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This Week In Review: Proud Moments in Immigration Advocacy, Speaking Truth to Power

by Mahwish Khan on 07/29/2011 at 3:27pm

This week, at the National Council of La Raza’s (NCLR) conference, Barack Obama once again told a crowd of Latino voters that on immigration, he couldn’t just bypass Congress to change the laws. Except this time, the crowd responded in one unified voice. “Yes, You Can! Yes, You Can!” youth leaders, organized by United We Dream and Presente.org, chanted.

It was by far my favorite moment in the entire speech. Here is the segment on immigration (listen for the chant at the end) for those of you who haven’t caught it:

Twenty-two senators wrote the President a letter earlier this year saying that he has the authority to grant administrative relief to undocumented students. Soon after, the American Immigration Council came out with a legal memo saying that on immigration, his hands aren’t tied – he has the power to protect DREAMers.

On Tuesday, in response to President Barack Obama’s speech the day before, Representative Gutierrez and others were peacefully protesting Obama’s one millionth deportation at Lafayette Park, in front of the White House. The protest was hosted by Casa De Maryland and Familia Latina Unida, and ended with the arrests of the outspoken Congressman and ten others. We have photos of the protests and the arrests here, on our facebook page. Congressman Luis Gutierrez said

The President says Republicans are blocking immigration reform and he’s right, but it doesn’t get him off the hook. Everyone knows he has the power to stop deporting DREAMers and others with deep roots in the U.S. and we think he should use it.

At around the same time of the protest, the leaders of the mass deportation caucus, Rep. Smith and Gallegly, wasted more of Congress’ time on another piece of legislation that fits in with their plans to expel 11 million undocumented immigrants from the country. Known as the Hinder the Administration’s Legalization Temptation (HALT) Act, the bill strips President Obama of the power to set priorities on immigration enforcement and limits his powers of prosecutorial discretion, which grants him the authority to decide whether to enforce the law in a particular case. In other words, it limits his ability to grant stays of deportation for certain refugees or DREAM students.

The bill is also meant to bully the President. 

Set to star in this show was none other than sworn enemy of the 14th amendment, Senator David Vitter. As someone “intimate” with prosecutorial discretion (think DC Madam), it was odd that Smith and Gallegly would choose Senator Vitter of all people to take the lead. As we reported last week, after the Senator from Louisiana confessed to having committed certain “sins” a few years ago, prosecutors opted to not pursue his case. He again benefited from prosecutorial discretion when the Senate Ethics Committee chose not to pursue the complaint against him brought to them by a group in DC called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

And though the Senator from Louisiana refrained from testifying in person (his testimony was read), Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren was not shy calling Vitter out on his hypocrisy:

In the District of Columbia, it is a crime to engage in prostitution. In July of 2007, Ms. Deborah Palfrey, known as the DC Madam who had been convicted under this statute, published her phone records indicating that one of our witnesses was her client. Later Senator Vitter said this was a very sin in my past for which I am completely responsible. Under the DC criminal statute related to solicitation, the senator ninety to one hundred days but he never faced trial. In fact, prosecutors never brought charges. Sure looks like he benefited from prosecutorial discretion. I would not mention this incident today if it didn’t expose the hypocrisy of seeking to prevent the use of discretion to benefit others when one has enjoyed the benefit himself.

In a proud moment for us, it was picked up in Senator Vitter’s hometown paper.

Lastly, Ruben Navarrette criticizes Obama for his “double-talk” on immigration. He writes:

The DREAMers are fed up with Obama’s double talk, and that is why they’re confronting him. They’ve heard enough pretty words, and now they want hard action. Specifically, they want Obama to use the executive power of the presidency to stop the deportations of DREAM Act students.

I’d like to see that. But, for the sake of clarity, I’d be satisfied if Obama would just start being honest, reveal his intentions, and stop pretending to be something he’s not.

(Read the whole piece — it’s a good article that gives us the gamut of the Obama/DREAMer history.)

That’s a wrap for this week. Thanks to all — DREAMers, Rep. Gutierrez, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, and the many others protesting at the White House — for speaking truth to power.

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