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Ohio Immigrants, Advocates Meet With AG DeWine And Gov. Kasich On DAPA Lawsuit

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If you follow this blog, you know that a small group of Ohioans went all the way to Iowa to track down our sitting governor, John Kasich (R), who is also running for President.  We had been trying to get a meeting with his office to discuss Ohio’s support for the lawsuit against DACA expansion and DAPA, but kept running into brick walls.  At a rodeo in Iowa, we finally caught up with Governor Kasich and asked him for a meeting.  His response to Maria, a DAPA-eligible mother from Ohio, and her 11 year-old son Andrew, seemed compassionate and kind.  Kasich said to follow-up with his staff in order to schedule a meeting in Columbus.

This exchange took place on June 24, and we finally met with Kasich yesterday.  Unfortunately, we left the meeting with a different impression from the one we had in Iowa.

Earlier in the day, our group met with Attorney General Mike DeWine, the man directly responsible for signing our state onto this partisan, anti-family lawsuit.  As a U.S. Senator, DeWine supported humane immigration reform, which made his position on the lawsuit all the more incomprehensible.  We spent about an hour with DeWine, and he listened carefully to every story from every mother, father, and child in the room.

There was Carlos, whose wife was recently killed by a drunk driver (a U.S. Citizen) and he’s left to raise two little boys on his own.  The boys are terrified that they will lose him too, because he is undocumented.

There was Olga, whose four year-old son is battling leukemia.  She’s frightened to drive him to his treatments because of the police, but of course she does.  She stays up at night worrying that if she’s sent back to Mexico, it could be a death sentence for her son because of the change in medical care.  Iker is a U.S. Citizen.

There was Mara and her fifteen year-old daughter.  Mara has lived in the U.S. For 25 years; she came at the age of 11.  She has seen her brother, father, and sister deported.  She too was going to be deported, but got a miracle reprieve.  Still, she doesn’t feel safe.

There was Esmeralda and her daughter Jocelyn; Esmeralda’s stay of deportation expires soon.  Jocelyn calls her mom her “super hero.”  But Esmeralda knows the Government doesn’t see her that way, and worries they will separate her family.

I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room at the DeWine meeting.  Even the immigrants, who had lived through and heard stories like these many times, were moved to tears by each other’s pain.  Over and over again they said “we love this country and we just want a chance.”  The cruelty of the anti-DAPA and DACA lawsuit was clear.

DeWine responded by saying that he supports the families’ interest in passing immigration reform, but stands by the lawsuit in order to “protect the Constitution.”  He admitted that implementing DAPA in Ohio would not actually cause the state harm.  We urged him to reconsider the partisan lawsuit against families.

We went from that emotional meeting to the Governor’s office, where we sat with staff for several minutes waiting for Kasich to arrive.  After some time it was clear that he was going to be quite late, so we began the meeting.  When Kasich walked in after 45 minutes, he took control of the discussion.  But rather than really listening to the families’ stories and pain, he began a series of rapid fire questions to the undocumented parents and DREAMers at the meeting; tried to inject border security and H2(b) visas into the discussion; made a joke about asking us to report people to authorities; and implored a DREAMer with DAPA-eligible parents to agree that it’s not fair to “jump the line.”  The room was fairly silent and stunned.

Governor Kasich did tell us that he doesn’t want to separate families, but he didn’t seem interested in learning how the Texas lawsuit is doing just that.

For the families in the room, I had hoped they would be received by the compassionate Kasich we saw in Iowa.  Instead, he told us he was compassionate, but we didn’t feel it.

We did get the clearest answer yet from him about DAPA and DACA.  Kasich said that he does not support “the Obama actions,” because the President should have tried harder to work with Republicans.  Never mind the fact that Obama spent six years deporting a record number of immigrants to try to build good will with Republicans; never mind the fact that it was Republicans who dropped the ball on immigration reform in 2013.  Never mind the fact that Obama made private overtures to the GOP, as well as public overtures that put him crosswise with his base, and they were all rejected by the GOP.

Never mind the fact that the President announced in early 2014 that he was considering executive action, and gave Republicans a frustrating eight more months to come up with a legislative counter-offer that they still couldn’t produce.  In the intervening time, deportations of DAPA-eligible immigrants and others continued, harming Ohio families like that of Javier Flores—profiled by the Washington Post—and countless others whose names we do not know.

That’s a lot of never minds—and a lot of broken families.  If this lawsuit continues, we’ll have many more.

At the end of our meeting with the Governor, I tried to give him a copy of the letters we had collected from Ohioans asking him to rethink his position.  He did not want to take it, and quickly passed it off to an aide.  That one action symbolizes, for me, the entire meeting.

We’re asking DeWine and Kasich to show leadership in opposing the anti-DACA/DAPA lawsuit; to stop sanctioning attacks on Ohio families.  If they do that, Ohio, and perhaps the Nation, would be one step closer to realizing their stated vision of a policy that doesn’t separate families.

Unfortunately, we are one step behind.