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Immigrant Rights Activists Vow to Continue Fighting Deportations as Obama Prepares Executive Order

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As President Obama vows to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, we speak to two people who could be directly impacted by an executive order. Rosi Carrasco and her daughter, Ireri Unzueta Carrasco, are both members of Organized Communities Against Deportations. We first interviewed Rosi when she was about to get arrested during a protest at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 calling for Obama to stop deportations. She was born in Mexico and has lived in the United States for 20 years. Ireri was a DREAM Act activist and recipient of the Deferred Action program.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined from Chicago by two guests who could be directly impacted by President Obama’s executive order on immigration: Rosi Carrasco and her daughter, Ireri Unzueta Carrasco. Rosi Carrasco is a member of Organized Communities Against Deportations. We first interviewed her when she was about to get arrested during a protest at the Democratic National Convention in 2012 calling for President Obama to stop deportations.

ACTIVISTS: No papers, no fear! No papers, no fear!

ROSI CARRASCO: Good afternoon. We are here to ask President Obama what his legacy will be. Will he be the president that has deported the most people in U.S. history? Or will he recognize our dignity and our right to organize? For that, we are risking arrest.

ACTIVISTS: Follow us!

AMY GOODMAN: That was Rosi Carrasco in 2012. At that point, she had lived in the United States for 18 years. Now it’s been 20 years. She’s originally from Mexico and came out as undocumented after her daughters did so first. She is one of the parents of the so-called DREAMers who could potentially benefit from Obama’s executive order.

And Ireri Unzueta Carrasco is with us, undocumented immigrant, recipient of the Deferred Action program, also member of Organized Communities Against Deportations and Undocumented Illinois, the daughter of Rosi.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Rosi, can you respond to this latest news of the possible issuing of an executive order by President Obama?

ROSI CARRASCO: Yeah. Thank you for having us. And, you know, this is something that we have been fighting for, we have been organizing for. I think that it’s the step in the right direction. President Obama will do what he needed to do for a long time. And I know that he can defer it—he can grant Deferred Action. He can stop Secure Communities. And hopefully he will expand Deferred Action and to cover as many people as he can. So I think we are happy to get to this moment, and we will continue fighting to stop deportations of everyone, not us, not only the parents of citizens and the parents of DACA recipients.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I’d like to ask Ireri Unzueta Carrasco, what has this meant to you, the first order of the president, the DACA order that was issued a couple of years ago? What’s been the impact on you and other young people like yourself that are in a similar situation?

IRERI UNZUETA CARRASCO: Hi, good morning. So, very honestly, I think it’s been a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, I have had access to jobs and opportunities that I didn’t have before. Right now I have a job that I love, working with young people here in Chicago. And I remember going to one of my first days, when I was signing my contract, and I had to bring in my work permit, right, my little piece of plastic that I didn’t have for over 18 years. And so, at the same time, I’ve been able to see a lot of people who haven’t had access to that, who are still seeing doors being closed to them about these opportunities that I believe everyone should have, right, the right to be able to work according to your abilities and to be able to have better opportunities. And so, for me, it’s been a bittersweet experience. I am happy that other people will have these opportunities now, but I also know that we’re going to have to keep fighting to make sure that everyone has access to well and dignified jobs.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And your concern over the last year, as President Obama first promised to take action, then held back, then promised again, then held back, and now has promised this week, finally, the third time he’s promised to take action? Your concern over this back-and-forth from the White House?

IRERI UNZUETA CARRASCO: Yes, honestly, for me, every time that President Obama does this, it’s a little bit sad, right? We’re here in Chicago, where he was our senator, and then he became our president. And just to see that while, you know, Congress was debating and while President Obama was delaying action that he could have taken, we lost a lot of community members to deportation, right? Some are back in the countries that they came from. Some are figuring out what to do while they’re in detention. And so, honestly, like, this action cannot come soon enough.

AMY GOODMAN: Republicans in Congress have vowed to fight President Obama’s plan to change immigration laws through executive action. This is House Speaker John Boehner.

SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: You know, the president is threatening to take unilateral action on immigration, even though in the past he’s made clear he didn’t believe he had the constitutional responsibility or authority to do that. And I’ll just say this. We’re going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path. This is the wrong way to govern. This is exactly what the American people said on Election Day they didn’t want. And so, all the options are on the table. We’re having discussions with our members, and there are no decisions been made as to how we will fight this if he proceeds.

AMY GOODMAN: Rosi Carrasco, I’d like to get your response. And, you know, I’m going back to 2012 in Charlotte in front of the Democratic convention, that first day in the pouring rain, when you got arrested, as did your husband, Martin Unzueta—and I remember, just before he got arrested, he said, “I’m undocumented. I’m living here for 18 years. I pay taxes. I’m paying more taxes than Citibank”—as well as your other daughter. Can you talk about what Boehner says and where you see this country headed?

ROSI CARRASCO: You know, I think that it’s time to stop listening to the Republicans’ threats. Undocumented immigrants has been having the courage to fight for their rights, and I think for the Democrats to start doing the same. For us, it’s very clear that we won’t stop until we see the deportations stopped. We will continue on organizing. We have been organizing. We have been doing protests in front of the detention centers. When Obama came here to make a fundraising, we did a protest in front of the hotel. So, for us, we are not going to stop. And if we, as immigrants, as undocumented immigrants, have had the courage to fight, I think Democrats can do it, too. And I think they need to stand up to the anti-immigrants in Congress and do the right thing. And they have an opportunity to do the right thing. I hope that they will do it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Rosi Carrasco, can you tell us something in terms—you’ve been here now in the United States 20 years, undocumented. Could you talk a little bit about the toll it’s taken on you to be able to raise a family and be able to survive and maintain yourself with this constant threat of the possibility of being deported?

ROSI CARRASCO: Yeah. It is really hard to be in this country for 20 years. It is sad to see how you have to fight for things that are granted for every human being, like the right to work, to live without being afraid to have your family divided, as you mentioned. However, we are here. We are working, paying taxes. We have our families, my daughters. I love my daughters. I love my family, my community. And I have been fighting for have—this, what I have. It’s a human right that everyone should have. And for me, to be as close as we are now, to be able to have what—that opportunity to be considered as human being, to be considered someone that can live happy with their family and work and make contributions to this country is something very important. And I know that we are—stay here, and we will continue to be here, and we will continue working for our communities. And I hope that this society, this Congress, this government, recognizes this right that we have.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Ireri and Rosi, your decision to come out? Ireri, you eventually were, you know, granted the right to vote because of your activism, ultimately, and so many other young people’s. But that time years ago when you were deciding whether you could do this, given that you could be deported at any one of these actions or anywhere you spoke?

IRERI UNZUETA CARRASCO: Well, to be honest, I mean, the right to work is a great thing, right? But before I had the Deferred Action, anything could have put me in deportation proceedings, any small mistake, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, right? I really wanted to travel, and traveling isn’t something that you can just do, necessarily, right? And sometimes there are risks involved, and there are, you know, different ways to get stopped. And so, this is a risk that I was running every day. To me, when I decided to come out publicly and talk about my status, it was a decision about that. If this is something that I’m facing every day, then I need to take this head-on. I need to be able to show my side of the story publicly, and I need to be able to use that to benefit the other members of my community. So, coming out as undocumented, to me, is something that was taking back that power that sometimes is taken away, right, by the government, by people saying that I don’t belong in this country, and saying, “Look, this is where I’ve grown up. This is where my family is. This is where my work is. This is where I, you know, love here and all my family, wherever they are.” And so, for me, coming out is part of that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Ireri, I wanted to ask you to comment also on this whole issue that many Americans—not just Republicans, but other Americans who are not familiar with the immigration issue—raise, that why should you get legal status or your mother get legal status, when there are millions of people who have been waiting on line in other countries to come into the United States, even though we did have in 1986 an immigration bill that legalized the status of about three million people, and even though President Reagan himself, the following year, issued an executive order giving 200,000 Nicaraguans a legal status in the United States, as well. I’m just wondering, how do you respond to those Americans who say you should be getting to the back of the line with others who are trying to get into the country?

IRERI UNZUETA CARRASCO: Well, I believe that the immigration system needs to be fixed, and there’s a lot of components that need to be fixed, including how long people have to wait to be able to come into the U.S. I know friends here who ended up coming across the border because they couldn’t wait the 20 or 18 years that it takes to get in here. And so, for me, just making sure that we are taking care of our communities, right—and that includes the people that are living within our borders now, whether or not they are undocumented—is very, very important. And so, I wish for people to take a look at their neighbors, a look at their friends. There are undocumented people amongst all of us. And we’re living, and we are struggling, and we are contributing, right? And, yes, there’s people that are waiting, and I believe that we need to fix all these things and stop terrorizing our communities through programs like Secure Communities and other Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us, Ireri Unzueta Carrasco and your mom, Rosi Carrasco, both undocumented immigrants, though Ireri became documented through her activism, and members of Organized Communities Against Deportations in Chicago. This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. We’ll be back in a minute with Naomi Klein.

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