Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece is in response to a March 27 column in the South Florida Times by Urban League of Greater Miami President T. Willard Fair. In his column, Fair argued that President Barack Obama should prioritize the economy over helping undocumented immigrants receive amnesty.
The election of President Obama brought hope to marginalized communities everywhere. America elected a president who understands that America cannot prosper unless everyone in our nation is given the chance to succeed.
We elected someone whose experience as an organizer on the Southside of Chicago gave him a broader perspective on the needs of our country's diverse communities. Finally, we have someone who understands that America depends on our ability to recognize each individual’s inherent value and worth.
We could not be more pleased with the direction our president is taking our country. He’s already done more to help poor and minority communities than any other president in the last 40 years.
It is President Obama’s broad vision for a healthy America that transcends race and political party. It motivates us to stand with our president to fix our broken immigration system. Divide and conquer is the oldest and ugliest side of reactionary politics. When one community suffers, we all suffer, and the community organizer in him knows this.
As leaders in the fight for justice and immigration reform, we must work with President Obama and his administration to fix our broken immigration system and its impact on every one of us. And in a democracy, we must also remind our president of the struggles outside the walls of the White House and encourage him to correct course when he goes down a harmful path.
America’s economy cannot recover if we allow 12 million immigrants to continue to live and work in the margins of our society.
Even waiting one year would mean $171 billion in lost Gross Domestic Product; and the loss of jobs of 1 million people working in the U.S. legally.
Our president himself has said: "Ultimately, the danger to the American way of life is not that we will be overrun by those who do not look like us or do not yet speak our language. The danger will come if we fail to recognize the humanity of (immigrants), if we withhold from them the opportunities we take for granted, and create a servant class in our midst.”
Beyond the practical concerns, immigration reform carries a moral obligation. Inhumane workplace raids are hurting all of our communities, tearing families apart, and showing the rest of the world the worst side of us as a nation.
The distrust bred by piecemeal and discriminatory enforcement undermines our ability to solve pressing border security problems such as human trafficking and the drug trade.
Immigration reform will not be an easy win for President Obama. We must work together with communities of every spectrum on building the support network he will need to carry out his campaign promise.
That includes having deeper discussions between communities that don’t look, live, or talk alike. So when the time comes, we can show the very best of America-a society that embraces community values, which means supporting an immigration system that is just and humane.
Ultimately, we’re all in this together.
Dushaw Hockett is the director of Special Initiatives and author of Crossing Borders, an organizing toolkit for bridging racial divide.
Eric K. Ward is the national field director for the Center for New Community, a national civil rights organization based in Chicago.