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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Arizona Activist Won’t Give Up On Immigration Reform

Otoniel "Tony" Navarette, an immigration activist with Promise Arizona. (Jeremy Hobson/Here & Now)

Otoniel “Tony” Navarette, an immigration activist with Promise Arizona. (Jeremy Hobson/Here & Now)

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson visits 27-year-old Otoniel “Tony” Navarrete, who was born in poverty in Phoenix to a single mother who was an undocumented immigrant.

Navarrete credits local church social workers for inspiring him to attend college and become an advocate for the poor.

“In the country that I live in, that I was born in, I do not want to see two different classes of individuals.”

He now helps run Promise Arizona, one of Arizona’s most visible immigrant advocacy groups. Arizona is now enforcing its controversial “show me your papers” law, which allows police to inquire about citizenship when enforcing other laws.

Navarette says that while the push for immigration reform has cooled in Congress, “the energy is still there” in the movement for immigration reform.

“There has never been a time where it’s been more difficult — we do have debt ceiling that has to be addressed, we do have the government shutdown that needs to be addressed,” Navarrete said. “But at the end of the day we are going to stand in solidarity with our families.”

Navarette mentions that in 2012, three out of four immigrants voted for President Obama “because he ran on a platform of comprehensive immigration reform.”

He says that number should serve as a signal to Republicans stop “dragging their feet” on the issue.

Immigration reform advocates meet in Phoenix on Wednesday Oct. 9. (Jeremy Hobson/Here & Now)

Tony Navarrete and other immigrant advocates met yesterday to plan next steps in their push for a pathway to citizenship.(Jeremy Hobson/Here & Now)

A House bill on comprehensive immigration reform is languishing in Congress because the nation’s lawmakers are addressing the debt ceiling and government shutdown.

Navarette says the delay has had real effects on his family, and other families from mixed-status households — families in which some members are undocumented while others have legal status.

Navarette’s aunt, who has lived in the state for more than 10 years, is facing a deportation hearing, even though her daughters and husband have legal status.

“We need to begin to ask ourselves tough questions,” Naverette said. “And one of these tough questions is, are we going to acknowledge these 11 million families who are already here and think realistically about that issue? Or are we going to have two different classes of individuals. And in the country that I grew up in, and in the country that I live in, that I was born in, I do not want to see two different classes of individuals.”




It's HERE AND NOW. I'm Jeremy Hobson, broadcasting today from HERE AND NOW contributing station, KJZZ in Phoenix, Arizona.

And Arizona is a state with 1.9 million Hispanics as of 2010. That's a 46 percent increase from 2000. This is a border state. It is the state that produced SB 1070, perhaps the strictest anti-illegal immigration law in the country.

And just days ago, thousands of people rallied in downtown Phoenix to put pressure on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Some of the organizers of that rally gathered in a church near downtown Phoenix yesterday to take stock of their progress and brought next steps.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: ...that full thrust to be there at 9:30, and we didn't start the program until 10:00. So maybe, we need to be rah-rah-ing people, even if it's like - even if it's not the whole program of speakers. People were waiting for a long time before we started.

OTONIEL NAVARRETE: But - and I want to add the chant list.

HOBSON: One of the people here is 27-year-old Tony Navarrete. He works with a group called Promise Arizona.

NAVARRETE: So this amount - this is where a lot, you know, it's a little crazy in here because we just had our march and we had a couple of days off.

HOBSON: And I see on the board there flags, banner, bullhorns, these are all things you need for a march, obviously.

NAVARRETE: These are all things you need for a march, you know, the kind of last-minute things that we don't want to forget. You know, we had...

HOBSON: You would think that give the stalemate in Washington over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling, that Tony would feel discouraged about the prospect for immigration reform. But he doesn't.

NAVARRETE: The time is now. And I think that folks are feeling the pressure not only from the faith community, business community, local communities, but the time is now. They need to act now. But we are going to fight. We're going to fight all this year, all next year, as long as it take in order to get - to make sure that we don't have 1,100 families being separated every single day.

HOBSON: It does seemed, though, like the momentum is starting to fade.

NAVARRETE: And I would disagree with you on that, Jeremy. And the reason I said that is because, you know, we're coming off of the heels of a very successful August recess, you know, where we really did dominate a lot of the conversations. We - there's over 200 events going on across the country. And just recently, you know, you had over 180 events happened nationwide. So the energy is still there. Whether the House doesn't want to take this issue seriously, we are noticing that the Democrats have, you know, have come up with two comprehensive immigration reform bills, you know, over the last month.

HOBSON: But you need the Republicans, not the Democrats.

NAVARRETE: Absolutely, you need the Republicans. And I think the fact that you have the business community, folks who tend to, you know, be with the Republicans or, you know, sometimes with the Democrats, everyone is really behind immigration reform.

HOBSON: So how do you get pass that last hurdle then, and convince Republicans in the House to pass either the Senate bill or a bill of their own because, of course, right now, with the government shutdown and the debt ceiling fight looming, it does seemed like you've never - it's never been a higher hurdle to climb.

NAVARRETE: No. You're absolutely right. It's not a - there's never been a time where it's been more difficult than right now, what we're facing. You know, we do have a debt ceiling that needs to be address. We do have a government shutdown that needs to be address. But at the end of the day, we are going to stand in solidarity with our families.

And one thing I do want to mention is that, you know, in 2012, the immigrant community came out to vote almost 3-1 for President Obama. And that's because he ran on a platform of comprehensive immigration reform. And I think that sent a real strong message to the Republican Party to act. And the longer they take to really drag their feet, the longer Americans are going to be affected.

HOBSON: Well, talk about that because I think a lot of times on the - in the cities along the East Coast, you don't see what that means. What does it mean to you? What do you see on the ground in Arizona about immigrant families being affected by not having a reform?

NAVARRETE: Well, you have - and I could use my family, for example. I am in a very mixed status household. I am in a very mixed status family. I have an aunt who has a Dreamer daughter and a citizen child and a citizen husband. She was recently detained and was released but is awaiting a deportation hearing. That's what that means to our families.

HOBSON: How long has she been in this country?

NAVARRETE: She has been in this country for over 10 years for sure, so...

HOBSON: And now, she's facing deportation?

NAVARRETE: Now, she's facing deportation charges. That's correct. So these are the issues. You know, these are the issues that we're facing every single day, you know, whether there are children. There's 90,000 Dreamer students in this state alone. So imagine if we have immigration reform. You know, we're asking, you know, the president comes to the state and says, we need more engineers. We need more teachers. We need more A, B and C. Well, guess what, we have a lot of those, but they don't have the permits to work.

HOBSON: What are you going to do if immigration reform does not pass in this Congress and it gets pushed back beyond the 2014 elections?

NAVARRETE: You know, for us, that's - that cannot happen. And like I said, the reason that cannot happen is because once again we have 11 million families here in this country who are undocumented. And the majority of Americans, poll after poll, say that immigration reform needs to happen. The majority of Americans say a pathway to citizenship needs to be included. And the majority of economists and polls know that immigration reform is going to reduce our deficit, you know, help support 2.4 million seniors who are retiring over the next 36 years, and really, you know, provide an influx of billions of dollars all across the country to the local economies.

HOBSON: You've been involved now in a number of rallies for immigration reform. Do you think they're making any difference?

NAVARRETE: Well, rallies are - it's - that's not, you know, what we do. It's part of an escalation plan. So of course, you know, our families are meeting with legislators, our families are writing letters, our families are talking to voters, our families are doing community forums. But when none of that is getting through the thick skulls of our elected officials, then we'll do, you know, a rally to really give energy to our base to really show that this effort is more than just voter registration, this effort is more than just, you know, calling our legislators.

HOBSON: I'm sure it will not surprise you to know that there is probably somebody listening to this right now - probably more than a few people listening - thinking, wow, I really hope that guy does not get what he's after, because I don't think that there should be a pathway to citizenship.

NAVARRETE: Well, I would say that, you know, the reason I do this - and whether someone who is listening to me disagrees - is because I care about my country, I care about the direction that it's going in, and I care about - you know, me, you know, I'm 27 years old, and I want to make sure that there is work available, that folks have homes, that folks have health care, because that's the country we are. We are the richest country in the world. And the fact that we can't get our issues together, the fact that we're in this tremendous deficit, we need to begin to ask ourselves tough questions.

And one of those tough questions, really, is, you know, are we going to acknowledge these 11 million families who are already here and think realistically about that issue, or are we going to have two different classes of individuals? And the country that I grew up in, and the country that I live in and that I was born in, you know, I do not want to see two different classes of individuals. I want to see one class, and that's the American class.

HOBSON: Well, Toni Navarrete with Promise Arizona, thank you so much for speaking with us.

NAVARRETE: Thank you, Jeremy, very much. Appreciate the time.

HOBSON: And you're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • guest

    The problem you keep missing is that we have immigration laws, which the people you are support, broke. That’s an illegal act and therefore, they are criminals.
    I do not support your activities and I let my elected officials know. I am a Democrat.

    • Brian Williams

      People like Mr. Navarette are exactly why we dont need illegal alien amnesty. The majority of Americans do not see a benefit of legalizing 30 million Mexicans. Would Mexico like it if 30 million Americans demanded Mexican citizenship, and took jobs and welfare from Mexicans?

  • Alfred

    I just listened to this segment about immigration and all. This fellow mentions as “American class”.

    Please explain what that is Otoniel “Tony” Navarrete? Are you referring to all those who aren’t in the 1% who own nearly everything in America?

    An “American Class” is probably made up of the dwindling middle class and the poor.
    In time this “American Class” will soon be the “slave class” who will serve the needs of those 1 percentters. What are you going to do about those in the 1% bracklet.
    Bow to them daily and pay them your taxes so they can find new ways to curtain your freedoms.

    We have immigration laws on the books, but why aren’t they enforced.

    Reminds me of what Cornelius Tacitus stated over 2,000 years ago.

    The more corrupt the state, the more numerous its laws.

  • Skip Conrad

    three out of four immigrants voted for President Obama “because he ran on a platform of comprehensive immigration reform.”

    Only American citizen are supposed to vote.

  • Give_Me_Liberty_92

    Mr. Navarrete talks like that child who wanted his cake and eat it is too. He must be thinking that illegal immigrants are more equal than everybody else, deserving some kind of special treatment.

    He is first of all confused as to the actual structure of the American people.
    There are already multiple classes of “americans” in sensu lato. There are citizens, permanent resident aliens, non-resident aliens and those that don’t fall in any of those categories,… illegal aliens (or whatever euphemism you want to use). Only the first two are classified as “US persons=Americans”, after long case law and much litigation. Those are “the people” the Bill of Rights speak of. It is so because they have formed a special and long lasting bond with the political community, walked within the boundaries of the law, contributed to the common welfare, taxes included, and respected the institutions of our government.

    Now Mr. Navarrete wants illegal aliens to belong to the “american class”, as he puts it. He wants the benefits without the responsibilities…when it is very much an American thing -or at least, sic, it used to be…- that of accepting the consequences of one’s actions.

    Those adult aliens who decided of breaking several federal statutes, sometime entering illegally, sometime overstaying their visas, and lived here undocumented, sometime with false/stolen documents, most not contributing to the common welfare -social security aside, and only sometimes- and income tax system, find themselves in a sort of legal limbo.

    But who’s fault is that? Should we feel sorry and grant special status?

    That now something is owed to them damn -…forget the citizens for a moment- the other millions of aliens who have been here sometime even longer than Mr. Navarrete aunt, and who followed the uncountable immigration rules of our federal government flies in the face of fairness and the rule of law, two objectives each person desiring to become a citizen should cherish, one would hope.

  • Dave Mount

    I recognize Mr. Navarette’s enthusiasm for immigration reform, but I am not supportive of a goal of a pathway to citizenship when undocumented persons have failed to follow the established rules in place when they came to the US. Regardless of the contributions of undocumented individuals to this society and their motivations reflected in their financial support of family members not yet within our borders, these people have broken the law and should expect to be treated as what they are.

    I am a progressive Democrat and support the usual left-wing philosophies, but after grad school in Canada, I moved back to the US (to Texas) with my partner. We FOLLOWED the law despite tremendous economic and personal hardship and made countless 724-mile roundtrip drives by car, to respond to INS demands to appear, sometimes for nothing more than a 15-minute session of paper-pushing. Because of understaffing and inadequate facilities, there were times that we made the trip, stood in line OVERNIGHT OUTSIDE, only to be turned away because the staff had reached its daily quota. Some of those visits were in ice/snow storms while my partner was pregnant and never was there shelter or bathrooms.

    I DO empathize with those immigrants’ efforts and sufferings to go through the PROPER AND LEGAL mechanisms to be rewarded with legality and an opportunity to become citizens. How does one explain to a PhD, dean of a university college of agriculture in Alabama, that his 21-year effort to be granted his citizenship by following legal requirements after his immigration from Africa was viewed as unnecessary by the 11 million illegal immigrants in the US??? I know this man and I don’t want to have to do that.

    Yes, some undocumented persons have endured trips across the desert and risked their lives at the hands of “coyotes” but this is unnecessary. If they knew, with reasonable certainty, that they would be sent home, they wouldn’t be suffering those tragedies in the first place.

    So, my feeling, Mr. Navarette, is that those who are here illegally, if they want to stay, should expect to start over and follow the rules, not try to change them once they’ve broken the laws to get here.

  • hacimo

    There have always been two class of individuals in the united states. People who are citizens or legal residents and people who busted in the door and took the opportunity to work illegally and steal american jobs. The second type cannot be allowed ANY privileges or forgiven for their sins. It simply invites more lawless behavior as we well know from past experience. The illegal parasites must be rounded up and expelled. It can be easily done. We are already deporting 500 thousand a year. Obama brags about it. If we seal the border this means they would all be taken care of inside of 22 years. However we could easily double the budget and get the job done in 10 years if we wanted. The main thing is to get on with it and quit avoiding what needs to be done.

    • James88

      Double the budget? Don’t make me laugh. We can’t even pass a budget. You’re still full of wishful thinking. All you want is a DMZ on OUR border states (Texas Resident here), which we simply don’t need.

      • hacimo

        We can easily double the budget by passing a special income tax on immigrants. The republicans would e all in favor.

        • James88

          Legal or illegal immigrants? For the sake of it, lets say you meant legal immigrants. So these people that you guys use to push your agenda are now your scapegoats? If it is illegal immigrants, you mean to now tell me that these people DO pay taxes after all?

          • hacimo

            Obviously I am taking about a tax on the earning of legal immigrants since the illegal ones don’t have taxes withheld and don’t file returns. Unlike a stupid liberal I would never refer to an the illegals by simply using the term “immigrant”. This is like lumping burglars and invited guests into the same category and calling them all “visitors”. As your confusion indicate all you have succeeded in doing, with your little attempts at Orwellian doublespeak, is to make communication of policy ideas next to impossible. Furthermore republicans have no problem with legal immigration or immigrants and I have yet to hear a single republican demand the deportation of legal immigrants or even significant reductions in legal immigration. As for placing a tax on legal immigrants, someone needs to pay for the system of enforcing immigration law. I do not see how having them pay a tax for the privilege of living and working in the united states is is making them into a scapegoat. They are taking advantage of a society and of institutions and of an economy that the rest of us have spent a a lot of time and effort to build. Furthermore, legal immigration causes many undoubted costs such as the cost of welfare and health insurance for low income immigrants. There is also the cost of enforcing the law, and doing background checks and processing application for citizenship and of preventing illegal immigrants form destroying the economy. People want to immigrate and do so voluntarily. We have too many applicants and the benefit of immigration go mainly to the immigrants themselves, so why not charge them for the privilege of living and working in our country?

          • James88

            The first par of your enormous paragraph without breaks is confusing criminal law with civil law. As in burglars = immigrants, which is completely ignorant. Second, using insults to press your point further proves that your argument holds absolutely no validity. Lastly, your final statement about legal immigrants costing “undoubted” cost is false. If anything legal immigrants pay more taxes if they uses any social programs within the first 10 years or until they become U.S. Citizens. To add to insult to your injury and the fact that you know NOTHING about immigration procedures, do you wonder why USCIS, ICE and CBP are still operating during a government shutdown? Because they are the only Federal departments who’s 95% of their budget comes from legal and illegal immigrants trying to come into the country. You’re just as bad as governments passed with your nickel and dime taxing system. Isn’t that what republicans are tired about?

          • hacimo

            Take your legalistic mumbo jumbo and shove it up your A-hole. I know when the invading parasites are and I know what they do and so do the vast majority of american citizens.

          • James88

            No you don’t, you like to think you. “Legal mumbo-jumbo”, isn’t that what you want? Legality? I guess I should that when a dog goes belly up he is defeated huh?

  • hacimo

    troll time.

  • Mayer Rothschild

    Go to hell, La Raza.

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