Where Is Congressional Hispanic Caucus Leadership on Deportation Issue?

It’s been a rough few days for immigration advocates on the ground. After more than a year of successfully building pressure on the President to step in and turn around his disastrous deportation record through executive action, we forced a full review of the White House’ immigration enforcement programs. With less than a month before the findings of the review and a hoped for set of recommendations that must end the 1,100 daily deportations and human rights abuses in public and privately run detention centers were set to be published, we were betrayed by a number of Beltway Organizations, with SEIU leading the charge.

On the same day that I and dozens of grassroots organizers from around the country joined “DeColores Queer Orange County and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement” in a civil disobedience protesting the abuses of trans and queer undocumented immigrants in the Santa Ana city jail and detention centers around the country, SEIU called on the President to delay taking unilateral action to keep our families together and prevent the further human rights abuses of people in detention. Sure enough, Obama responded positively to their demands.

CREDIT: Marcos Nieves

CREDIT: Marcos Nieves

By doing so, President Obama made a choice to embrace his role as Deporter-in-Chief, but what of the Democratic Party congressional leadership? Where are they? More importantly, where is the Democratic-run Congressional Hispanic Caucus in all of this?

If there’s a group in Congress that should have championed the cause of the #Not1More campaign from the outset its the CHC and its individual members. Yes, Congressmen like Raul Grijalva and Luis Gutierrez have demanded Obama to stop deportations and expand the program of Deferred Action, and more recently Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (under pressure from my organization and our allies) went on the record as a supporter of Administrative action, but the CHC as a whole has shown to be an ineffective leader on the issue.

Undoubtedly CHC members, and Democratic Party supporters, will point to the set of recommendations they made to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson about two months ago, but quietly working in the background will not do. We are dealing with an Administration that only responds to public scrutiny and pressure. This is why many of us were thrilled when the CHC was ready pass a resolution demanding action from the President to stop deportations and expand Deferred Action. Although the threat of taking such a public a stance was enough force the President to order the review of enforcement policies, imagine our disappointment when the CHC abandoned its plans at the last minute.

With this past week’s developments, the CHC has a choice once again: it can stay silent and endorse the SEIU leadership’s betrayal of the immigrant community many of its locals represent, or it can finally advance the interest of the communities it claims to represent.

The CHC must therefore put forth a resolution that demands immediate Administrative action that puts an end to the deportations and expands Deferred Action and other affirmative Administrative Relief programs to the fullest extent possible under the law.

In 2012 immigrant youth held the President accountable even as reelection approached. In 2014 the entire immigrant community and our allies must do the same should the CHC and the Democratic Party fail to live up to the promises they made the last time election season came around.

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Hairo Cortes is a student at Santa Ana College, and member of the Orange County Dream Team, an affiliate of California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance.

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