Undocumented immigrants call for White House boycott
By: Carrie Budoff Brown
July 28, 2014 02:17 PM EDT
Undocumented immigrants demanded Monday that national advocacy groups boycott meetings with President Barack Obama until they are included in talks on how he will use his administrative powers to fix the immigration system.
The immigrants made surprise visits to the Center for American Progress, National Immigration Forum and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights before rallying in front of the White House. The visits were shown in real time on a video livestream, creating some awkward moments.
The campaign, organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, underscores a split in the advocacy community on its dealings with the White House. There are concerns that Obama wants to lower expectations for what he can do with his executive authority, and that the advocacy groups will fall in line.
“We have one shot to convince him to do the right thing,” reads the letter delivered to the offices. “And we must unite to defend the decision if and when he does. It is clear that the people best qualified to make the case to the President are those immigrants who are harmed by status quo and who stand to be benefited by administrative relief.”
White House spokesman Shawn Turner did not respond to the demand, but he said in an emailed statement that Obama and his senior staff “meet regularly with immigration advocates and supporters to discuss the immigration issue.”
“The president and vice president met Friday with the leaders of the three Central American countries from which most of the migrant children are coming, and he continues to encourage Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill,” Turner said.
The most recent meeting with advocates immediately preceded Obama’s announcement June 30 that he would abandon a legislative strategy for an administrative one. Although he pledged to do as much as he can on his own to aid undocumented immigrants, Obama also asked the advocates to “right-sizeexpectations” about what was possible — a comment that the immigrants invoked during their visits Monday.
Some advocates have complained that the invite lists have grown shorter and friendlier to the White House’s point of view.
“No more meetings about us, without us,” the protesters chanted at the rally near Lafayette Park.
Representatives of the Center for American Progress and the National Immigration Forum were sympathetic to the demand but did not commit to boycotting meetings with Obama.
“Like our work around (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and other immigration policy issues, we strongly encourage the President (and other electeds) to meet with members of the impacted community,” Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said in an email.
Noorani was at the dentist when the eight undocumented immigrants showed up at his office, so a deputy director met with them.
“Oh, there’s a livestream?” the deputy director said when he was informed of it near the end of the meeting.
The immigrants then moved on to the Center for American Progress, where they asked to see to Marshall Fitz, the director of immigration policy. An employee said Fitz was not in the office.
“I can actually see him through the window,” one immigrant said.
“Oh, I thought he was out,” the employee responded as Fitz came out of his office.
Fitz spoke with the immigrants for about 10 minutes, saying he would advocate for them but couldn’t commit as an institution to refusing meetings with Obama.
“You are the big guys in the city,” an immigrant said.
“I don’t feel like the big guy in the city,” Fitz responded.
Fitz met last week with White House counsel Neil Eggleston and chief domestic policy adviser Cecilia Munoz as part of a series of listening sessions organized by the White House.
“I feel good that we are at a pretty big moment, pretty soon,” he told the group.