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deepak bhargava

Immigration Reform is an Urgent Priority


Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of FIRM’s parent organization, the Center for Community Change, has a blog post up at the Hill Blog about why immigration reform is not only a priority, but an urgent one.

Our immigration system is broken.  We all know it.  And it’s time to do something about it.  Why now?

  • Fixing our immigration system is critical component of fixing our economy.   Just and humane immigration reform will protect all low-wage workers, punish unscrupulous employers who undercut their honest competitors, create a level playing field for workers and employers, and increase tax revenues for cities, states, and the federal government.  The President gets that putting America on the path to brighter economic future is not merely about fixing banks – it’s about better education, fixing our health care system, achieving a sustainable energy future and reforming our immigration system
  • The election created enormous political momentum towards immigration reform.     The 2008 election was a game-changer, and it’s now clear that the Democrats need to deliver on immigration reform and Republicans need to change course.   Pro-Reform candidates beat hard-liners in 19 of 21 battleground House and Senate races.  The lesson of the 2008 election when it comes to immigration reform is that immigrant voters want respect and swing voters want solutions.
  • Immigrant workers and families are under siege.  Many are being exploited. Families are being divided. Hate crimes are on the rise. Raids in workplaces and neighborhoods are terrorizing immigrant workers and families. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants are being detained; scores have died in detention. Hundreds die each year crossing the desert in hopes of a better life for their families. As human beings and as Americans, we find this kind of treatment of hard-working people who come to pursue the American Dream unacceptable.

This is a challenge to who we are as a nation, who we are as human beings, and whether we are going to stand up for American ideals and reject those who appeal to our worst instincts. Let’s do the right thing and fight for fair treatment and practical solutions that benefit us all.

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Cocktails and Criticism – Deepak Bhargava Reacts to the Washington state Raid

Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change, FIRM’s parent organization, has taken to the Center’s blog today, to discuss the ICE raid in Bellingham, Washington.

Last week, I had the honor of representing CCC at a cocktail party for progressive leaders at the White House with the President and First Lady. Honestly, I was pretty excited. I even bought a new tie. I had a chance to talk to the President about immigration reform, and got very encouraging responses about changing the way immigration enforcement happens and about prospects for immigration reform this year.

I was then taken aback when I learned this week about an immigration raid in Bellingham, WA that resulted in 25 immigrants being shackled and detained. The call from Marissa Graciosa, who leads our immigration work at CCC, came in close to 10 pm, just as the President was wrapping up his brilliant address to the Congress and the country. Working with our allies at One America in Washington state who are fiercely leading the response on the ground, grassroots groups around the country that are part of the FIRM network, the National Immigration Forum, America’s Voice, the National Council of La Raza and many others we sprung into action.

We called everyone we know at the White House and asked what the hell was going on and pressed specifically for a public response within 24 hours clarifying that the Administration does in fact intend to shift its approach on enforcement. We reached out to the press and the Hill which also began to ask hard questions. Hundreds of calls went into the White House. We criticized the Administration publicly, for the first time, literally a week after the cocktail party!

The result? DHS announced an investigation of the Bellingham raid within 24 hours –and Secretary Napolitano told Congress she didn’t know the raid was happening and that the Administration was looking to take enforcement in a different direction –away from workplace raids to focusing on unscrupulous employers. Now, that is change we can believe in.

What lessons might we draw from this whole experience? First, we are not agents of the Obama Administration – or any other politician. Our highest commitment as progressives is to the most vulnerable people in our society, and being progressive means nothing at all if it doesn’t mean standing up for and with them. Second, we shouldn’t expect to get change that we don’t help to make happen. To paraphrase Frederick Douglas, there is not progress without agitation. Third, if we take the view that the Administration is potentially an ally – rather than reflexively assuming bad intent — and we are clear and specific about what we want to see happen, we can in fact make real progress by working together. I am heartened by what this Administration has gotten done for low-income people in an incredibly short period of time through the recovery bill and SCHIP legislation – and the speed of their response to our concerns about this tragic raid further confirms their sincere commitment to change.

I am also heartened that the President is leading a national conversation on shared responsibility and shared sacrifice – two critical elements of the community values that are at the center of all the work to which we community organizers are passionately committed.

So, maybe cocktails and criticism – in the context of a respectful and real relationship that grows and develops over time — can go together and deliver results.

Deepak Bhargava is Executive Director of the Center for Community Change

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Change Comes to Washington: Interpreting the First 97 Days

Deepak Bhargava, the Executive Director of FIRM’s parent organization, the Center for Community Change, has penned his reflections on the first 97 days since Barack Obama was elected.

These brief reflections are based on the experiences we at the Center for Community Change and the Campaign for Community Change have had engaging the new Administration, advocating with Congress, and developing and advancing policy in concert with national and grassroots allies on the set of issues we work on. (For more on this, check out this recent post).

He notes that there are five main lessons he has taken away from these first 97 days. Number 4 on the list?

4.  Immigration remains a flashpoint in the national debate—on issues that have nothing to do with immigration, from tax policy to infrastructure spending to access to health care for children in poor families. The importance of getting immigration reform done—not just for its intrinsic value, but because of its significance to the larger social justice agenda—is becoming more and more clear.


Nothing could be more on target than this analysis of the current immigration debate. We have seen anti-immigrant proponents try to inject their agendas into everything from healthcare to poor children to the stimulus bill – and that’s only in the first 3 weeks of the new Congress!

Not only do we need Comprehensive Reform for the sake of the immigrants caught up in the broken system, but we need reform for the larger agenda of social justice. Until immigration policy undergoes a complete overhaul, we will see the anti’s continue to use it as a wedge issue, giving them the opportunity to delay and even block laws that will benefit the nation’s most vulnerable populations.

Immigration will be one of the critical tests for the Obama Administration: will we see an end to the raids that have devastated families and a push for comprehensive legislation this year? Early signs are positive, but inconclusive. Given the “canary in the coal mine” quality of the immigrant community in America today, an embrace of this constituency by the larger progressive community will be a key moral benchmark.

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