"I think being present in that room," Joseph said, "is more so about our community than it is about the president's first State of the Union address."
Calling for Unity
During the State of the Union, the president said he had worked to craft "a bipartisan approach to immigration reform." As Denea Joseph listened from her seat, she wanted to call for a different kind of unity. One among immigrants themselves.
Joseph: "Trying to use the 800,000 DACA recipients and the potential 1.8 million people who would receive the pathway to citizenship against the remainder of the immigrant community...seeking to create an us versus them mentality in which children, undocumented youth in particular, are being crafted in a narrative of, 'oh they came here at no fault of their own.' And everybody else who doesn't fit that mold, fit that picture, fit that time frame, is classified within his administration and within his proposed pathway to citizenship as being criminals."
Changes on the Horizon
The president laid out a four-pillar immigration reform plan that he would like to see:
- The end of the visa lottery.
- The end of "chain migration" by eliminating an immigrant's option to sponsor extended family members for visas (though it should be noted, this can be done only after he or she becomes a U.S. citizen).
- Securing the border by building a wall and bringing on more border officers.
- Lastly, under this reform, a path to citizenship will be offered to "1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age."
Joseph: "What we need to do is create a path to citizenship that doesn't further separate our communities from one another. Some of the proposed measures that the president and his administration want to take is being able to move forward with a pathway to citizenship that eliminates the option of a family reunification program and that limits the number of diversity visa recipients."
Altogether, the president spent about 15 minutes talking about immigration at Tuesday night's State of the Union. Joseph did not agree on a single point during those 15 minutes, though it did galvanize her.
Joseph: "It is motivation to me. And I will use the motivation that I have to continue to mobilize my community, to ensure that we get a clean Dream Act. Not come Feb. 8, not come March 5, but now. That's what our presence, my presence and the remainder of the DACA recipients who were in that room had to do and had to say. It's the necessary step to ensure that we remain positive and optimistic moving forward for this fight."