Immigration Reform Stance at the DNC Has Air of Déjà vu
By Anthony Advincula
PHILADELPHIA–When Pres. Barack Obama addressed hundreds of thousands of people at the Democratic National Convention here on Wednesday night, he implored Americans that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is the only one qualified to serve as U.S. President. He also mapped out briefly what he had done on health care, marriage equality and criminal justice for the last eight years, and slammed Republican nominee Donald Trump as “not really a plans guy” and “not really a facts guy.”
But what was missing in his masterful oratorical speech–something that most immigrant families were expecting to hear–was about comprehensive immigration reform, which so far he has failed to introduce in congress.
It was more than half way in Obama’s speech last night that, in fact, he first mentioned the word “immigration.”
“It doesn’t matter to him,” the President said, alluding to Trump, “about illegal immigration.”
For undocumented immigrants–a number of them attending the convention–the narrative on immigration that Democrats are playing out here has an air of deja vu.
Eight years ago, when Obama first ran for president, undocumented immigrants heard what they have always been longing for: a policy that would provide them a path to legalization.
Estela Hernandez, an undocumented mother from Oaxaca, Mexico and now lives with her family in Philadelphia, PA, is worried that the immigration issue might be just another election rhetoric that Democrats use, though nothing has been done since a comprehensive immigration reform plan–which was introduced by Pres. George W. Bush–died in the senate in 2007.
“It’s [another] big dilemma,” Hernandez said in Spanish through a translator, outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center. “Until now I have not seen any political support for [undocumented] immigrants. It’s a big conflict.”
In 2005, Hernandez, 35, crossed the U.S. border by walking through the desert with one of her three children–now ages 12, 10 and 7–to reunite with her husband and their father, who also crossed the border two years earlier.
She could have been a recipient of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), a part of Obama’s executive action on immigration that would provide A work authorization document for eligible undocumented immigrants, because two of her children were born in the United States. Obama’s executive order hit a deadlock in the Supreme Court last month.
“Now I sell food that I make. I go to a store to look for anything that is on sale and then re-sell it, too,” she said. “Just like most people from Mexico, I like to work for my family.”
Facing strong anti-illegal immigration sentiments from many Republicans, Hernandez said that it is important for “all politicians to see undocumented immigrants as people” and eradicate hatred in their speeches.
Also, on Wednesday night, a few minutes before Obama took the stage, Democratic Vice President nominee Tim Kaine, a senator from Virginia, delivered part of his speech in Spanish, a move to embrace and attract Latino voters.
When he lived in Honduras, Kaine said, he learned that the best compliment anyone could give to someone was to say “listo” or ready.
“Not ‘intelligent E’ – smart. Not ‘am able’ – friendly. Not ‘rico’ – rich, but ‘listo,'” he added. “Because what ‘listo’ means in Spanish is prepared, battle-tested, rock-solid, up for anything, never backing down. And Hillary Clinton is ‘lista’!”
The crowd at the Wells Fargo Center here roared and chanted, “Si, se puede! Si, se puede! (Yes, we can! Yes, we can!)”
Despite her hardships and fear of deportation, like the predicament that 11 million undocumented immigrants are in, Hernandez believes that many Latinos are going to vote for Clinton in November.
“I’m still hopeful that Hillary Clinton would act and do something with us and for us. But, at the same time, I’m hopeful that she’d touch the hearts of other politicians, because it is not a matter of one person doing it,” Hernandez said. “There’s a lot of politicians who don’t like immigrants.”