April 03, 2019

Solidarity Sundays #22: What’s Immigration Reform Look Like?

On a sunny March 31st afternoon, Juan Cerda led attendees through a comprehensive look into the history of immigration policy, beginning with Article 1 of the Constitution bestowing power on Congress to regulate naturalization and immigration. Over time, presidential power has carved out a growing role: before the current President tried closing borders at airports and down south, President Obama wielded presidential power to establish DACA. So powerful are executive orders that courts ruled in 2018 that President Trump‘s executive order to end Obama‘s DACA executive order is unlawful; only an act of congress can supersede it.
Juan explained how immigration policy has been shaped by Pull-Push forces. Economic need — the Gold Rush, seasonal agricultural work, labor shortfalls during world wars — has pulled waves of undocumented immigrants to America since the mid-19th century. When economic fortunes waned, McCarthyite anti-communist paranoia grew, or servicemen returned from wars, the government pushed back against immigrant flows with quotas or deportation action. In 1954, Operation Wetback rounded up and deported over one million people. What’s happening today has happened before.

The last immigration reform, under President Reagan in 1986, granted amnesty to nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants. Since Congress has stalled on updating US immigration policies, presidents have asserted their prerogative to address aspects of the problem. Obama used executive power to award work permits to immigrants brought to the US as children; Trump used executive power to reverse it, and to declare the current National Emergency.

Until Democrats take back both the Senate and White House, Juan foresees a continuation of stop-gap executive orders in place of comprehensive immigration reform. It is estimated there are currently 10 to 12 million undocumented immigrants in America today.

Tanya Lolonis reviewed best practices for identifying and contacting your legislators on this — and other — issues. Attendees shared experiences and strategies communicating with representatives, and a reference sheet with useful links was shared. Anyone who would like a copy can contact Tanya at [email protected].

– Tanya Lolonis, Member-at-Large, Solidarity Sunday Co-coordinator