LOS ANGELES – Immigrants rights activists in Los Angeles expressed disappointment with the brief mention of immigration reform in President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address.
About 100 members of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, or CHIRLA, met Wednesday night at the organization’s headquarters to watch the speech on a big-screen television.
“And we should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system – to secure our borders and enforce our laws, and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation,” Obama told a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
After the president’s address, CHIRLA organizers Maria Rodriguez and Antonio Bernabe moderated a discussion.
“I didn’t like Obama’s speech because I recall that during his campaign he said that he would promise us that within a year he would resolve our immigration situation,” Andrea Guadarrama told Efe. “But like the politician he is, today he just surrounded the people with words without committing to anything.”
The Mexican immigrant asked that Obama put himself in her shoes to understand what she’s feeling after 25 years in the United States and being unable to obtain legal residence.
Ana Rivas, a member of Wise Up, a CHIRLA-affiliated student group pushing for immigration reform, said that Obama in his speech “is not proposing real solutions to the desperate situation of immigrants.”
With a breaking voice and tears in her eyes, she added: “I’m sick and tired of hearing him talk about dreams and hope, but he doesn’t give concrete solutions to the situation we’re living in.”
Meanwhile, Jorge Mario Cabrera, CHIRLA’s communications director, emphasized that “the president spoke about the most important thing that’s in the minds of all Americans, which is the economic recovery.”
Cabrera said that “the battle for immigration reform really began with this speech,” and from here on forward what must be demanded from the president and the members of Congress is “that they translate those words into action.”
Angelica Salas, the executive director of CHIRLA, said that the brief mention of immigration reform in the State of the Union was the result of pressure by organizations lobbying for the legalization of undocumented workers.
“Now what we’re waiting for is for him, as the leader, and as our representative, to say: I want this situation of undocumented workers to come to an end during my administration,” said Salas.
Defending the president, Gabriela Menjivar, 18, said that “everyone’s demanding something from Obama, but what we have to do is trust him and have patience.”
“Everything has to be done step by step: the first step is that the economy has to be gotten in order, then health reform, and after that immigration reform. If we voted for Obama we have to have faith that he’s going to do everything he promised,” she said. EFE