Supporters at NYC Immigration Rally Demand Obama Administration Act on Immigration Reform
A coalition of immigration groups rallied at Battery Park, New York, on Monday, calling on the President Obama to exercise his executive authority and reform immigration.
State Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo, of the Bronx, attended the rally and spoke out for reform. He recently visited a facility holding some of the children who have immigrated to the U.S. from Central America. Crespo chairs the assembly Task Force on New Americans and recently sponsored legislation that would protect immigrants against fraud.
Latin Post asked Crespo what he discovered when he visited the Westchester facility where some border children have been sent.
"I don't think many understand the problems these kids confront," he said. "This idea that these kids are arriving and all of a sudden they have tickets to Disneyland and placement in some of the best schools in our community -- it's just not right ... . We listened to their stories, and it was heartbreaking. Almost 80 percent of the kids that were in this facility had been through some form of sexual or physical abuse, and that's one of the things they are running from.
"To know that their families were threatened with that, to know that many of them were marked to death by different militant groups and gangs. They are running from a very serious plight, and these families are making difficult decisions. And that's not to say it is our problem and that's not to say we don't have to hold the leadership in those countries accountable, but we need to work with them, if anything to provide them with the resources to better the conditions so the children aren't taking this terrible [risk]. But once they arrive and they are here, we also have to show who we are as a nation, who we are as the leader of the free world, the best democracy in the world, and if that is true, we have to hold true to it and treat these children with respect and give them an opportunity to be in a safe environment, house them accordingly and find them a safe space to be with their families as they go through this process to determine whether they are eligible or not for any of the visas or if they have to be sent back home in due time."
Latin Post: President Obama visited New Mexico and Texas last week but didn't visit any of the facilities where the children are being detained. While he was there, we saw a return to each side blaming the other for inaction on either immigration reform or a reasonable response to the humanitarian crisis. How will this change?
MC: "The blame game -- we're sick of it. Democrats and Republicans in Washington have failed us. This isn't so much a party issue as it is a national priority and homeland security issue. This is about our country moving forward and being open-minded. The reality is without [the] economic impact of immigrants, we wouldn't have survived the economic downturn as we did. They've created jobs, opened new businesses, most of them are productive members of society that pay their taxes; that's something we tend to overlook. We need to do better, we deserve better, and our country deserves better."
Latin Post: In all the discussions about the children on the border, there has been little to no discussion of the impact of the free trade agreements -- NAFTA and CAFTA -- and whether those trade policies have contributed to this current crisis. Why is that do you think?
MC: "I think what's happened is the leadership in Washington of both parties is too caught up in the headlines and winning over the extremist perceptions of some of the people out there, as opposed to having a real constructive conversation about what it takes to fix our system. What does it take to better the conditions in these countries so these families are not risking life and limb to get here? There isn't a thorough discussion, but it just goes to show the failure of our federal elected officials in really doing the right thing and having an extensive conversation. We saw a group of Republicans come out with an immigration reform proposal a year ago in the Senate; it was a bipartisan effort, and there was a lot of promise behind that, and we heard our officials say all the right things, and in the end, a few headlines diminished the potential for that to pass."
Among other things, Crespo proposes that Obama extend the principles of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, to include the whole family.
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