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Dominoes in DC: Quick Take on Growing Pressure on the President

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Last fall signs began to appear in front of ICE offices and detention centers: CLOSED.

Colorful banners unfurled, music and chants filled the air, even ‘ICE is Closed’ cupcakes made it into the mix.  People made their way to the closest outposts of the deportation machine, to the federal enforcement agency with a budget that has ballooned larger than all other enforcement agencies combined.    Arms linked, locking down, driven to action to demand what seemed impossible.  A pledge was made to take matters in our own hands, because it was necessary and it was worth it.  

In recent days, some of the largest advocacy organizations in the country have begun to join the call in posing the dilemma to the President, calling him the Deporter-in-Chief and askin the question: President Obama, what will be your legacy?  Key Congressional leaders have began to issue calls for the President to suspend deportations.

For the organizations now joining the call for the President to act, it is a welcomed shift.  And with that shift, its an important moment to mark a few things.

The momentum for executive action to stem the deportation crisis has been a drum beat built from organizing efforts in the trenches, in what is often called ‘the field.’  It is a strategy that evolved from defense of people facing deportation and the urgency to resist an enforcement apparatus that has grown out of control.  Why does this matter?  Because this should be a moment where we recognize that grassroots groups can be more than mobilizers, that they can actually craft and implement strategy sophisticated enough for Washington DC.

For those who remain silent or who are attacking the demand for immediate relief, the question must be posed: Who are you an advocate for?  Is it the community?  A political party?  A legislative strategy?  I was recently in a meeting where a national level leader pushed for continued prioritization on Republicans and on comprehensive immigration reform, saying “If you don’t fight, you can’t win. El que no lucha, no gana.”   There is no disagreement there.  However, for those who are fighting deportation cases, waging and winning policy at the state and local levels to counter-act the Secure Communities program or calling on the President to take action..we’ve been in the ring, and we’ll be there until the final round.  But another organizing ideal I hold true to is that we must remain loyal to our mission and our objectives, not to any one set of tactics or strategy.

At some point the calls for what the President should do will get more specific, and inevitably negotiations of some sort will begin.  We must hold the line and try to win the most expansive relief possible.  We should also take aim at the deportation programs that have been the driving force behind racial profiling, detention and deportation of migrants.  This should not be a time for simply reaching for the lowest hanging fruit.  Not one More, period.

In the meantime, let’s keep baking those cupcakes, painting those beautiful banners and fighting deportations one by one.  Inch by inch, we are getting closer.

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