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Amy Goodman
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Thursday 6 September 2012
“Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life—studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class—only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak ... it makes no sense to expel talented young people, who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans—they’ve been raised as Americans; understand themselves to be part of this country.”

No Papers, No Fear at the Democratic Convention

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As the Democratic National Convention was gaveled into session Tuesday, outside in the rain, in the paramilitarized heart of Charlotte, democracy in its finest form found expression. Democracy, that is, if you believe that it’s built on a foundation of grass-roots movements: the abolitionist struggle, the fight for women’s suffrage, the civil-rights movement. In this city, where one of the first lunch counter sit-ins against segregation occurred, 10 undocumented immigrants blocked an intersection, risking arrest and possible deportation while calling on President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party to embrace the immigrant-rights movement and pass meaningful immigration reform.

“We are here to ask President Obama what his legacy will be,” Rosi Carrasco said as she climbed down from the “UndocuBus,” colorfully painted with butterflies, that the activists traveled in from Arizona. “What we want to say to President Obama is, on which side of the history is he going to be? Is he going to be remembered as the president that has been deporting the most people in U.S. history, or he is going to be on the side of immigrants?” Rosi’s husband, Martin Unzueta, said: “I am undocumented. I’ve been living here for 18 years. I pay taxes, and I’m paying more taxes than Citibank.”

The border state of Arizona has become ground zero in the national immigration crisis, with the passage of the notorious SB 1070 law that sought to criminalize simply being in the state without documentation. Such immigration determinations are under federal jurisdiction, and violations of them are actually civil offenses, not criminal. With SB 1070, Arizona pre-empted federal immigration policy, until most of its provisions were struck down in federal court.

While immigrant-rights activists consider the court’s decision a victory, our nation remains plagued by its broken immigration policy. The Arizona law prompted similar bills in Republican-controlled state legislatures across the country. When a draconian anti-immigrant bill was signed into law in Alabama, Latinos fled east to Georgia and Florida, while Alabama farmers, unable to find hired help willing to do the backbreaking work typically reserved for migrants, saw their crops rot in the fields.

This is where movements come in. When the machinery of government breaks down, when politicians and bureaucrats create gridlock, it takes the power of the people to effect meaningful change, often at great personal risk. Across the U.S., well-organized immigrant-rights activists are increasingly engaging in civil disobedience, especially the young. Just as it was young people in North Carolina more than half a century ago who defied the advice of their elders to be more patient in the fight against segregation. Today, many young people have targeted President Obama with sit-down actions in his campaign offices, pressuring for passage of the DREAM Act. Many of these young activists came to this country as children, without documentation.

President Obama showed some sympathy for these “DREAMers” last June, when he announced a decision within the Department of Homeland Security to free 800,000 of them from the threat of potential deportation proceedings: “Imagine you’ve done everything right your entire life—studied hard, worked hard, maybe even graduated at the top of your class—only to suddenly face the threat of deportation to a country that you know nothing about, with a language that you may not even speak ... it makes no sense to expel talented young people, who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans—they’ve been raised as Americans; understand themselves to be part of this country.”

Many celebrated the announcement, then challenged the president to act on his pledge. Several activists got themselves detained so they could enter the Broward Transitional Center, a pre-deportation jail in Florida, and interview detainees. They found dozens of people who are eligible for release under President Obama’s policies, but who languish in the jail nevertheless.

Here in Charlotte, outside the convention center, 10 brave souls, among them a young woman and her mother, a couple and their daughter, sat down in the pouring rain on a large banner they placed in the middle of the intersection. The banner read “No Papers, No Fear” (in Spanish, “Sin Papeles, Sin Miedo”), with a large butterfly in the center. As the police surrounded them, I asked one of the women about to be arrested, “Why a butterfly?” “Because butterflies have no borders,” she told me. “Butterflies are free.”

© 2011 Amy Goodman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate



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ABOUT Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of "Breaking the Sound Barrier," recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

I just read this because I'm

I just read this because I'm behind with emails and reading. Amy Goodman, bless you for this article. Since I vote in Australia and America, and since I will be voting for Mr Obama again, I am particularly concerned about his implementation of sound immigration policy. Talking the talk is one thing, but walking the walk is another. Congress has blocked him again and and again, as we know; but he has got to make the effort to reform present practice. The Democrats need to be behind him, as do decent Republicans. This morning's news in Sydney, ABC radio, told me that the President has a slight lead--that it's no longer a dead heat. Romney won't help with this!!!! That's my sense of things.

The Democrats should be

The Democrats should be looking out for the intrest of "WORKING CLASS" this includes many in not most of the middle class and the lower middle and lower classes in other words any person who actualy has to real work to earn a living compared to what we should call the "PROFITEER CLASS" people whose income comes not from doing any real work but profits from investments

It's tragic to see how Bill

It's tragic to see how Bill "Kill the New Deal and Give us NAFTA" Clinton essentially took over via the DNC. Democrats have made it clear that they will represent ONLY the middle class, not all Americans. Well, I don't know how much of the population is still middle class Dems today, but I do know that this convention drove away millions of low-income/poor people who had voted for Obama in 2008. The over-riding message of this year's DNC to the post-middle class is "get lost."

I sympathize with the

I sympathize with the immigrants who work hard and pay taxes but are denied citizenship. But at the same time, I know that the labor leader Cesar Chavez opposed illegal immigration because it provided cheap labor that unfairly competed with the plentiful supply of US citizen workers. This issue is not simply one of giving amnesty to immigrants every twenty years. The people of Arizona and Alabama who are pressing for these immigration reforms are not doing this out of sheer animus: cheap labor drives wages down, and poorly paid workers places a heavy burden on public social services. The problems of Mexico and other countries will not be solved by the United States, but must be solved within their own borders by their own people. It is the job of each nation to look after its own people. Looking within the United States, jobs that are done by the immigrants can be done by the millions of unemployed in this country. But employers must PAY A FAIR WAGE. Why should ANYONE work for slave wages?

I completely agree. NAFTA

I completely agree. NAFTA and the endless, futile, corrupt drug war are responsible for much of the illegal immigration.

To understand the urgency of ending excessive immigration, see Youtube " Immigration, World Poverty and Gumballs".

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