Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Undocumented fed up with partisan politics

By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
updated 2:33 PM EDT, Fri June 6, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ruben Navarrette: We have to find ways to let the undocumented stay in the U.S.
  • Navarrette espouses Erika Andiola, who is one of the most famous DREAMers
  • He says D.C. is driven, unfortunately, by political games on the issue of immigration
  • Navarrette: Neither Democrats nor Republicans are doing anything on reform

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- The immigration debate in the United States should be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States. Take it from a fifth-generation American whose maternal ancestors have been in Texas since the Lone Star State was more commonly referred to as "Northern Mexico."

Which means that Americans need to do everything they can to retain people such as Erika Andiola. We have to identify people like this 27-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico and find ways to allow them to remain in the only country they've ever known.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Ruben Navarrette Jr.

We need more Erikas because the "DREAMer" -- who arrived in the United States when she was 11 and lives near Phoenix -- understands, better than many U.S.-born citizens, the responsibility to hold elected officials accountable regardless of what party they're in.

Andiola is one of the most famous DREAMers in the country. In 2012, she appeared with nearly three dozen other undocumented immigrants -- including journalist Jose Antonio Vargas -- on the cover of Time magazine.

In September 2013, she began an eye-opening adventure when she went to Washington to work for Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. She lasted four months.

Anchor goes after Boehner on immigration
An immigration warning to GOP
Immigration reform this summer?

She left after concluding from conversations with other congressional aides that Democrats would prefer not to solve the immigration problem because they would rather use it a club to bludgeon Republicans.

She wrote about her experience and observed that Washington was driven by "political games -- games that are causing too much pain in our community." She also declared that the immigrant community and the American people have more power to affect change than "politicians inside the beltway."

Truth-telling won't make you popular. And for some in the immigrant advocacy movement, Andiola is now persona non grata.

She is attacked on social media, and -- while she used to be a frequent guest at the White House for policy meetings on immigration -- she has recently been yanked out of line several times while waiting to enter for one event or another.

Demanding results from Democratic elected officials can cost you friends among left-leaning activists who put their party before their cause.

"Unfortunately, a lot of immigration activists are Democrats," Andiola told me. "As soon as anything comes out of their mouths, it's so biased."

Spot on. Such honest talk can get you labeled a "Republican" by partisans on the left. Especially if you're also turning up the heat on Latino Democrats in Congress, directly confronting them and demanding that they pressure the White House to pursue immigration reform. And especially if you're criticizing a Democratic president for racking up deportations.

"At this point, I wouldn't consider myself a Democrat or a Republican," Andiola said. "Immigration has become such a political issue that neither party is doing anything about it."

Right again.

The object of the game seems to be for both parties to look busy while doing nothing and then blame the other side for getting nothing done. Democrats want to use the issue to bludgeon Republicans, but they're also afraid of being seen as too sympathetic to illegal immigrants. It's an issue both parties wish would go away for another decade.

Andiola has been an activist since 2010 when she pushed for the DREAM Act, which promised legal status to undocumented young people, and against the Arizona immigration law, which encouraged racial profiling. Now she is sick of politics.

While she still supports a path to citizenship for the undocumented, she first wants an end to the deportations juggernaut that has wreaked havoc on so many families, including her own.

The deportation issue eventually hit home for Erika. As a DREAMer, she has been granted a two-year work permit under the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. But while this protects her from being deported, that protection doesn't extend to her family.

In January 2013, ICE agents stormed her mother's apartment and arrested her mother, Maria Arreola, and older brother, Heriberto. Erika mobilized her network, and her family was released -- though they still had to appear in court. In December 2013, Arreola was granted a temporary stay of deportation.

For a 27-year-old, Andiola has had enough experiences to fill several lives. Yet, despite it all, she knows who she is -- even if the answer doesn't please everyone. In January 2013, she was being interviewed by Univision anchor and commentator Jorge Ramos about her mother's arrest. At the end of the interview, Ramos asked her: "Que eres?" (Who are you?) He wanted to know if she identified as a Mexican or North American or what. I could tell that Ramos was hoping she'd go with "Mexican."

She didn't. "I'm very proud of my culture and heritage," Andiola said. "But I love this country. I think of myself as an American, a Mexican-American."

Told you. She's one of ours.

Now if we can just get her to teach her fellow Americans how to be less partisan and hold both parties' feet to the fire, we might form a more perfect union.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:47 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Jimmy Carter's message about the need to restore trust in public officials is a vital one, decades after the now 90-year-old he first voiced it
updated 5:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Ford Vox says mistakes and missed opportunities along the line to a diagnosis of Ebola in a Liberian man have put Dallas residents at risk of fatal infection
updated 6:21 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Pepper Schwartz says California is trying, but its law requiring step-by-step consent is just not the way hot and heavy sex proceeds on college campuses
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Mike Downey says long-suffering fans, waiting for good playoff news since 1985, finally get something to cheer about
updated 5:39 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Steve Israel saysJohn Boehner's Congress and the tea party will be remembered for shutting down government one year ago
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Yep. You read the headline right, says Peter Bergen, writing on the new government that stresses national unity
updated 11:24 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are but the latest freedom group to be abandoned by the Obama administration, says Mike Gonzalez
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
updated 10:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
updated 3:11 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT