ALBA roundtable on immigration reform: What can be done

June 15, 2013
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Moderator: Amy Goodman, Host and Executive Producer of Democracy Now!

Moderator: Amy Goodman, Host and Executive Producer of Democracy Now!

Courage and fear, hope and despair: those were the recurring emotions expressed by five panelists who spoke about immigration reform at a round-table discussion organized by ALBA in New York on May 5. Speaking from the trenches, they confirmed that much has been achieved. And although the road ahead is long and complicated, every concerned citizen can help in the continuing struggle.

The panel, moderated by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, took place at Pace University in the hours before the presentation of the ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism, granted this year to United We Dream. Three young leaders of UWD—Cristina Jiménez, Natalia Aristizábal, and Kevin Kang— recounted their personal experiences coming out as undocumented immigrants or committing to help their undocumented peers. They explained how, with the help of lawyers and activists, they pressed the White House to defer deportation of undocumented minors even after the U.S. Senate had voted down the Dream Act last year. If United We Dream has been successful, they stressed, it is because they have been willing to hold politicians’ feet to the fire. “If Marco Rubio thinks he can win the Latino vote just by working for immigration reform,” Jiménez said, “he is mistaken. And so are the Democrats. We don’t owe loyalty to any political party. We are loyal to our communities, whose criminalization affects us all.”

Panel: Christina Jiménez, Managing Director at United We Dream (UWD), Natalia Aristizábal, UWD Board Member, Kevin Kang, UWD Founding Board Member, Professor Michael Wishnie, William O. Douglas Clinical Professor, Yale Law School, New York Senator Gustavo Rivera

Panel: Christina Jiménez, Managing Director at United We Dream (UWD), Natalia Aristizábal, UWD Board Member, Kevin Kang, UWD Founding Board Member, Professor Michael Wishnie, William O. Douglas Clinical Professor, Yale Law School, New York Senator Gustavo Rivera

New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera, who represents the Bronx, detailed what can be done at the municipal and state level to push for immigration reform and resist the blanket criminalization of the undocumented. He also emphasized the need for voters to be vigilant and keep applying pressure on their state and federal representatives.

Michael Wishnie, William O. Douglas Clinical Professor at Yale Law School, explained the legal counsel he and his students have been giving to UWD. Although the struggle on behalf of the undocumented has seen many setbacks, he said, and even though the fate of immigration reform in Congress is still unsure, there are real reasons for hope.

Wishnie, too, underscored the ways in which every concerned citizen can lend a hand—not only by urging their representatives in Congress not to give in to pressures from the right, but also by helping to volunteer if and when immigration reform happens and millions of undocumented will need to fulfill complicated procedures to change their status. Wishnie expressed concern for those immigrants, the so-called “super-undocumented,” who will fall outside of the parameters of any new immigration law.

To see more pictures, click here, or see the slideshows below.

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