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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.”

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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