds me of a joke I heard once: “Democratic elections are a time for the people and the poor to run…run for their lives.”
As complex as the issue of immigration is, what saddens me the most about these dynamics is that undocumented immigrants are trapped in a system that will not recognize their voice because of the single fact that they cannot vote. Undocumented immigrants are nobody’s constituency. It is becoming clear that our democratic system has no place for them. And then I wonder, are we going to let this happen in America?
Whatever your feelings are about undocumented immigrants, whether you see them as self-indulgent people who are abusing our system or as victims of systemic poverty, I would encourage you to consider getting acquainted with the faces and personal stories behind this issue and to literally become the voice of the voiceless. Because, as my personal hero Stephen Colbert said last Friday in Congress, undocumented immigrants have no rights, yet they are an important part of our country’s culture and economy. Jesus said, “truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
I will continue sharing stories from immigrants that I have come to know and who have taught me about the despair behind the journey of immigration. We hope to soon be hosting an event in Seattle where people can learn more about this issue and about concrete ways to act and to care for the immigrants in our communities. Stay tuned.