Letters to the Editor

Does Hillary Clinton Or Bernie Sanders Have A Better Immigration Policy For Arizona? (Letters To The Editor)

With Arizona's presidential primary only a few weeks away, many readers have written in to tell us why they support one candidate over another. Here are two local voices — one from a supporter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and one from a supporter of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders — explaining why they believe their respective candidate has the superior immigration policy, and is therefore the best candidate for Arizonans.

Why Hillary Clinton Has My Support:

For Latino youth in Arizona, particularly those of us living with undocumented parents, brothers, or sisters, we have grown up fearing law enforcement. We have been demonized by leading GOP presidential candidates. We are terrified of losing our homes and our families.

Over my lifetime, there has been an ebb and flow of anti-immigrant sentiment that has forced me to be vigilant, secretive, and prepared for anything; the price many of us pay is the loss of innocence at a young age.

I remember where I was when SB 1070, the epitome of xenophobia, was signed into law by recent Donald Trump supporter and former Governor Jan Brewer. I was at a baseball game, and when I heard the news, I was shocked yet unsurprised.

Weeks later, on a drive home, I learned how much fear a law could truly sow. A Sheriff’s deputy pulled my parents over because their headlights were off. As he approached the car, my parents told me not to say anything. I turned into a statue, cold and lifeless, knowing that my family risked being broken up. It simply depended on how the officer felt that day: Would he ask for their papers? If he did, they could be detained and eventually deported. What should have been a routine traffic stop was the scariest moment of my life. That is what it means for a family to live in the shadows.

Not many understand what our generation has faced and what perils lie ahead, but Hillary Clinton does, because she has taken the time to listen to us.
I am volunteering on her campaign because Hillary understands what it means to break down incredible barriers, and she stands with us. She worked on comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate, and when it mattered she voted for it. She was an advocate for the DREAM Act every time it was introduced in Congress. And for my mother and my 3-year old sister, she is a lifelong fighter for equal pay for women.

She continues to set the bar high for future leaders in public service: She went from children’s advocate to first lady to the first female Senator from New York to the 67th Secretary of State, and next January, she will become President of the United States.

Always a fighter, Hillary stands up to the biggest foes, whether it be the NRA and the gun lobby by forcefully supporting background checks, or Wall Street by supporting tougher regulation on the biggest financial institutions. And she has always called out the fear-mongering spewed from some leading Republican candidates.

She has also championed one of my core values on the campaign trail, a bedrock principle of the American Dream: When you work hard, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead.

As a first-generation college student applying to Harvard in the fall, Hillary serves as a role model to me in pursuing educational opportunities my parents never had. Her long list of historic “firsts” inspires me to reach higher. For many more, she inspires careers in public service. Her dedication to the people and her strength and intelligence to get the job done is a long-lasting legacy she will leave our country.

That is why Hillary Clinton has my support as the next President of the United States.

Henry Rosas is a student at North Pointe Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a Clinton supporter, interns with the public affairs group Javelina, and will serve on the City of Glendale's Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission.

Why Bernie Sanders Has My Support:

As accustomed as Latino communities have become to the political jostling between candidates for our vote, the recent attacks on the immigration record of Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders are false and divisive. More than that, those who are lobbing these misrepresentations are doing so at the behest of a political dynasty that in reality has been destructive to Latino immigrants and their families.

While it would be unfair to directly connect Secretary Hillary Clinton to her husband's deplorable record on immigration, it is fair to say she cannot link herself to her husband’s popularity and presidency while being free of criticism of his record on immigration and the border. This is especially true when Clinton, as first lady, worked against progressive immigration policies and in support of damaging ones.

We in Arizona have been on the front lines of the negative impact of President Bill Clinton’s legacy of anti-immigrant laws and policies. The irony of this outright (and insulting) misrepresentation of Senator Sanders' record to gain votes from the Latino communities for Secretary Clinton’s benefit is almost laughable. But, the thousands of senseless border deaths, the painful separation of families, massive immigrant detention and criminalization, and the racially based and inhumane local enforcement and abuse, are no laughing matter.

Those of us fighting for justice in Arizona have seen the devastating effects of these policies on our communities, along with emboldening anti-immigrant scapegoating, the destruction of unique environmental habitats along the border, as well as damage to indigenous peoples’ traditions, lands, and ceremonial sites.

With the false promise that NAFTA would reduce immigration from Mexico, the Clinton administration pushed forward with economic policies that proved disastrous for the millions of Mexican agricultural workers displaced as a result.  
Questions remain about what the Clinton administration knew ahead of time about the true effects on immigration from NAFTA, but no questions remain in hindsight. NAFTA created the largest wave of immigrants from Mexico, having had their subsistence and small business farming decimated.

In anticipation of this massive exodus of farming communities, the Clinton administration implemented the deadliest immigration policy in American history. Operation Gatekeeper dramatically increased border enforcement along the Texas and California borders, driving immigrants toward the dangerous Arizona desert. Sold as a deterrent to border crossings, these “border security” measures not only ignored the humanitarian crises in Mexico and Central America, but created the deadly policy of sealing off the traditional border crossing points and pushing people to dangerous terrain, resulting in more than 6,000 deaths and many more thousands missing.

President Clinton’s 1996 IIRIR law set the stage for the criminalization of immigrants, the indefinite detention of immigrants, the growth of private prisons, the concept of self-deportation, and the use of “secret evidence.” IIRIR also created the notorious section 287(g) that funds the racist local law enforcement and detention made popular among immigrant bashers by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and intellectual allies like Kris Kobach.

In a particularly hard blow to families trying to legalize, this act created the “three- and 10-year bars,” requiring families to remain apart for three or 10 years despite their eligibility to immigrate. No other law in recent history has limited and weakened the remedies available to avoid deportation.
To our knowledge, Secretary Clinton has never spoken out against these policies, other than a recent pledge to remove the three- and 10-year bars. That “allies in the struggle” support Secretary Clinton does not give them allowance to misrepresent the facts and history that others of us in the struggle have lived.

Senator Sanders, on the other hand, has an unequivocal history and record supporting progressive immigration policies and opposing harmful and exploitive proposals. His clear understanding of the power of the corporations and the 1 percent in this country has enabled him to develop the best platform for immigration reform.

As the son of an immigrant, Sanders understands firsthand that we have an obligation to enact policies that unite families and communities, not tear them apart.

As president, Sanders will fight for meaningful immigration reform that recognizes the immense contributions made by immigrants. His plan provides a pathway to citizenship, and is grounded in civil, human, and economic rights. It unapologetically puts families first, focuses on common-sense reforms to build the middle class, and embraces our nation’s diversity. And he pledges to make immigration a top priority of his administration, even if Congress refuses to act, by building on the executive actions taken by President Obama.

We will not be silent as a true friend and ally like Sanders is demonized unjustly for political reasons, while giving a pass to a candidate that until recently stopped referring to undocumented immigrants as "illegal." We will speak up and stand with Sanders because he stands up with us.

Isabel Garcia is an attorney and immigrant rights advocate. She is a co-founder of the Coalicion de Derechos Humanos in Tucson, Arizona, and is a longtime member of the Board of Directors of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, based in Oakland, California. 

Want more? Be sure to catch the next Democratic presidential debate this Sunday (March 6) hosted by CNN.

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