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United We Dream Congress Targets Obama, Deportations

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This weekend in Phoenix, United We Dream held its powerful annual Dream Congress, where more than 500 young leaders from around the nation came together to sing, rally, demonstrate, and solidify their immigration reform priorities for the year.  The group made it clear that President Obama will be a key target this year for his continued refusal to address his record number of deportations.

Here’s more from the New York Times coverage by Julia Preston:

More than 500 leaders of a national network of young immigrants, frustrated that House Republicans said they would not move on immigration this year, have decided to turn their protests onPresident Obama in an effort to pressure him to act unilaterally to stop deportations.

After months of lobbying, rallies and sit-in demonstrations ended with no movement in the House on a pathway to citizenship for immigrants here illegally, the youths who gathered in Phoenix this weekend for an annual congress of the network, United We Dream, said they felt disappointed by Republicans and Democrats. Pointing to Mr. Obama’s pledge early this year to use his phone and pen when Congress did not move on his agenda, they said they would demand that he take executive action to increase protections for immigrants without papers.

“The community we work with is telling us that these deportations are ripping our families apart; this has to stop,” said Cristina Jiménez, the managing director of the network, the largest organization of immigrants who grew up in this country without legal status after coming as children and who call themselves Dreamers. “And we know the president has the power to do it.”

The young immigrants’ demands will be uncomfortable for Mr. Obama in a midterm election year when his low approval ratings could allow Republicans to make important gains.

The Dream Congress, with its declaration of priorities, has significant meaning for both Democrats and Republicans.  President Obama, in a speech at a Democratic Governors Association fundraiser last Thursday, worried about Democrats’ “meh” attitude toward turnout in the coming midterm elections.  Yet the president is fast approaching his 2 millionth deportation, and has yet to address the record rate at which he is separating families.  Doing more to protect immigrants who are eligible for legislative immigration reform — as he did in 2012 with DACA — could go a long way toward Latino and immigrant community turnout this November.

Meanwhile, the UWD decision to make President Obama, rather than Congress, its top priority means that the demographic cliff is looming closer than ever for Republicans.  If they don’t take action on immigration reform this year, there’s a good chance they’ll end up going into the next presidential election without anything to show to Latino voters.  DREAMers and advocates will work to punish them for their inaction and obstruction on immigration reform.  And Republicans will once again find themselves writing autopsy reports rather than taking control of the White House.

Read Julia Preston’s full piece on the Dream Congress at the New York Times.