Jennifer Piper, AFSC Colorado Interfaith Organizing Director, leads an "Immigration 101" workshop for aspiring peace and justice activists in Denver .Photo: AFSC / Jon Krieg
Contact: Alan Kaplan, 917.776.2388
White House Initiates Immigration Reform Dialogue in Denver, but Local Leaders Want Action
Denver, CO (July 28, 2011) – On the heels of President Obama’s speech to the NCLR National Conference, the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships held a round-table meeting in Denver with immigrant community and dozens of diverse faith leaders, to discuss President Obama’s immigration policy and the shared goal of comprehensive immigration reform.
However, the meeting quickly shifted focus as leaders in attendance spoke candidly about the dire situation of the immigrant community in Colorado and highlighted the need for administrative action to curb the President’s aggressive deportation record. Data released this week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement shows the Obama Administration has deported an astounding 1 million immigrants since the beginning of the President’s term.
“We know that comprehensive immigration reform is the long-term solution,” said Julien Ross, Executive Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, “but instead of trying to push for unlikely legislative solutions, in the short-term President Obama needs to show courage and take action now. He has the authority to put a moratorium on deportations of DREAMers, to limit enforcement actions, and to protect families from separation – for President Obama to say that he cannot use that authority is disingenuous.”
Ross emphasized, “Until Latino and immigrant communities see some promised and viable actions from the Obama administration, he will continue to hear cries of “Yes you can!” at every meeting with immigrant leaders, whether it’s a roundtable in Denver or his speech at the NCLR conference.”
Community leaders at the meeting testified about the impact that administration policies are having on their lives and neighborhoods.
“I am a DREAMer and each day I live with fear of becoming part of the one million people deported under President Obama’s presidency,” said Isaias Vasquez – Martinez, a youth leader with Metro Organizations for People (MOP), “I hear him say he supports immigration reform and understands our pain as DREAMers, but this would be easier to believe if President Obama used his power to stop separating my fellow students from their families. In a key state such as Colorado, what will he do for the Latino community in order to secure our vote next year?”
Leaders of faith groups, and those working with the faith community, summed up the situation in Colorado and nationally and asked for the President to provide relief.
“When the Obama administration detains and deports members of our communities, faith communities also support the children, spouses and communities left behind,” commented Jennifer Piper, an Interfaith Organizer with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), “while we appreciate all the President has done to move the conversation forward, it doesn’t change the reality in our communities. It’s difficult for us to say to our members and supporters that the President deeply cares about keeping families together, when 1,026,517 people have been deported since 2009, almost more than in the entire two terms under President Bush. We demand President Obama use his administrative power to limit deportations and detention.”
The meeting was part of a national initiative by the White House to engage faith communities and followed a half-day conference to encourage faith/White House collaboration.
The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) is a statewide, membership-based coalition of immigrant, faith, labor, youth, community, business and ally organizations founded in 2002 to improve the lives of immigrants and refugees by making Colorado a more welcoming, immigrant-friendly state. CIRC achieves this mission through non-partisan civic engagement, public education, and advocating for workable, fair and humane immigration policies.