Immigration advocates aren't happy with what Barack Obama said Tuesday in his State of the Union speech. The president urged Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2014, but his words weren’t enough for some advocacy groups.
A “disappointment” and a “call to action for immigrants” is how the National Day Laborer Organizing Network summed up Obama's SOTU speech. The group’s main point of contention is that Obama still won’t use executive action to stay deportation for the country’s millions of undocumented immigrants.
Deporting more than 1,000 people per day on average, the Obama administration has set a record level.
Pablo Alvarado, the group’s executive director, argued that if the president wants this year to be one of action, then immigration is one area where he should lead by example.
“The president has already shown that he has broad legal authority in the realm of immigration, but to date he has mostly exercised that authority poorly as part of a failed political strategy,” Alvarado said in a statement. “The hard truth is that the president has hindered instead of helped progress on immigration thus far. His actions have torn apart families and poisoned the immigration debate. His administration is about to reach an appalling record (of) 2 million deportations -- unless he reverses course.”
Continue Reading Below
In his SOTU address Tuesday, Obama said if Congress is serious about growing the economy, then it should heed the calls of business, labor, faith leaders and other special interest groups to overhaul the system.
Reminding the joint session of Congress that Senate Republicans and Democrats have already acted, and that independent economists predicted the deficit will shrink $1 trillion in the next 20 years if immigration reform with a path to citizenship (and therefore paying taxes) is enacted, Obama encouraged lawmakers to finish the job.
“So let’s get immigration reform done this year,” he said. “Let’s get it done. It’s time.”
Eddie Carmona, director of PICO National Network’s Campaign for Citizenship, a national network of faith-based community organizations, replied that "Immigrant families need to see those words backed up with action to stop the deportation crisis that is tearing American families apart.” “In this ‘year of action,’ Americans of faith are still waiting for the president to take executive action to stop deportations,” Carmona said.
If Obama remains inactive on that front, the faith-based group has threatened its own action to make those elected accountable. It also wants a path to citizenship.
“We will not accept any solution that insists on treating immigrants as permanently lesser in our democracy,” Carmona said. “In November, Americans of faith will remember who stood with immigrant families and who stood against them. And we will vote.”