For each of the last four winters, hundreds undocumented youth have gathered to discuss immigration reform and strategize further progress in what is now called the United We Dream National Congress. This year’s conference, which will be held in Kansas City, Missouri, plans to host approximately six hundred people, according to an article published online in the New York Daily News. According to some of those who plan to attend, this year has a different feeling than that of previous years – on the heels of Obama’s election this November, a feeling of hope seems pervasive among undocumented youth and this winter’s conference.
Everyone who attends the conference is currently undocumented, and hopes to one day be granted citizenship. Despite this, they understand that a path to citizenship can be equally as important as citizenship itself in this country. They see Obama’s deportation reprieve and work permit program (also known as deferred action) as an important step in the right direction. Although not all of the conference participants were able to benefit from the program, many have received work permits and been granted temporary residency as a result of deferred action, an undeniable bettering of their circumstances. To the undocumented youth that plan to participate in this conference, Obama’s reelection is extremely encouraging. According to the article, to them, it means that “immigration reform is suddenly back on the table.” It means progress, and hope for the improvement of the state of their lives and hopefully the lives of their families as well.
The article omits any mention of Obama’s questionable record regarding immigration during his first term – despite the fact that in the past two elections he won an overwhelming majority of the Latino vote, it has been well publicized by his opponents that his administration’s deportation numbers were higher than those of many of the previous administrations. It seems that this fact doesn’t discourage the undocumented in the slightest. Instead, they feel that the fight for immigration reform has been rejuvenated and they feel more ready to fight than ever before. According to one attendee, “the landscape has totally changed.”
Many would argue that Obama’s reelection has given the undocumented and those that fight for immigration reform a false sense of hope. In terms of the popular vote, his win was hardly decisive – he has to prove to a large percentage of this country that he was the best choice over Republican candidate Romney. In addition, our country is facing many issues at this moment in history, and the importance of specific issues is entirely subjective for each person. It’s possible that Obama said certain things about his immigration policies during the election in order to ensure that the Latino vote would propel him in to the Oval Office for a second term.
However, some would argue that due to the fact that this will be his second term, it doesn’t matter if he wins the approval of the public – he doesn’t need to improve the economy or cut taxes to win a second term. He can more freely tackle the issues that truly concern him; he can use his executive power as he wishes as a politician and as a leader of our country. So this leads us to a question – is immigration reform at the top of Obama’s list, as the undocumented of the United We Dream National Congress believe? Or is it simply a formality for him, something he felt he had to address in order to maintain Latino support to ensure a second term? Only one thing is for certain – if Obama fails to improve the situation of the undocumented during his second term, he will disappoint a huge number of people in this country that had complete faith that he would achieve this.