Skip to main content

Immigrant: Can we trust Obama?

By Tania Unzueta Carrasco, Special to CNN
updated 10:00 AM EST, Wed January 30, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • At 10, Tania Unzueta moved to U.S. with undocumented family, who are considered illegal
  • She worries her dad won't come home, about her mom who can't go to Mexico to see family
  • Unzueta: Obama let immigrants down by excessive deportation, inhumane detention centers
  • She is applying under new act that will give her ability to work, but worries about her family

Editor's note: Tania Unzueta Carrasco lives in Chicago and was born in Mexico. She is an undocumented immigrant, a journalist, former radio show manager and producer, and co-founder of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, an undocumented youth-led organization.

(CNN) -- How much hope can I have in the president who has deported people at a higher rate than any other in the nation's history?

Asking myself this question is how I kept my emotions in check as I watched President Obama announce his policy on immigration Tuesday. After living undocumented for more than 18 years, and hoping that one day my sister, my parents and I won't be considered "illegal" in this country, my mental health often depends on managing my expectations.

My family and I came to the United States when I was 10 years old from Mexico City, and have grown up thinking of Chicago as our home.

Opinion: U.S. needs 21st century immigration plan

Although my parents have tried to shield us from the effects of being undocumented, we know that my father used to walk the streets looking for work, and that more than once his wages were stolen, with employers using his immigration status as a threat.

Oscar Rodriguez, right, sits with Yenny Quispe, at a \
Oscar Rodriguez, right, sits with Yenny Quispe, at a "watch party" for Obama's speech on immigration Tuesday.

I think of my father as the most likely member of our family to be racially profiled, and I worry every time he goes to work. My mom has seen her father only once in the last 18 years, and I know she misses him and her sisters and brothers. And my sister and I are reminded every day of the barriers of being undocumented, when we cannot apply for a job, a scholarship, or pay the bond of a family friend in deportation proceedings.

Undocumented immigrant Katherine Taberes holds a sign during the watch party for President Obama\'s speech.
Undocumented immigrant Katherine Taberes holds a sign during the watch party for President Obama's speech.

The first time I watched President Obama speak about immigration, I felt the excitement in my stomach. It was sometime early in his presidency, when many of us still believed he would make significant changes in immigration policy during his first term.

I listened to every word he said -- that we are a nation of immigrants -- and allowed myself to imagine a life without worrying my dad would not come home; a moment when my mom might get to see her dad and her sisters again without having to chose between our lives here and her family; a chance for my sister and I to be evaluated on our work and contributions and not our immigration status; a moment to live without fear. But the actions of his government failed to match his words.

Opinion: Stars align at last for immigration plan

This is why I have learned to keep my hopes in check. Not only because of the years without action, but also because the lives of immigrant communities have become even harder. Here are a few examples:

-- More than 1.4 million people have been deported since Obama took office, at a faster rate than under any other president.

Tania Unzueta Carrasco
Tania Unzueta Carrasco

-- The federal government has continued to collaborate with local law enforcement that uses immigration laws to intimidate immigrant communities and racially profile Latinos, such as Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

-- Immigration detention centers continue their inhumane treatment of detainees, particularly those with mental health problems, medical illnesses and those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

-- Undocumented workers continue to be targeted by the Department of Homeland Security, even in my hometown of Chicago, where a series of operations led to the detention of scores of workers, including more than a dozen day laborers detained while looking for work.

-- Even with prosecutorial discretion policies, undocumented people who have no criminal history, those who are not a threat to the safety of the country, and those who are only working to support their families, continue to be deported. It is important to say I also recognize significant steps forward under Obama. My sister and I qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and are in the process of applying.

Obama: Remember we were immigrants
Obama: Senators' ideas in line with mine

I must admit, I am excited about having a work permit and being able to travel outside the United States. After the failure of the Congress to pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, it has been a welcome, if limited, relief. But I cannot ignore the continued suffering and uncertainty that my parents and my community live with every day. And I cannot ignore how harmful President Obama's policies have been to the most vulnerable: undocumented immigrants.

Opinion: Key to immigration -- Worker visas

With the group of bipartisan senators announcing a blueprint for immigration reform, and the president's announcement of support, it might just be possible for a comprehensive bill to pass.

Unfortunately, I don't expect it to address all the needs of immigrant communities, or of the country. The blueprint that has been presented by the eight senators, for example, already delineates harsher punitive measures for future undocumented migrants, and harsher enforcement at the border. It also does not address the situation in detention centers, or the collaboration with local law-enforcement plagued with racial profiling.

I know that the president has a chance to go outside party politics and make significant changes to immigration policy that could stop the suffering of millions of families by stopping deportations and giving work permits to undocumented adults. He was able to do that with young people; why not do the same for our parents?

What the years of disappointment have taught me is that our communities cannot depend on the goodwill of legislators for change. We must make it happen ourselves through organization. And so I am going to continue to fight for the rights of undocumented immigrants and for the happiness of my family.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Tania Unzueta Carrasco.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:18 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Frida Ghitis says as violence claims three U.S. doctors, the temptation is to despair, but aid to Afghanistan has made it a much better place
updated 2:33 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says in California, Asian-Americans are against the use of racial criteria in public colleges.
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Heidi Schlumpf says if the Pope did tell an Argentinian woman married to a divorced man that she could take Communion, it may signify a softening of church rules on the divorced and sacraments
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Norcross, Georgia, Chief of Police Warren Summers says the new law that allows guns in bars, churches and schools will have unintended dangerous consequences.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Mel Robbins says social media is often ruled by haters, and people can be brutally honest.
updated 12:44 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Mike Downey says the golf purists can take a hike; the game needs radical changes to win back fans and players.
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT