Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Undocumented fed up with partisan politics

By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
June 6, 2014 -- Updated 1833 GMT (0233 HKT)
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
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT