Define American Washington, DC Press Conference

I served as the photographer for non-profit advocacy group Define American for their #1f11million press conference at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. From ThinkProgress, Aug. 2014:

“A prominent journalist was among 11 undocumented immigrants at a press conference Wednesday, pressuring President Obama to spare millions of immigrants from deportation. Obama is expected to release an executive order after Labor Day that could prioritize deportation reprieve for some of the undocumented population. And immigration advocates like Jose Antonio Vargas are hoping that the President will “go big” and expand work authorization to most of the country’s 11.7 million undocumented immigrants, as he had done with the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for qualified immigrants between the ages of 15 and 31.

Before the event, Vargas and the other immigrants submitted applications for deferred action to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s office to mark the official launch of the national #1of11Million campaign. They also released a legal memorandum in support of deferred action — a form of prosecutorial discretion — that gives law enforcement agencies the power to decide who to investigate, arrest, detain, charge and prosecute. Vargas and others are asking Johnson for a four-year deferral. According to the press release, the event sponsored by Vargas’ own Define American and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) was meant to “start a conversation and humanize the complexities of immigration in America.”

Those present at the press conference were selected to represent a wide range of undocumented immigrants who do not have legal status, including: a grandmother who is now the legal guardian of three grandchildren after their parents were deported five years ago; a German entrepreneur who came to the country in 1986; a woman charged with identity theft after getting arrested by the anti-immigrant Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio; a honors college student; a reconstruction worker from New Orleans; a son of a diplomat that worked at the United Nations; and a man who works at his parents’ grocery store. ThinkProgress interviewed some of the immigrants who were not eligible for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, including Aly Wane (37), Michaela Graham (52), and Jong-Min You (34).

An immigrant from Senegal, Wane was the son of a diplomat who worked at the United Nations. He lost his legal status after his mother’s tragic death. “I’m technically a DREAMer under the last Senate bill’s version,” Wane said. “Being undocumented is a very strange experience… Growing up as a black man in the country is a brutal experience. It can feel isolating, especially in African and Caribbean communities. There’s really a culture of ‘you don’t stand out, you don’t push the envelope too much’ so that’s probably why there isn’t as much representation.”

He added, “I hope the president considers as many categories as possible.”