Undocumented mothers literally stood up for their rights in New York, calling on President Barack Obama to keep his promise for executive action on immigration reform.
At New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform, an informal "town hall" at CUNY's Baruch College campus on Tuesday, the women said they want the president to use his executive authority to enact reforms without Congress — as he vowed in a late-August speech — and unilaterally end deportations and allow undocumented immigrants to work legally by the end of the summer.
Legislation to reform immigration procedures has been tied up in Congress and some conservative House Republicans have threatened to withhold funding to the U.S. government if the president seeks administrative relief for immigrants unilaterally.
“President Obama ... came out on June 30, he said if Congress cannot act, if they continue to allow such a broken system that does more harm than good, then he will act," said Betsy Plum of the New York Immigration Coalition. "And that is completely within his executive power.”
Last week's town hall, which brought together immigration activists, undocumented immigrants and politicians to call for a pathway to citizenship, was mobilized largely via social media. The hashtag #Allin4Relief is used by the activists to gather support online for administrative action.
But President Obama has said his executive powers will have limits.
“Even with aggressive steps on my part, administrative action alone will not adequately address the problem," he said in a recent speech. "The reforms that will do the most to strengthen our businesses and workers and our entire economy will still require an act of Congress.”
Congressional action, says Project 21’s Horace Cooper, is the only way to solve the current immigration dilemma.
"The right answer is for the White House and Congress to come together and work collaboratively to develop a solution to the issues involving immigration," she said. "Whether those are minor or whether those are significant, that is the process the Founders intended. That’s what the American people expect and that’s the normal way to proceed and it will minimize the likelihood of significant political blowback, litigation or other kinds of concerns."
The town hall's co-host, Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York, rallied the crowd to keep fighting for more substantive and broader reform.
“I want you to remember that administrative relief is only the beginning. It is not the end. We will not stop fighting until every undocumented immigrant in this country has a pathway to citizenship and they become voting citizens," she announced to cheering supporters.
The event closed on a celebratory note, with many hopeful that the president would soon enact policies to protect undocumented immigrant families despite staunch resistance from conservatives.