New Majorities Respond to Immigration Reform

Carmen Berkley
February 5, 2013

I'm not going to lie, after the President's speech today, young people are feeling a little…torn.

While we are glad that comprehensive immigration reform is on the table, we have been watching young peoples' reactions in the Twitterverse, Facebook and we even talked to Gen Alliance members Untied We Dream, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and the NAACP Youth & College Division to see how the nations top youth immigration thought leaders feel. While the Senate and the President have made some great suggestions, the proposals still fall short of some of our values as young people and as Americans. We’ve decided to break down the good, the bad, and the ugly truths about the bipartisan proposals we’ve seen come from the White House and the Senate.

Not sure if you are feeling the White House or Senate plan? Tell the them what you think about their immigration proposal, and let them know that young people want their voices heard in this debate.

The Good:

  • Acknowledgement that we are a nation made and built by immigrants.
  • Bipartisan support with renewed commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform.
  • Includes a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers.
  • 21st century legal immigration system that expedites family reunification.
  • Allow employers to hire immigrants (as long as they can't hire an American or they won't displace an American worker).

The Bad:

  • Distinctions made between "law-abiding" and "well-meaning" immigrants.
  • No mention of legislative timeline.
  • Subject to back taxes, fines, background checks and must overcome language and class barriers to learn English.
  • LGBTQ immigration rights are "not of paramount importance".

The Ugly:

  • No end in sight for deportations
  • Framework is not inclusive—The US-Mexico is not the only border and wrongly focuses the immigration debate on one specific group of people.
  • Increased militarization of our borders, including drones and surveillance, which devastates border communities.
  • Gen Alliance Members, United We Dream, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) and the NAACP Youth & College Division have come out with strong stances around how the New Majority and young people will be affected by comprehensive immigration reform. Today our members have expressed the following views:

"United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led network in the U.S., is speaking out to welcome President Obama’s new leadership and pledging to continue pressing President Obama to stop deporting our families now…President Obama and Congress must not only say the right things on immigration but must also set politics aside and work together to craft legislation that puts us and our families and communities on a road to citizenship, in a fair and straightforward manner. Our movement has proven that we have the power to win and we won’t let up until we do.”

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO “Asian Pacific Americans have a stake in the immigration fight. Of the 11 million aspiring citizens in this country, 1.5 million are Asian Pacific Americans. We believe in a comprehensive immigration reform package that provides a clear pathway to citizenship, protects workers and reunites families…We support a package that protects and values workers and doesn't undermine their skills/willingness to do difficult work."

NAACP Youth and College Division "There are a large number of immigrants of African descent from Haiti, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Asia, Central and South America and the Caribbean Islands, and the NAACP affirms that any immigration reform must take into consideration the need for just treatment for all people throughout the African Diaspora…[We] support comprehensive, fair and non-discriminatory legislative proposals that allow people to earn the right to citizenship.”

Tell the White House and Congress that young people mean business. Let them know how you feel about their immigration reform plan.

We already know that 2013 will go down in history as the year we reformed immigration in America. We have an opportunity to prove to the rest of the world that America cares about the people that live here, no matter where they were born. Join us, United We Dream, APALA, the NAACP Youth & College Division and our 16 other members as we stand up for our family members in the fight for fair immigration reform. This is about people, not politics.

Carmen Berkley is Field Director with Generational Alliance, a collaboration of national youth civic engagement organizations building collective power for underrepresented & low-income communities.