By Marianela Toledo | Watchdog.org
CHARLOTTE — As a subject of protests and speeches, immigration policy has been a frequent topic at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
On Tuesday, a protest by young undocumented immigrants resulted in 10 arrests and preceded a speech by Benita Veliz, an undocumented student given time on the DNC stage where President Barack Obama will speak to supporters on Thursday evening.
The protest featured members of No Papers No Fear, a national immigration-rights group made up of undocumented students, who voiced their opposition to strict immigration laws on the streets outside the DNC, leading 10 of them to arrested on site.
“We are gathered here today to see where President Obama’s legacy will lead,” one of the protesters shouted into a megaphone, according to an earlier Watchdog.org report.
Hours later, Benita Veliz addressed delegates and the media at the DNC and told her personal story.
“I’m as American as my friends and neighbors, but I’ve had to live my life as an unequal. President Obama fought for the Dream Act and when Congress rejected it, President Obama fought for my community,” she said in her three-minute speech to delegates.
Veliz was brought to San Antonio, Texas, by her undocumented parents when she was just a child. At 16, she graduated with honors from high school. During a routine traffic stop, she was arrested and placed under order of deportation, but was later saved by pressure from immigrants’ rights groups that intervened.
After finishing her speech, Veliz introduced the popular Spanish-language television host Cristina Saralegui, who has been a advocate for the president across Spanish media.
Despite their support for the Democratic president, the Obama administration has been responsible for the most deportations ever on record. Since January 2009, over 1.4 million undocumented immigrants have been deported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. Less than half of those deported had criminal records.
U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., was asked about this contradiction between Hispanic support of the president and his record number of deportations.
“Barack Obama has a duty as president to enforce the law,” he said. “It is understood that the laws are not working well. The president wants to reform immigration laws to make them work for everyone, citizen and immigrants alike,” Becerra told Watchdog.org.
Becerra focused his attack on Republicans, blaming them for not supporting immigration reform.
“We need the support of Republicans who have always created obstacles,” said Becerra. “They need to get on board. At least the president could use his executive power to help immigrants.”
On June 15, Obama revealed a deferred action plan that would halt deportations of young undocumented students and soldiers and allow them to get a work permit for up to two years.
Each individual case, however, is left to the discretion of immigration officers at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and is no guarantee to a work permit.
The youth group No Papers No Fear, whose 10 members were arrested and later released at the DNC, issued a statement on its website, asking Obama to use his additional “executive authority to provide relief to the entire community.”
Interview with U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra:
Contact Marianela Toledo at Toledo.Marianela@gmail.com
Florida Bureau Chief Yaël Ossowski translated this article.
— Marianela Toledo (@mtoledoreporter) September 4, 2012