For the last week, undocumented activists have been staging occupations at Obama campaign offices in Colorado, Michigan and California, refusing to leave until the administration ceased its deportation of students.
This pressure -- and the threat of the occupations spreading to other states -- has played a huge role in forcing the administration's hand, and is likely responsible for the timing of Obama's executive order to halt deportations of Dream-eligible youth.
This is what the scene looked like just yesterday at Obama's Headquarters in Oakland, California:
A group of undocumented immigrants has occupied President Barack Obama's campaign office in downtown Oakland, refusing to leave until his administration stops deporting students.There is no question that today's executive order was partially motivated by electoral politics (which alone is an incredible testament to progress on the issue). However, it would be a mistake to underestimate the role this week's occupations have played in forcing Obama's decision.
"We're going to stay here as long as we can," said Luis Serrano, 24, speaking by cell phone Thursday evening from inside the Telegraph Avenue storefront where he and other students were staging a sit-in.
Serrano, three other illegal immigrant students and a supporter walked into the Obama for America office on Thursday afternoon pretending to be campaign volunteers.
Soon after arriving, however, the students plopped down, put graduation caps on their heads and informed local campaign workers they would not leave until Obama changed his deportation policy.
The Obama campaign has not yet sought to kick them out, and instead hired a local security firm to keep watch over the students and the office overnight. Security guards could be seen in a heated discussion with the protesters inside the building on Thursday evening.
On the front door of the office the protesters put up a sign: "Closed due to deportations."
Angus Johnston agrees:
For the last week, DREAM-eligible young people have been staging occupations at Obama campaign offices, first in Colorado and then in Michigan and California. Because the demonstrators were themselves undocumented immigrants, an administration decision to remove and arrest them would have subjected them to possible deportation, making the decision of how to handle the protests a delicate one. With today’s announcement, that decision goes away, as does the possibility that the occupations could spread to more politically problematic states — Florida, say, or Arizona, or the campaign’s national headquarters in Illinois.So too does Glenn Greenwald, who also partially attributes today's executive order to criticism and "confrontational tactics" used within the Latino community:
This illustrates the proper relationship between citizens and public servants. Uncritical adoration and unconditional loyalty breed an arrogant, insular, unaccountable political class; as David Sirota argued when Obama “evolved” on marriage, those who reflexively defend Obama in the name of Election-Year political loyalty (or who demand that criticisms be stifled until the election) are the prime impediments to progress.Obama -- as with any politician -- should be praised when something praisworthy is accomplished, and I loudly congratulate President Obama on today's executive order.
However, it's critical to note that today's praising of Obama is due, in large part, to the occupations and direct activism of DREAM-eligible youth, who refused to remain quiet.
Occupations work. Direct protesting works. Popular resistance has power.
Let us never forget that.
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