In the last pan­el for the day before the clos­ing keynote, the pan­elist dis­cuss the efforts that have been made to make sure the voic­es of immi­grants are being heard and pol­i­cy gains are made. The pan­el was mod­er­at­ed by for­mer AZ state sen­a­tor Alfre­do Gutier­rez, who spoke as part of the open­ing keynote Thurs­day evening. He intro­duced each of the pan­elists and then delved into the topic.

“No one is going to give it to us because of a good heart. We have to make them give it to us”, said Tef­ere Gebre, Exec­u­tive Vice-Pres­i­dent of the AFL-CIO. He spoke on past march­es for immi­gra­tion rights and work being done in DC, try­ing to fig­ure out a way to pass com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform.

Marisa Fran­co, who was also part of the Thurs­day keynote, spoke on end­ing Oper­a­tion Stream­line. Oper­a­tion Stream­line, she explained, is when groups of peo­ple who are undoc­u­ment­ed are brought in, and as a group are pros­e­cut­ed and sen­tenced, with only one lawyer rep­re­sent­ing them, stat­ing quite clear­ly (and quite obvi­ous­ly) that it is a per­ver­sion of jus­tice. She also touched on the need for peo­ple who are about these issues, peo­ple who are allies, to take greater respon­si­bil­i­ty and action to move for greater jus­tice. “We don’t just need allies, we need cham­pi­ons”, she explained, peo­ple who are will­ing to be as brave as peo­ple who are undoc­u­ment­ed that face fear and arrest every day of their lives.

Arturo Car­mona, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of, which Sen­a­tor Gutier­rez described as sim­i­lar to “” and respon­si­ble for get­ting Lou Dobbs off the air, talked about the work they do fram­ing the debate and respond­ing to state­ments by can­di­dates like Don­ald Trump, respond­ing direct­ly to can­di­dates, which they did­n’t real­ly do in the 2008 elec­tion cycle. He called com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform a “vague promise”, not a spe­cif­ic pol­i­cy which will have real results in the lives of immigrants.

The con­ver­sa­tion moved into talk­ing about the dynam­ics between DC and orga­niz­ers on the ground. How some peo­ple are bet­ter at cer­tain things, whether pol­i­cy, leg­isla­tive work, or orga­niz­ing is impor­tant to the move­ment, but an idea Marisa Fran­co ham­mered on was that to many in DC the issues don’t mat­ter as much, aren’t as impor­tant, because they “don’t have skin in the game”, and thus has a myopic view on what’s need­ed for immi­gra­tion reform and oth­er issues. She also point­ed out the impor­tance of diver­si­fy­ing fund­ing so that the move­ment can keep mov­ing for­ward and build on their successes.

Eri­ka Andi­o­la, anoth­er par­tic­i­pant in the Thurs­day keynote, was the last pan­elist on the pan­el, and spoke on the begin­ning of efforts to push for the DREAM Act and focus­ing on it because a lot of young folks orga­niz­ing saw that com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform was­n’t going to be pos­si­ble, and how they were get­ting pushed to not talk about the DREAM Act by oth­er folks and orga­ni­za­tions. This seems have become a big­ger theme on the pan­el, that there’s a giant dis­con­nect between the peo­ple on the ground and the pol­i­cy wonks in the Capi­tol community.

In terms of mak­ing con­crete steps for­ward to strength­en the move­ment, the pan­elists went through many dif­fer­ent top­ics, from using data and data min­ing to help peo­ple who are undoc­u­ment­ed every step of the way, con­sol­i­dat­ing pro­gres­sives in the immi­grant rights move­ment to strength­en the sway they have in help­ing to set pol­i­cy, and chang­ing the con­ver­sa­tion to stop delin­eat­ing between “good” and “bad” immigrants.

We went into audi­ence ques­tions, where top­ics includ­ed dri­ving a wedge between cham­bers of com­merce and the right-wing, nativist can­di­dates they fund, why orga­niz­ers are focus­ing on the Pres­i­dent, and not Con­gress, and how immi­gra­tion issues from the 90s to today have been shuf­fled from the Depart­ment of Labor to the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, to the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty. All in all, it was a great panel.

We’ll be post­ing live cov­er­age of the clos­ing keynote soon, so stay tuned!

Adjacent posts