Go Big: An open letter to President Obama

Dear President Barack Obama,

You have one final opportunity to significantly improve the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants living inside the United States, who contribute positively to the social tapestry and recovering economy of our country. These people long for the respect and acceptance from the country they call home. They consider themselves American in every way except for lawful immigration status – and by all such accounts they are “Americans.” They are our domestic workers and our restaurant staff. They are our nurses and our business owners. Together, each year, these immigrants pay over ten billion dollars in combined taxes to the country they love dearly.

The unfortunate truth is that you and your administration have failed these deserving immigrants for the past six years. You have promised immigration reform while squandering your political capital over these years. Too many times you have had the opportunity to “Go Big” and take decisive executive action to help these people and their families. But you have not. Now, after a devastating defeat for Democrats during the mid-term elections this month, the finish line for comprehensive immigration reform is fading from view.

However, still, after all of your unsuccessful attempts to bring meaningful immigration reform to the undocumented and your most recent neglect on this issue, there remains an opportunity for you to pivot back and deliver on your promises. Over half of the U.S. citizenry believes immigration reform must be accomplished to improve our country and allow it to move forward economically and socially. Now, what will you do?

Ignore those who claim further executive action is unlawful or unprecedented. The U.S. Constitution grants you broad power concerning how federal laws shall be enforced. Both Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush wielded their executive power to grant amnesty, protection from deportation, and other benefits to millions of undocumented persons during their administrations.

If we are jaded, we are witnessing a weary politician drone on about immigration relief that will never come. Or, if we were ever inspired by you as the statesman who would deliver on your promise, will you inspire us again? If we ever believed in you, may we still believe?

Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was broad and impactful executive action taken by your administration during the summer of 2012. Hundreds of thousands of deserving undocumented persons have benefitted from this relief. Indeed, more of our own undocumented ‘kababayans’ should trust in DACA and seek this valuable immigration solution to protect them from deportation and grant them work authorization.

The author

The author

But DACA, as it stands today, is not enough. Instead, by eliminating certain age and family restrictions from the DACA program you would promote family unity and further embolden millions more of these deserving “Americans” living here who seek only respect and acceptance from the United States.

An even more robust package of executive action benefitting immigrants should include Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the entire Philippines. TPS would deliver tremendous humanitarian relief to hundreds of thousands of our ‘kababayans’ here inside the United States and provide one billion dollars of financial support annually to those Filipinos still suffering back home, due to Typhoons Rammasun, Haiyan and Bopha, as well as the Bohol earthquakes.

At the beginning of this – your final – term in office, you declared comprehensive immigration reform as a top priority in your domestic agenda. At that time, we believed you would deliver on your word. We continue to believe now.

For us, your legacy as President will rise or fall based upon this country’s immigration crisis. What will you do? We ask that you “Go Big.” We have waited too long. But do not doubt us. We are still here and we are with you.

Respectfully Yours,
Rio Guerrero, U.S. Citizen Supporting All Americans

Attorney Rio Guerrero is a second-generation Filipino American. He is a partner with the New York-based immigration law firm of Guerrero Yee LLP. Atty. Guerrero is also an Adjunct Immigration Law Professor at the CUNY School of Professional Studies in Manhattan. He is the recipient of a coveted NAPABA “Best Lawyers” National Award in recognition of his success over the past 16 years, representing clients in all fifty United States and throughout the world with their U.S. immigration matters. You may contact him at rio@guerreroyee.com or (646)545-5000.

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