NNIRR Updates: SOTU, New Border Bill, Reclaiming MLK

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Obama's State of the Union

If you weren't paying close attention, you could have missed Obama's mention of immigration in his State of the Union address Tuesday evening. Obama made only brief references to immigration, not too surprising. He had made his major immigration statement last Nov. 20, when he announced his executive action, highlighting administrative relief from deportation (along with his commitment to focus enforcement on the border).

This is what Obama did say during the SOTU: "Yes, passions fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it's possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants." 

He also referred to immigration when pledging to veto any bills that might try to undo his executive action, or as he said, "refighting past battles on immigration when we've got to fix a broken system."

Of course, by Obama not playing up immigration, we also did not hear the cringe-worthy statements in previous speeches when he spotlighted the need for more border security, or described "criminal" immigrants and made other references that tended to further demonize immigrants.

Obama appeared to give the signal that he has done his share on immigration, and he will defend it. That means implementing administrative relief, and unfortunately, also includes continuing policies on detentions and deportations (affecting the majority of undocumented who will not qualify for administrative relief) with a focus on more border enforcement.

Ensuring the human rights of all immigrants must remain high on our agenda.

Republican Immigration Strategy/Backlash

While the Republican Party may not clearly be of a single mind on their immigration strategy, various congressional members have moved quickly to set the tone for debate this year. Immediately when Congress resumed, the House pushed through an amendment to a Department of Homeland Security budget bill to eliminate admin relief funding. It may not have support in the Senate (and Obama would veto such a bill if it reached his desk). A lawsuit against the program is also underway. (Another Republican amendment passed in the DHS budget bill would eliminate DACA).

Secure Our Borders First bill heads for a vote in House next week. This week, Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) introduced his "Secure Our Borders First Act of 2015", HR 399, also known as the "Border Militarization Bill", and it was passed out of the House Homeland Security Committee late Wednesday.The McCaul bill revisits past legislative proposals that had made any immigration reform contingent on the elimination of "illegal" migration across the border. Read an overview and talking points from the Southern Border Communities Coalition, and stay posted for action alerts against this and other punitive proposalsClick here for more information on our website. 

Reclaiming MLK and immigrant rights

Obama's State of the Union address noticeably failed to pick up on the growing mobilization against police brutality, and particularly as it has impacted African American communities. But it was hard to avoid the linkages made with MLK Day earlier this week. Rallies and marches across the country made the connection to #BlackLivesMatter and #ReclaimMLK to call attention to the vital need to create an activist-oriented agenda that squarely addresses the persistent issues of racism and racial inequality.

Check out the agenda from Ferguson Action, which also helped to organize events for #ReclaimMLK. It's pretty easy to recognize in these growing movements a vision, aims and values consistent with those of the struggle for immigrant rights. And it is certainly no mere coincidence that two of the three originators of #BlackLivesMatter are sisters from related groups--Opal Tometi from Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and Alicia Garza of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

And if you missed the article, Group Invokes Martin Luther King Jr. to Push Anti-Immigrant Message from ThinkProgress, check it out. Outrageously, the anti-immigrant Californians for Population Stabilization aired a national television ad last weekend using the legacy of MLK to spew a racialized message designed to spark tensions between African Americans and immigrants (and of course they have no clue about African immigrants). 

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily at the glaring contrast between poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries and say, 'This is not just.' -- Martin Luther King, Jr., Why I am Opposed to the War in Vietnam (1967)

Reclaiming the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., also reclaims the political space in which the interconnections--social/economic, domestic/global--can also be made.