Photo by J. Valas

As an ally, I am constantly reminded and try to be conscious of the privileges that being a citizen of this country affords me. One such privilege is my ability to vote. I was raised as a liberal Democrat in a household where I was expected to be engaged in the political process. However, I was never really motivated or inspired by a politician until I saw Barack Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. As soon as his name came out as a possibility for the 2008 election, I jumped aboard the Obama train. I donated, organized at my college and in the community, registered voters and rocked a super cute Obama t-shirt. I cried election night and inauguration day, proud of our country for the direction it was taking and hopeful of the changes that I believed would happen.

Now two and a half years and counting after the victory, I am not just dissatisfied but utterly disappointed. I’m not one of those people who believed that Obama was going to be some miracle worker who could fix the entire country in one fell swoop. However, what has Obama done to help the immigrant population? Saying he supports the DREAM Act in a few speeches for vote pandering purposes is not sufficient.  When the DREAM Act was up for a vote this past year, it wasn’t Republicans that killed it but North Carolina’s own Democratic Senator Kay Hagan who cast that deciding vote. And now with the immigrant community living in more fear than ever with the onslaught of programs like Secure Communities and 287(g), deportations are on the rise. Obama and his party claim to only target criminals yet  Erick Velazquillo and countless others just like him are in deportation proceedings without the slightest criminal record. Obama and his party continue to view themselves as our allies when they have done nothing to deserve that title.

So, I’m sure you can imagine my anger and frustration when the NC DREAM Team received an email earlier this week from an Organizing for America volunteer asking us to help reelect the President. It is no secret that the Democrats are using the immigration debate to boost Latino votes this election season, and hoping that people like us will jump on the bandwagon. Even though Democrats have failed us time and time again, they still expect us to go door knocking for them using the same empty promises as before and the assumption that “hey, at least we’re better than the Republicans.” But until Democrats can prove that they are indeed our allies, they are no better than the Republicans. At least some of the Republicans are honest with us and wear their anti-immigrant sentiment on their sleeves.

This movement isn’t about political parties or electoral politics. It is about the empowerment of those most directly affected to be active and demand the change that they deserve. It is about people like Erick stepping up and fighting for his livelihood. It is about allies like myself learning to check their privilege and stand shoulder to shoulder with our undocumented brothers and sisters rather than just voting and crossing our fingers that whoever wins will do what’s right. That is the kind of hope I’m hanging on to these days.

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