Paving the Path to Citizenship

UPDATE: This POLITICO Magazine cover story – an essay by deported veteran, father, and entrepreneur, Howard Dean Bailey – tells how our broken immigration system tore Howard away from his family and the country he served. Read the full story here.

Republicans in Congress continue to delay action to fix our broken immigration system. However, some lawmakers are taking steps toward progress. In March, Rep. Nancy Pelosi joined Rep. Xavier Becerra, actress America Ferrera and immigration reform advocates at the Capitol to introduce a discharge petition calling for action on comprehensive immigration reform. Pelosi later said that passing immigration reform is even more important than Democrats winning the House.

Republicans, even those who support immigration reform, are unlikely to take action – at least not until after their primaries are over in order to stay safe with their rightwing base.  But with a weakened presidency and a feeling of invincibility on the right, nothing may happen this year at all. Saturday was a day of action across the country for proponents of immigration reform. With our client the Campaign for an Accountable, Moral, and Balanced Immigration Overhaul (CAMBIO), an immigration reform coalition particularly concerned with human rights and the treatment of immigrants along the borders, we have been telling the stories of the 2 million deportees under the Obama administration to raise awareness and accelerate change.

What’s happening, and why does it matter?

The way that we manage the influx of aspiring Americans in this country is not only costly and complicated, but makes absolutely no sense.

There are currently 11 million undocumented immigrants living within the borders of the United States. Many were brought to the United States as children, and many of them have served in the U.S. military. A million or more are farmworkers who labor in the fields to put food on our tables. They are all subject to the same unfair system in place for detaining, processing and deporting immigrants. Fenton works with Farmworker Justice to push for balanced immigration reform provisions affecting agriculture.

The problems in the system are plenty, but here are a few of the worst issues:

  • Since 9/11, the militarization of the borders has increased dramatically. This means we have Border Patrol agents frequently engaging in dangerous practices, including racial profiling, invasion of privacy and the use of excessive force. A report leaked to the Los Angeles Times in February allegedly indicates that some agents deliberately put themselves in harm’s way as an excuse to use deadly force on people they believe to be illegal immigrants.
  • Working immigrants frequently do not enjoy the same protections and rights as other workers in the United States. While many of them face extreme workplace hazards, including heat exposure, contact with dangerous pesticides, and exposure to injury, they often can’t do anything to improve these conditions for fear of being deported. Employers are able to hang the threat of detention over workers’ heads, and engage in wage theft and abuse.
  • Immigrants are regularly deported without due process. Judges have their hands tied in these cases and cannot consider the intricate facts of each case – such as children who could be left behind, an immigrant’s history of good will in the country or the circumstances under which an immigrant was detained.

The obvious solution to these problems is to change our immigration system. We need comprehensive reform that allows the 11 million immigrants currently in the country to have a pathway to citizenship and offers an easier, legal process for those who hope to come in the future. It’s both an economic and humanitarian issue – it’s the right thing to do.

With CAMBIO, Fenton has developed a strategy that combines digital storytelling with earned media to raise awareness of the issue and to put pressure on lawmakers to act.

Under the #PathToJustice banner, we have helped CAMBIO release a new image and message each week, which their partners, including the ACLU, United We Dream, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and others, in turn share. These messages target key members of Congress and provide education on various roadblocks to citizenship. Our work with CAMBIO has put pressure on Congress and has helped keep comprehensive immigration reform a possibility, and CAMBIO continues to be at the forefront of the crusade for a path to citizenship.

For Farmworker Justice we push out messages that tell the stories of farmworker families and the harsh lives they lead. This week we helped tell the story of a migrant family living in Florida’s orange groves and traveling as far west as Washington State to work to pay their bills.

What can you do?

We encourage you to tweet your representatives and President Obama with the hashtags #PathToJustice and #2Million2Many and tell them that you want to stop deportations and provide a path to justice for immigrants.

At Fenton, we look forward to the day when 11 million people are treated with dignity and the fairness they deserve. It’s time for a path to citizenship, and we are happy to be part of the movement making it happen.