Milwaukee, WI – Slate called it “The Most Gutting Part of the DNC’s Third Night,” which says a lot given the powerful address from Gabby Giffords, among other moments. But competition for human misery aside, Slate points out that “the issue where it was apparent Democrats have come the farthest in four years was immigration.”
The Obama-Biden legacy on immigration is fraught. In eight years, that administration deported more than two million people and massively built up a detention system to control both families and individuals seeking asylum or fighting their cases in immigration court. But the Obama-Biden administration also created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and dramatically changed deportation policies in its waning years, such that many immigrants who lived in the United States for several years were permitted to stay, get work permits, and continue building their lives.
As Julia Preston pointed out for the Marshall Project, many of these same people have been deported by the Trump administration. People like Alejandra Juarez, whose daughter Estela addressed the Democratic National Convention last night. Despite being married to a military veteran and the mother of two American children, Alejandra was deported in 2018. Estela said to President Trump: “you tore our world apart.” Congressman Darren Soto tweeted: “SO PROUD of my constituents Familia Juarez, especially Estela, for telling their story! Her mother Alejandra, wife of Temo, Iraq War Marine Vet, was deported as part of Trump’s #zerotolerance policy. Let’s elect @JoeBiden & reunite immigrant families like the Juarezes! #DNC2020.”
“Estela Juarez and Rep. Soto said it best,” said Lynn Tramonte, Director of the Ohio Immigrant Alliance. “We need to reunite families torn apart by the Trump administration and its predecessors. It’s not enough to commit to pursuing immigration reform in Congress. The next administration must do everything in its power–use every tool in the Executive Branch toolbox–to bring people home to the United States.”
In July, over 400 people petitioned the Democratic Party Platform Committee to include “return after deportation” in the 2020 platform. The Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force’s immigration plank included this policy as a legislative priority. Many urged the Democratic National Committee to also commit to administrative policies that facilitate return after deportation, including broad use of humanitarian parole.
As Maria Paz Perez wrote in DailyKos:
A lot has been said about President Trump’s heartless deportations and family separations. It’s true. And deportation is an extreme consequence for a paperwork problem. But deportations didn’t start with President Trump. My family is proof of that. A year after Brigido’s deportation, President Obama changed his immigration policies so that people like my husband, with U.S. citizen children, were no longer considered “priorities” for deportation. But the change came too late for us, and to this day, we remain separated by a border.
That’s why I am calling on Vice President Biden to do what Presidents Obama and Trump did not, and commit to bringing my husband home.
The latest version of the 2020 Democratic Party Platform that has been made public includes important references to return after deportation. The Party commits to creating “a parole process for veterans deported by the Trump Administration to reunite them with their families and compatriots”; “restoring family reunification programs ended by the Trump Administration”; and working “with Congress to eliminate immigration barriers, such as the three- and 10-year bars, and remove the 10-year waiting period for waivers to the permanent bars that keep loved ones apart.”
The platform also acknowledges the need to “right the wrongs of the Trump administration” and states that “family unity should be a guiding principle for our immigration policy.” What is needed is a clear commitment to doing everything possible within the Executive Branch authorities to allow deported individuals to return to their lives in the United States. This includes people who have U.S. citizen relatives here and those who may not, but were forced to leave behind decades of a life for exile in a country that is no longer home.
“Deportation is an extreme consequence that has destroyed many people’s lives. Families and individuals harmed by deportation deserve to heal and reunite. Return after deportation is part of the reckoning needed in our society, as we try to recover from the Trump-induced nightmare and build systems that support and value all people,” said Tramonte.
Follow the Ohio Immigrant Alliance on Twitter @tramontela