I am an undocumented immigrant from Birmingham, Alabama, and I am opposed to S744, the Senate's proposed immigration bill, because I refuse to accept that militarizing a border and the criminalization and persecution of families and communities are more important than 11 million lives.
Growing up undocumented in Alabama, immigration reform was a promise that never came. Immigration reform was a promise never kept to the day laborers I worked with, to the mothers who left their daughters in the U.S. and returned to Mexico due to fear of anti-immigrant legislation, and to countless parents who risked it all to provide for their children, myself being one of the children who is privileged enough to have what his parents never did. I remember walking with a group of friends in middle school, all of whom were undocumented, and reassuring them that we shouldn't have to worry about being able to stay in America because immigration reform was going to pass before we graduated. It didn't.
This has been the story of millions of undocumented immigrants for over a decade, the promise of a reformed immigration system but the continuation of failed policies, broken promises, and deaths of immigrants and record-high deportations.
With the election of Barack Obama, the promise of immigration reform loomed ever closer. President Obama himself promised immigration reform during his first term and failed horribly. What did we get? We received a wave of anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona, Georgia, Utah, South Carolina, and Alabama, with numerous states attempting the same legislation. We received almost 2 million deportations, and, according to a recent report, over 4 million people will be deported by 2014. We have received a president that is not focused or committed to immigration reform but to record-high deportations and family separation.
I have been in Alabama for almost two decades, and we have waited long enough for us to be told that S744 is the best shot we have at 'fixing' a 'broken' immigration system. S744 excludes, divides, criminalizes, and dehumanizes the over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
We can do better than this.
I cannot accept S744, and I refuse to sell out millions of other undocumented immigrants in the process. I am tired of the conversation orbiting around what is obtainable instead of what is right.
When Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that grants work permits to undocumented youth who meet certain requirements, was announced, I felt elated, yes, but I could not rid myself of the qualms I had in being able to benefit from a program that excluded thousands of people, many of which are part of my community. One of the most painful moments I've had to endure is calling a friend of mine in Southern Alabama to inform him of the program only to realize he did not qualify for it.
I am much more prepared to fight a longer battle than to settle for a Trojan horse. S744 is a pill I refuse to swallow, much less be force-fed.
One day after getting home from work, my mother asked me if immigration reform will pass this year. She asked me what we would get. An immigration bill might pass, although the House is reluctant to discuss, much less pass S744. What could we get? We could get 20,000 additional Border Patrol agents, 700 additional miles of triple walls, 4,425 ground sensors, 18 drones, 15 Blackhawk helicopters, and 488 remote video surveillance systems.
What good is a bill that could give your mother citizenship in 13 years after after she's given over that amount to the state of Alabama? What good is a bill that could leave out the mother or father of thousands of others?
I will oppose and resist the poison of increased militarization, criminalization, and persecution under the false pretense of reform instead of accepting it and living with the guilt of increased deaths, torn families, and the validation of an immigration system that sees immigrants as profit instead of humanity.
We need immigration reform, but S744 is not the solution to our immigration system -- it's merely a validation of it, and that is a reality we cannot accept and should refuse.