New Orleans The last several years of efforts for immigration reform in the United States have had been twists and turns, sometimes seeming to move forward, and other times were falling behind. Enforcement and deportations are up, Congress is stalled, states have become battlegrounds, some relief has come from the White House for DREAM-students and some constructive discretion has come into the system, nonetheless it is safe to say that there is no happiness on this issue anywhere in the land.
Where there has been any progress, there has been pressure finally from the immigrant community itself, and nowhere has that been more true than in the courage of the students risking deportation to march from Florida first and then to rally throughout the country, and now they have something to show for it. Seeing the bus preparing to leave Phoenix and move on a zigzag route through the West and then through the South, including New Orleans, over coming weeks to end up in Charlotte coinciding with the national Democratic Party’s Convention, there is another act of courage, inspiration, and hope.
I called friends at the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), which has been a force helping support, resource, and organize this new “freedom” bus to wish them well, salute the effort, and offer assistance along the road wherever we might have members and friends, especially New Orleans, which has been a publicized stop on the way. The devil is in the details as always and the old saying of “my kingdom for a horse” came to mind listening to NDLON’s Chris Newman tell me about the efforts to fix the bus’s oil pan so the brave riders could leave Phoenix and move forward. Great editorials in the New York Times don’t put gas in the tank or fix oil pans, as it now seems.
The whole movement jumps past the aisles of Congress and dogmatic, narrow disputes of politicians trying to win marginal gains when the clarity of basic human rights is presented so clearly that they cannot be ignored. Once the bus is moving from community to community with good men and women risking everything, including arrest and deportation out of the United States where they have lived and worked for years, raised families, made contributions, it will be harder for many to not put real faces on this debate and continue to deny basic rights within this community.
I’m so proud they are coming to New Orleans where the freedom rides and riders in the civil rights era were central to the struggle. This is a community with a history that should embrace a new generation. I’ve invited them to hold a community meeting at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse to allow people to meet them, hear their story, and show their support. Who knows if that will happen, but I know wherever they are, I will be, and so should we all be. These are times when we stand to be counted.