This week, in honor of Veterans Day, Hanging in the Balance focuses on how U.S. veterans are impacted by the nation’s broken immigration system.
On the first day that members of Congress were back in Washington, a number of representatives joined veterans and DREAMers who are aspiring service members in front of the Capitol to urge President Obama to use his executive authority to provide administrative relief. Representatives Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and José Serrano (D-N.Y.) spoke strongly of the need for the president to act now to keep families together. They spoke of service members who are currently abroad and fear that a loved one could be deported.
The representatives also rejected Speaker of the House John Boehner’s assertion that executive action on immigration would prevent Congress from being able to work on a much-needed solution to fix the immigration system. They sent a message to the Speaker and to House Republican leadership that they could put a comprehensive immigration reform bill on the floor for a vote and it would pass.
Joining the representatives was Elizabeth Perez, a veteran who served in Marine Corps and whose husband was deported to Mexico after being stopped for a traffic violation. Elizabeth urged President Obama to act because her story is not unique; she said and there are hundreds of thousands of families like hers. “We fought for the freedom of our country, but our families can’t enjoy that freedom,” she stated.
Around this time last year, the administration announced parole in place, a commonsense policy change that allows some relatives of veterans and service members to apply for authorization to remain in the United States. A recent Winston-Salem Journal article highlighted the military-specific policy and how it has transformed the lives of one family. As the newspaper reported, Alejandra King came to the United States from Mexico as a child and graduated from high school and Salem College. She married her husband Charles, a former Marine, in 2010. Earlier this year, Alejandra and Charles filed an application through Citizenship and Immigration Services for parole in place, and she is now a permanent resident. When asked what this means for her, Alejandra said: “It means freedom, being able to feel secure without the fear of being deported, knowing that my kids and husband will not be left motherless, alone, due to some random traffic stop or raid. Being able to legally work and contribute to the economy and the community. It also means validation for how I already felt: an American.”
President Obama should build on this commonsense policy; there are a number of existing policies he can use to allow aspiring Americans to come forward and apply for administrative relief. Alejandra’s husband expressed the frustration that millions feel when he said, “always having to worry if a certain law does or doesn’t pass, if there is a day where the government rounds up all immigrants for deportation, or if my wife has to shy away from reporting a crime as a victim—because of her status—doesn’t make me feel like I live in ‘the land of the free,’ an ideal I have dedicated a life to support and defend.” President Obama now has the opportunity to do something that is big and bold and lives up to our values.
Join us in telling President Obama to take strong executive action to provide relief!