CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA— As Democrats gather in Charlotte, North Carolina to nominate President Barack Obama for a second term in office, undocumented immigrants are using the spotlight to voice their concerns about U.S. immigration policy. Despite efforts to help certain illegal aliens, many believe President Obama has not done enough.
For most of her life in the United States, undocumented immigrant Ireri Unzueta-Carrasco has lived in the shadows.
“There are a lot of obstacles when you are undocumented and you are trying to grow up. So for me it was very very frustrating," said Unzueta-Carrasco.
Unzueta-Carrasco is no longer afraid to speak publicly about her status. She also has found new confidence to express her anger at U.S. immigration policy.
Part of a movement called “No Papers, No Fear,” Unzueta-Carrasco and others held an act of civil disobedience that stopped rush-hour traffic in Knoxville, Tennessee last week (Aug. 28) on their way to the Democratic National Convention.
But on this day, the target of their protest, which led to several arrests, were Tennessee law enforcement officials who are considering implementing an unpopular program known as 287G.
“287G gives police officers the power to ask for your documentations once you are pulled over, so we don’t want that enforced," said Cruz.
Undocumented immigrant Natally Cruz knows the consequences of programs like 287G. She is from Arizona, where a similar effort is already in place.
“I have family members who have been deported throughout the two years that SB 1070 has happened in Arizona," she said.
In June, the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Arizona law SB 1070, but upheld a more controversial requirement that officers with “reasonable suspicion” check the immigration status of people they detain.
University of Tennessee law professor Karla McKanders says the outcry in Arizona, Tennessee and other states considering similar legislation has put the immigration debate at the center of U.S. politics.
“This also shows that there are a lot of unsolved issues with immigration law that Congress needs to deal with," said McKanders.
President Obama recently announced the Department of Homeland Security would stop deportation proceedings against a limited group of younger undocumented immigrants. It would directly benefit Unzueta-Carrasco, who says it does not go far enough.
“President Obama is someone who really does believe immigrant communities should stay together, but he hasn’t been able to show that to me in action," she said.
“No Papers, No Fear” ends a two-month protest journey across the United States at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Here, protesters want to send a message to Democrats that immigration reform should be a priority. Florida Congresswoman and Democratic chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz agrees.
“This is a president who is committed to comprehensive immigration reform. Unfortunately we have not only no cooperation from the Republicans, but they have a candidate for president who actually believes that we should have the 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country self-deport," said Wasserman Shultz.
Previous efforts to reform U.S. immigration laws, most recently in 2010, have repeatedly failed in Congress.