Reflection on Obama’s Executive Action Speech: If We Were President

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We listened to President Obama’s recent White House speech about immigration with deep frustration and dismay. Instead of taking responsibility for the 2,000,000+ deportations that have occurred under his watch, President Obama continues to blame Congress and Republicans, commit more money to the border, and prioritizes deportation.

In his speech, Obama vowed to take Executive Action on immigration. There are different understandings of what Executive Action could mean. While we pray, organize, and demand Obama to use his considerable authority to put an immediate end to all deportations, regardless of legal or criminal status, his track record is chilling.

President Obama, fast-tracking the deportation of child refugees is not immigration reform in favor of immigrants. Sending billions to militarize the border is not immigration reform in favor immigrants. Deporting adults, with or without criminal convictions, is not immigration reform in favor of immigrants. This is a “reform” in favor of private prison companies, war profiteers, weapons manufacturers, and prevailing racism and xenophobia.

Our members have risked everything survive and provide for their families. “As long as there is hunger, crime, and poverty, people will still immigrate, even if they know they may die at the border. People will immigrate because either staying in their birth countries or crossing a border is a death sentence. People are willing to risk their lives to survive,” long-time member Gerardo Flores argued. Many of our members, like Antony who is in our Accompaniment Program, came to Philadelphia from Honduras because staying meant death.

If Obama wants to effectively address the immigration crisis, he must end the U.S.’ global militarization, mass incarceration policies, and devastating “free” trade policies like NAFTA and CAFTA that have ruined our members’ agricultural livelihoods. It’s these policies that have pushed our members out of their home countries, fleeing death threats, starvation, and poverty. Instead, he should listen to the real immigration experts – immigrants themselves – and divert the billions wasted on the border and on deportation into building sustainable and peaceful global communities.

If we were president, we would immediately end all deportations for everybody. We would immediately give citizenship to all that want and need it. We would immediately end all free trade agreements and all militarization of our own nation and others. We would create an easy and accessible way for future immigrants to receive legal status and visit their families. We would create programs of rehabilitation and reconciliation for people who have experienced and perpetrated violence, invest in schools, good jobs, and healthy communities.

Since this country was and continues to be built by immigrants, if we were president, immigrants themselves would create policies that are effective and inclusive. If we were president, we would work with immigrants and their allies to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice and a beloved, reconciled community. Under your leadership, President Obama, the arc of our nation bends only towards the destruction of lives and families.
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Escuchamos al discurso del Presidente Obama sobre inmigración con profubda frustración y consternación. En vez de tomar responsabilidad por las más de 2,000,000 de deportaciones que han ocurrido bajo su mandato, el presidente sigue echando la culpa a la Cámara de Representantes y a los Republicanos, poniendo más dinero en la frontera, y priorizando las deportaciones.

En su discurso, Obama dijo que tomara Accion Ejecutiva con inmigracion. Hay distintos conceptos que puede significar esta Accion Ejecutiva. Mientras rezamos, organizamos, y demandamos que Obama use su autoridad para ponerle fin a todas las deportaciónes, sin importar el status legal o criminal, su historial demostrado es espantoso.

Señor Presidente Obama, acelerando la deportacion de los niños refugiados no es una reforma migratoria en favor de los inmigrantes. Empleando billones de dólares para militarizar la frontera no es una reforma migratoria en favor de los inmigrantes. Deportando los adultos, sin o con convicciones criminales, no es una reforma migratoria en favor de los inmigrantes. Esta es una “reforma” en favor de las companias privadas, como las cárceles, las companias que ganan dinero de las guerras, los fabricantes de armas, y el racismo y xenofobia prevalente.

Nuestros miembros han arriesgado todo para poder sobrevivir y proveer para sus familias. “Mientras haya hambre, crimen, y pobreza, la gente inmigrara, aun si saben que quízas morirán en la frontera. Las personas inmigran porque quedarse en sus países natalas o cruzar la frontera es una pena de muerte. La gente arriesga sus vidas para poder sobrevivir,” dijo nuestro miembro Gerardo Flores. Muchos de nuestros miembros, como Antony que está en nuestro Programa de Acompañamiento, vino a Filadelfia de Honduras porque quedarse alla significaria su muerte.

Si Obama quiere abordar la crisis de la inmigracion, tiene que terminar la militarizacion global de los EEUU, las leyes de incarcelacion masiva, leyes horribles del “libre” comercio como NAFTA y CAFTA que han arruindo las practicas agricolas de nuestros miembros. Son estas políticas que han empujado nuestros miembros de sus países natales, huyendo de amenazas de muerte, el hambre, y la pobreza. Debe escuchar a los expertos reales de la inmigracion – los inmigrantes mismos – y desviar los billones gastados en la frontera y deportación en crear comunidades sostenibles y pacificas por todo el mundo.

Si fueramos presidente, pondriamos fin inmediatamente a las deportaciones para todos. Inmediatamente daríamos la ciudadanía a todos. Terminariamos inmediatamente los tratos de libre comercio y toda la militarización de nuestro país y otros. Creariamos una manera fácil y accesible para que los inmigrantes del futuro reciban un estatus legal y visiten a sus familias. Creariamos programas de rehabilitación y reconciliación por las personas que han experimentado y perpetuado violencia, invertiriamos en las escuelas, buenos trabajos, y comunidades saludables.

Porque este pais fue creado, y sigue siendo creado, por inmigrantes, si fueramos president los inmigrantes mismos crearian leyes que son efectivas e inclusivas. Si fueramos presidente, trabajaríamos con inmigrantes y sus aliados para doblar el arco del universo moral hacia la justicia y una comunidad bendecida y reconciliada. Debajo de su liderazgo, Presidente Obama, el arco vuestro solo se dobla hacia la destruccion de vidas y familias.

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Immigrant led Community Organizing

Our staff manages our campaigns and programs while our members join our working committees to inform our programming, choose our campaigns, and plan our strategies to win. Through conversation and listening, our members and the community on the ground are the ones directing the organization. When people reach out to NSM, they connect with someone who speaks their language, looks like them, and is committed to empowering immigrant communities because they understand their journey and struggle. At NSM, our communities see their peers guiding our mission, creating trust, and allowing members to recognize NSM as an immigrant-led organization.
NSM works to lift the skills of the affected community and dismantle systems of oppression while promoting systems of mutual support, collective liberation, and respect for all people, which is why we provide interpretation services, respect childcare needs, schedule our sessions during times that work best for members who work multiple jobs or cannot meet in person, and allow members to inform us about their individual needs before meetings.
The community leads our work at every level to eliminate unnecessary barriers and meet the varied needs of our members.

Leadership Development

Our Leadership Development Program is a step in recruiting and training new leaders and training. The program blends the skills and experiences members bring from their home countries with NSM’s signature faith-rooted and anti-racist organizing model.

We have curricula for each level of membership, which includes workshops on the history of detention, community organizing, nonviolent protest, campaign strategy, and ongoing anti-racism training. Our programming encourages immigrant leaders to find their voice, understand the power of collective resistance, and join a community of immigrant leaders fighting for transformational systemic changes rooted in social and economic justice.

Leading this initiative is Bertha Murcia, one of NSM's Community Organizers. She is an alumna of NSM’s Promotoras de Justicia immigrant leadership program and oversees member engagement.

Build Community Power

NSM’s organizing efforts emphasize community building, inviting people to new roles, deepening Black and Brown solidarity, long-term leadership development, and impactful campaigns.

We build a base of people from our 33 congregations and Accompaniment Team and direct that people-power to fight specific campaigns. Staff members work with immigrant members to choose our campaigns, guide our strategies, lead events, and ensure our work is focused on meeting the needs of Philadelphia’s various immigrant communities.

Having a hands-on role in changing policy allows our members to gain a sense of empowerment, confidence, and self-respect. Empowering immigrants of color to organize collectively is part of NSM’s long haul work to create a people-powered movement for immigrant justice.