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
December 29, 2014 -- Updated 0430 GMT (1230 HKT)
Les Abend: Before we reach a conclusion on the outcome of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, it's important to understand that the details are far too limited to draw a parallel to Flight 370
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT