THE HUMAN COST OF DC GRIDLOCK: As the Senate Judiciary Committee considers some 300 amendments challenging the nearly 900-page immigration bill crafted by the Gang of Eight, the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants may continue full force. Advocates are renewing their call on President Obama to issue an executive order suspending deportations of people who would gain status in the bill’s final version later this year.
The detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants often gets lost in the numbers rather than highlighted as individual stories—and some advocates say that’s part of the problem. Pablo Alvarado, who heads the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), says that when immigration is debated at the Capitol, it gets divorced from what’s happening to communities on the ground. “Suspended deportations would ground the debate in reality,” Alvarado says.
That reality is typified by people like Carmen Yvette Martinez, who was driving with her husband, Roger Tabora Martinez, in Massachusetts in February when they were pulled over. The police officer informed them that he believed there was a warrant on the car. When Carmen, a US citizen, tried to explain that the car was in her name and there was no warrant, the officer asked both husband and wife to show some ID and then began to inquire about their immigration status. Upon learning that Roger was undocumented, the officer arrested him. Although he has no criminal record and helps to support his wife and stepson, Roger was held in immigrant detention for nearly three months before being deported to Honduras because of an immigration order stemming from nearly a decade ago.
Under the bipartisan immigration proposal, Roger would be eligible to apply for relief and gain provisional status as he started a thirteen-year journey toward finally becoming a US citizen. But Congress’s slow pace meant that he was simply deported instead. His wife says that she became a single mom overnight, and that both she and her son have been deeply affected by Roger’s deportation. “It doesn’t make any sense to take away a good person,” Carmen adds. “I don’t want any other family to go through what we have.”
Stories like Carmen and Roger’s appear on a website that went live in April tracking deportation cases. Fourteen of the featured cases are ongoing; six have resulted in a stay, and four have resulted in deportation. The NDLON, along with the AFL-CIO, MALDEF and United We Dream, is also asking people who represent organizations invested in immigration reform to sign a petition on the site to urge President Obama to suspend the deportations.
To read more on the human costs of inaction on immigration reform, visit TheNation.com. AURA BOGADO
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS? The news published on May 13 that the Justice Department secretly spied on journalists working at the Associated Press came as a shock at first. The DOJ obtained telephone records for more than twenty separate telephone lines, which the AP described as “unprecedented” and an “extraordinary action.” But as many others have pointed out, this is part of a clear pattern: the Obama administration has aggressively gone after leakers and brought six cases against whistleblowers, more than all previous presidents combined.