Transportation Security Administration

Like many college students this summer I secured an internship. Others would be excited about the opportunity. I, on the other hand, had to worry. I flew halfway around the country for my internship, and because I am undocumented, was petrified by the idea of risking deportation. My Mexican passport surely looked suspicious to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials, and I knew that at any minute they could ask to see a visa, which I do not have. At any moment, I could be detained. In high school, I was a straight-A student, I graduated third in my class and I made it into one of the best universities in the nation, but I had to worry about whether I would even be able to stay in this country.

At the airport, as I waited to be checked by TSA, I glanced at the television to my right and saw news of President Obama’s decision to stop deporting undocumented students. Constant text messages and Facebook notifications about the president’s announcement prompted happiness and a sense of accomplishment for me — accomplishment because the immigrant community finally received an opportunity for undocumented students to legalize their status.

I have mixed emotions, however, about Obama’s decision to give administrative relief to undocumented students, an action that would immediately affect individuals who are in deportation proceedings, or have ever had contact with immigration authorities. Obama’s decision would allow undocumented students to gain a two-year work permit but only after meeting certain requirements, which include having been in this country since the age of 16, not having reached their 30th birthday and having graduated from high school, acquired a GED or served in the military.

While this was a courageous step by Obama to fix a piece of our country’s broken immigration system, it is only a temporary solution. But why did he choose to use his presidential power now? With elections being held in five months, Obama knows he needs the Latino vote, belonging to the largest ethnic group in the United States, to win. Call my reaction cynical, but to me it is clear that the president’s bold decision is largely a political one.

These political chess moves that play with lives of real people have been carried out by many of our presidents. Politicians only appeal to the common folk when reelections are on the line and later forget about us after being re-elected. This calculated timing of Obama’s decision reminds me of growing up in Mexico during elections, when the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, a centrist party) and PAN (Partido Acción Nacional, a right-wing party) handed out rice and beans in exchange for votes.

I feel that I should be happy to have such a “progressive” president, who supports the idea of gay marriage and is now offering temporary relief for undocumented students to legalize their status. But I know all of these decisions are part of the re-election show. I feel the recent announcement is a short-term solution to fix the broken immigration system; Obama’s decision bypassed review by courts and has little chance of being implemented as proposed.

For now, I am happy that this opportunity has been given to the immigrant community, but we will continue to organize until something is done permanently. Personally, I may benefit from this decision, but the community as a whole still struggles. I would still be heartbroken if the day arrives when my parents are deported because of their immigration status. While Obama’s decision represents a step forward to accomplish the immigrant community’s end goal of legalizing the status of 11 million undocumented immigrants, our plight continues.

While this decision will help some students, it is only a short-term solution, and it is unclear that this decision will extend beyond the Obama administration. But I know it will help put me in a stronger position to win broader change for the immigrant community and fight piecemeal policies that still allow my parents, friends and family to be deported and divided. This may be politics, but I, for one, will not simply be a pawn in a game of chess and we, as part of a community, we will hold those in power accountable by rallying and pressuring until something is done permanently.

Ramírez is an international relations and global studies sophomore.

A TSA inspector checks a passenger at a security checkpoint at Dallas-Fort Worth International airport in Grapevine, Texas.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas lawmakers gave their initial backing Monday to legislation that would criminalize intentional, inappropriate touching during airport security pat-downs, but it was so watered down it provoked angry outbursts from conservative activists, who decried it as toothless.

The new versions of the bill would still make it a misdemeanor punishable with up to a year in jail to touch a person's sexual organs and other sensitive areas. But now they give security officials a defense to prosecution if they act with "reasonable suspicion" that the search is necessary.

That change prompted chants of "Traitor!" by a small group of protesters in the Capitol rotunda shortly after the House cast a preliminary vote in favor of the bill.

The protesters then gathered in the Senate gallery and several called out "Treason!" to senators below. The Senate passed its version several hours after the protesters left.

The Republican-controlled chambers have until Wednesday to resolve several differences between their bills before sending one to Gov. Rick Perry to consider signing it into law.

Supporters of the bill complained the changes make the penalties unenforceable. Texas law already bans public servants from subjecting someone to a search he or she "knows is unlawful."

About two dozen people showed up to testify in support of the bill in the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, then opposed it when they learned the bill was going to be changed on the recommendation of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican.

"The simple act of opting out of the body scanners is going to be reasonable suspicion," said Heather Fazio of Austin. "That is unacceptable."

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, defended the change, saying the bill still sends a strong message to Transportation Security Administration security screeners to keep their wandering hands off Texans.

Patrick noted that the TSA announced last week that it would try to reduce the number of pat-downs performed on children.

"The goal is to get the TSA to change their policy," Patrick said. "TSA is going change their policy because Texas is taking the lead."

TSA spokesman Greg Soule said Americans expect authorities to use "effective methods to keep the traveling public safe" and that the agency will review the bill if passed into law.

All of the testimony for the bill has concentrated on stories of people being searched and included no actual examples of TSA officers being reprimanded or disciplined for improper touching.

Although dismissed last week as a "publicity stunt" by Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, the issue has become a top priority for the libertarian wing of the Texas GOP.

Few Texas airports are equipped with full-body scanners, meaning there often is no other screening option for travelers picked out for what TSA calls an enhanced pat down. Opponents have simmered over procedures they consider a violation of their Constitutional right against unwarranted search and seizure.

Texas made it a full-blown fight with the TSA last month when the Texas House voted to criminalize intrusive pat-downs. That version appeared ready to pass the Senate until John E. Murphy, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, warned lawmakers that it would interfere with the TSA's ability to ensure travelers' safety.

Murphy's letter to legislators said if the original bill passed, the federal government would probably go to court to block it and the TSA would likely be required to cancel flights if it cannot ensure passenger safety.

TSA officials say advance imaging technology and pat downs are the most effective way to detect threats such as explosives made of plastics, liquids or gels designed to not be detected by traditional metal detectors.

The issue prompted some small but loud demonstrations outside the House and Senate chambers last month and many of them showed up again for Monday's vote. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican considering a run for president, added the pat-down bill to the agenda of the 30-day special session he called on May 31.

But the bill has lost significant momentum over the last week.

Straus appeared to strike a major blow against the original version of the bill when he warned it would hurt commercial aviation in Texas and would make the state a "laughingstock."

Monday's changes further eroded support.

"TSA is abusing people," said Don Hart of Austin, who opposed the new version approved Monday. "TSA will be empowered to keep doing what they are doing."