October 11, 2011
An Open Letter for Cecilia Munoz from the United We Dream Network
Dear Mrs. Cecilia Muñoz,
We find ourselves at a critical time. The absence of strong and clear policy directives continue to place our youth and families at risk of being deported. Every day, we witness the ramifications of poor leadership and idle promises; Washington, but more specifically, our President, has authorized programs that threaten peace and stability in our homes. Though examples abound, among the most destructive is the Secure Communities program, which deputizes local law enforcement agents to enforce federal immigration law. It is because of the urgency of our time that we write to you in the hopes that you will speak with us about an issue of utmost importance to our communities.
On June 17, 2011, John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), issued a memorandum to provide guidance on the exercise of prosecutorial discretion to ICE personnel. The Department of Homeland Security announcement made public on August 18, 2011, sought to clarify and reiterate the agency’s enforcement priority and communicated that a new system with “high” and “low” priority categories would be administered. At the time, immigrant rights organizations rejoiced seeing this as partial victory; unfortunately, the system presented did not provide for a clear mechanism to stop the deportation of DREAM Act eligible youth, as well as relief to those who are not yet in the system. The rules, procedures, and implementation remain unclear.
A system that continues to place DREAM-eligible youth in removal proceedings is not worthy of respect and patience. Even though the DHS announcement intended to placate our concerns, we have over 100 cases of DREAM-eligible youth who are fighting to remain in the United States. The case of one of our own board members, Matias Ramos, best exemplifies our grievances. Matias, both DREAM-eligible and a “low priority” case according to the Morton Memo and the DHS Announcement, was arrested in an airport after attending a national gathering for immigrant youth, and released by ICE in February of 2010. Four weeks ago, he was asked to purchase his own ticket and leave the country as soon as possible; as if the pain and fear were not enough, humiliation set in when he was asked to wear an ankle bracelet and to charge it against the wall for three hours every day. After strong advocacy and organizing efforts and the collection of 20,000 signatures, Matias has been granted a 6-month stay. We worry that these results will not be replicated across the nation, and that hundreds of DREAMers will continue to be deported by local ICE offices.
As a Hispanic leader and as the voice for our immigrant community in the White House, we ask you to support our efforts and to join us in publically asking President Obama to issue an executive order to protect DREAM Act eligible youth from deportation and provide them with the opportunity to apply for work authorization. We feel strongly that we need a clear mandate so that undocumented immigrant youth can be treated in a just and humane manner, and ICE officials be held accountable.
Three weeks ago, we sent a letter to the Administration asking for a response from President Obama after Matias received a notice to leave the country. As of today, we have received no response. We, the immigrant youth movement, find it disrespectful that your office does not recognize and address our grievance, and that we are not accorded the respect to receive a response. We have and will continue to be at the forefront of this battle to stop the deportation of every DREAM-eligible youth. We await your response, but will not do so idly; our youth and allies are starting to organize in states where Latino voters are waiting for President Obama to grant administrative relief to DREAMers and to hold him accountable to the promises he made to our communities long ago. We look forward to hearing from you soon; in the meantime, we will continue to organize.
The United We Dream Network