Immigration Reform and the Lies “Pro” Migrant Nonprofits Use to Gain Support

The government shutdown lasted longer than expected and not only did it place our dysfunctional democracy on display – but it invited troubling political theater into the immigration debate.  It’s not well understood in the mainstream, but the ongoing showcase presented by the world of advocates and nonprofits promotes a comprehensive immigration bill and applauds bipartisan compromises that have a harmful impact on migrants and our human rights movement. These advocates ignore the devastation this bill threatens and instead, they frame it as “common sense reform.”

Why are trusted advocates reinforcing the President’s narrative that he is helpless in making humanitarian interventions in a system that sits squarely under the executive branch? The people’s history will show record that while grassroots leadership called for a stop to continued apprehensions, detention and deportations, non-profits in favor of “comprehensive immigration reform” under the banner of  Reform Immigration for America, Alliance for Citizenship, America’s Voice and others demanded the government open up to have a vote on the bill currently in the House. As an undocumented immigrant I am familiar with the solutions discussed within our community and I want you to know there is a difference between the human rights we want and the inhumane reforms people ask for in our name.

Luis Serrano (CREDIT: Steve Pavey)

Luis Serrano (CREDIT: Steve Pavey)

The strategies coming from our organic leadership are about defending and gaining human rights, often locally, and promoting truth and political education that address real root issues. It is this leadership that works to stop deportations and pushes policies like the Trust Act in California and local bills that allow for people without papers to drive with licenses.

Our strategies are not about passing an anti-immigrant bill so we have something to call a victory – and it is frustrating to see others do so in our name. Our voices are consistently drowned out by a well-funded pro-reform camp that is pushing anti-immigrant reform policies known as “CIR” or “common sense reform.” They say the reform is better than nothing, they say we have to play politics. They say Republicans are “Standing in the way of 11 million” and they call for “Just and humane Immigration Reform for all” or for Republicans to “Fix the broken immigration system now!”

It’s disheartening. CIR is built on dishonest messaging, and a strong pledge to the Democratic Party — not our community. Furthermore, if these organizations and politicians claim to be “Pro” migrant why aren’t they giving our community the facts and engaging them in building truly pro-migrant legislation? It’s vital to dispel these lies once and for all. No need to make it personal, no need for name-calling, it’s just time for the truth.

The 3 big immigration lies:

  • Lie #1:  “We can pass just and humane immigration reform.” Key words: just and humane. It’s important to know that historically when immigration bills enter the senate, then the house, they don’t get better, they gain bad amendments like a hippie volkswagen bus gets stickers. The context is that the bills we’ve seen enter the legislative arena, already come heavily compromised. You can see the result with the  SAFE act (Strengthened and Fortified Enforcement Act) which would make post Immigration Reform undocumented presence in the U.S. a crime punishable with jail time and long term detention imprisonment. Also, amendments on border militarization would devastate border communities, as Christian Ramirez, director of San Diego’s Southern Border Communities Coalition told The New York Times, “This amendment makes border communities a sacrificial lamb, in exchange for the road to citizenship.” There’s nothing humane or just about this.
  • Lie #2: “The Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill is a good step forward.” The undocumented community especially needs to know that is a complete bold face lie being repeated over and over by people who are ok with supporting a bill that will benefit a minority and gravely endanger a majority. Future generations of undocumented immigrants will face dire consequences and our already limited capacity and resources for organizing will be further burdened – pushing us into more defensive tactics when we really want to build a human rights movement and innovate with legislation that will protect our rights and our lives. Critics call these assessments divisive, but we call it being honest with our community. 
  • Lie #3. “Reform will put 11 million on a path to citizenship.” For starters, people are still being deported every day as Homeland Security works to fill a 400K a year deportation quota. And it’s estimated that 4-5 million will not make the cut for RPI (registered provisionary status). Given that one can’t be unemployed for more than 60 consecutive days and that it’s a requirement to remain 25% above the poverty line in order to arrive at citizenship – it’s easy to understand how undocumented people of color will be impacted, and especially undocumented black people who due to racial inequities have the lowest employment rates. The path is more like an obstacle course.

The truth about big bucks in migrant suffering.
The Obama administration has separated more families and nearing 2 million. In fact, he’s deported more people than the last three administrations combined. Obama has failed to address immigration in any real way, by making S-Com (the deceitfully named Secure Communities deportation pipeline) a mandatory program, and giving a green light to Operation Streamline all which fatten the pockets of Corporate Corrections of America and Geo Group by more than $1 billion a year in federal funds which translates to immigrant suffering and incarceration. It’s well documented and worth pointing out again as Laura Carlsen, Director of the Mexico City-based Americas Program of the Center for International Policy, wrote in March, “Among the gang of eight senators, all but Lindsay Graham and John McCain have received significant money from the private prison corporations.” That includes senators that CIR-supporting nonprofits often praise like Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J).

Being honest about real solutions.
How can this bill be comprehensive in any positive sense, if it does absolutely nothing to address the root causes of undocumented migration? Migrants need to be engaged by sending countries and the US to craft real solutions. Real solutions would prioritize families rather than rich kids, and they would look toward getting rid of the free trade agreements that have set off a chain of events to cause many farmers and working class people to lose their professions and seek work here in the United States. Real solutions would address environmental pollution and destruction in the global south and continued subsequent displacement of millions that is sure to come.

Dear President Obama: Stop deportations and give deferred action to all!
We hear the President’s nice words about immigration, but we live out the difference between his words and action.  If he’d listen to our voices, he’d stop deportations, free the prisoners that are currently being exploited in private detention centers, and reunite the families he separated and people he deported, granting deferred action for parents and older adults. He has the executive power to do so, but aided by mainstream reform advocates, he is remaining loyal to corporate interests and has along with many nonprofits become complimentary to Right Wing extremism.


Luis Serrano(@luiseetoe): Undocumented & Unafraid, Luis Serrano is originally from Sonora, Mexico. He migrated to the US as a child and has called Los Angeles home for two decades. For the last several years he’s been organizing with the Immigrant Youth Coalition of Los Angeles to better the circumstances that he and his fellow immigrant and working class community members and family live in.

Tell Us What You Think!
Claudio Don Nadie says:

Thanks for all your advocacy, Luis.
I’m on the same boat, and I wish there were more willing to question the so-called advocates.

Claudio Don Nadie says:

There’s a huge problem with statements as the one in the picture I share here and it is what the brother here confronts. It assumes most of the stereotypes against undocumented immigrants are true, such as the taxes, language, and criminality. To top it off, it promotes perpetrating already existing draconian enforcement policies. Typical of those that see undocumented immigrants as near-exclusively from Latin America, ie, Mexico. Some campaign. With this kind of “advocacy”, no wonder the prospects are utterly fu¢€d.

TimPaynter says:

Until the immigrant community can convey to the majority population of educated ignorant citizens the benefits the immigrant community contributes to U.S. society the community will never enjoy the popular support needed to effect rational reform.  The problem is not that immigrants need just immigration reform, an argument that must, by it’s nature, be recurring and exponentially difficult, rather, it is that we as immigrants and advocates for immigrants  have been unable to convince average America why just immigration reform is necessary in order for all citizens to remain free, and to prosper.   Presidential halting of deportations pending passage of rational reform is a stay of deportation only until a conservative president takes office, whereupon short term measures of this nature will likely cease.  Passing immigration reform benefiting 4 out of 20 million immigrants likewise is a short term solution to a far more complicated problem.  Our movement has failed to educate those who should know better.  We must not accept any solution that relieves that pain until laws protecting all immigrants can be fathomed.

Peta_de_Aztlan says:

We ought to get rid of the whole Left Vs. Right way of thinking. Common sense can be a rare quality. Common sense is what is perceived through the ordinary common five sense-organs. I am into humane liberation, that is not stuck on either Left or Right. Those are old terms from at least a century ago.
This proposed Immigration Reform will not work. The Fascist System manufactures outlaws. It is the System that must be overthrown, even Humane Immigration Reform would just be temporary. Are we just talking about just legalizing wage-slavery in the U.S.A. or getting rid of the whole state machinery?

SteveSchnapp says:

Most of the debate about immigration reform does not go “up the river to see where the babies are coming from.” People migrate away from families, communities, cultures, histories, that they love because they have to. While the Obama Administration deports undocumented workers and their families, he pursues trade laws, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership, that will, if passed, continue to port pressure on economies of the Global South the same way the NAFTA did/does. Neoliberal economic policies are at the heart of the recent waves of immigration. Strengthen economic and political democracy and migration for survival will be a lot less necessary.

dinabarriere says:

Excellent eye opener for the community that is suffering through these lies! A good way to understand that the people who are in these non-profits are puppets being used to feed us these lies!!!

rdsathene says:

Excellent piece on how the nonprofit industrial complex pimps phony immigration reforms just like they do with neoliberal education reforms.
You can always tell when Liberals are providing political cover for right-wing ideas and policies by their use of the phrase “common sense” (eg. common sense immigration reforms [read deportations], common sense tenure reforms [read loss of academic freedom], and so on…)

Peta_de_Aztlan says:

Good article. There is a lot of deceit and deception among so-called ‘pro-immigrant’ groups. If any group is ‘exceptional’ it should be the million+ undocumented immigrants in the U.S. trying to just feed their families and survive in #Nazi Amerika.
Any Immigration Legislation must be humane, practical and comprehensive, not one hatched up by corrupt officials in a U.S. Congress dominated by rich White man.
This is a complex issue involving both the U.S. and Mexico, plus many others who suffer in the shadows. @Peta_de_Aztlan aka Peter S. Lopez ~Sacramento, Califas
#Immigration Reform and the Lies “Pro” Migrant Nonprofits Use to Gain Support #CIR
~By @Luiseetoe via @latinorebels