Progressive Politicians Selling Out Migrants for No Good Reason

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Obama pensive.jpgBarack Obama recently explained to Univision anchor Jorge Ramos why he used the term "illegal immigrants" in his health care speech, prompting Rep. Joe Wilson to yell at him (via Latina Lista):

Well, keep in mind what I was addressing. I was addressing misinformation by the other side that was engaging in scare tactics. So I was essentially quoting them. I was saying, "for those of you who are saying that illegal immigrants are going to be covered under this plan," I said that's not true. Right? So I'm using their language because I was addressing the misinformation that they are providing. And I was speaking directly to an audience, the American people, who because of this misinformation, I think actually were very responding often times in a negative way.
I don't buy it. 

Obama's use of the term dovetails with his ally Senator Schumer's public repudiation of the term "undocumented immigrant" in favor of the tough-sounding but legally meaningless term "illegal immigrant."  Obama's usage dates back to a decision in early 2008 to adopt right-wing framing on immigration in the hope of later passing a legalization bill. 

If that was the plan, it hasn't worked very well so far.  We have no idea when the Democrats will introduce an immigration bill.  Schumer keeps pushing the date back.  I've seen little evidence congressional Democrats or the administration are interested in expending political capital on immigration.  They want it to be easy.  They want something handed to them on a platter, with the work already done.

Meanwhile, opponents of immigration reform are deeply committed to their cause.  Most so-called supporters are lukewarm at best about the issue, and right now I place Barack Obama in that category.

Like many progressive politicians, Barack Obama wants immigrant votes but also wants the political safety he wrongly believes comes from using the mano duro ("hard hand") against immigrants.  I say "wrongly believes" because pandering to nativist sentiment will not convince a single anti-immigrant voter to vote for a single progressive politician, it will only alienate migrant and migrant-allied voters and make the panderer seem like a weasel, never an attractive quality to the voting public.  But this impulse to pander is one reason why DHS under Obama is fundamentally the same as DHS under Bush: same early morning home raids, same InSecure Communities, same high levels of deportation, same routine violation of due process rights.  Obama wants the support of immigrant voters while he persecutes immigrant communities.

Like San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom.

Like Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter.

Like Democratic nominee for Philly District Attorney Seth Williams.

Like Newark mayor Cory Booker?  (I don't have enough information to confirm this, but I wonder whether Newark Liberty International Airport's seriously immigrant-unfriendly policies have anything to do with the pressure on Booker to crack down on immigrants after the 2007 triple murder in which Jose Carranza, an undocumented immigrant, was charged.)

If you are a progressive voter and you support any of these politicians (excepting Booker--the jury is still out), I have a question for you.

Do you support exploiting fear of immigrants for political gain, as these politicians have done?  If not, why do you give them your vote? 

If you disagree with what these leaders are doing to immigrant communities, will you let them know?  Otherwise, they have no incentive to stop doing what they are now doing, throwing immigrants under the bus without fear of consequence.


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8 Comments

It's the never ending debate around an ideal situation and political realities. Immigration seems to always get acrimonious - but the arguments push us away from the values that america has always stood for - fairness, opportunity, due process.
www.restorefairness.org

Analisa said:

I don't buy it either, and I'm getting tired of the hypocrisy. Here's my proposal: Boycott Dems in midterm elections. Our demands: CIR, restore civil liberties & stop demonizing migrants as “illegal immigrants.” When the Dems get wind of this campaign & as the petitions start flooding their offices...ay, que lio! Trust me, they will be running scared. Oh, and please support my draft campaign: Matt Gonzalez-Van Jones in 2012! :-)

Thomas said:

Please explain why "undocumented" has meaning while "illegal" does not. Everyone has known full well for decades what the term "illegal immigrant" means. Ask anyone and they'll tell you that an illegal immigrant is someone who is not legally entitled to be in this country, no more; no less. On the other hand, "undocumented immigrant" is a contrivance meant to deflect from the fact that illegal immigrants are persons who have violated our immigration laws by either overstaying their visa, committed a crime and are under a deportation order, or by entering without inspection. On the other hand, calling a person an "undocumented immigrant" has the ambiguous connotations of the person having lost their documents or that he had never had documents to begin with. The latter, in many cases and for many reasons that I can imagine, may never have qualified for entry, as in the case of criminals, the contagiously ill, those who have chronic ailments the would require expensive treatment at the taxpayer's expense, so would never be issued documents. Since there can be no assumption that the person is qualified for entry under our laws prior to inspection, the assumption of "undocumented" is ludicrous. We can rule out the former, as their documents could be re-issued and so are not a matter of concern. No, the term "undocumented" is a demanded concession to the advocates of illegal immigrants and their constituents. I therefore find it little wonder why the American public has found little acceptance of the term "undocumented immigrant".

Dave Bennion said:

the arguments push us away from the values that america has always stood for - fairness, opportunity, due process

On happy days, I agree. And you get more flies with honey than vinegar. Positive is usually the better way to go.

But on the other hand, American has always had some serious problems that tended to get swept under the rug and out of the history books. Some days, I just can't handle the b*!!s#*t and I write something intemperate like this post. I mean, Mayor Nutter, really, do you really expect us to sit quietly and watch the Philly PD work hand in glove with ICE and pretend that we live in a Sanctuary City? We have cops who believe their job is to enforce immigration laws. Where is the accountability?

Some days I just can't pretend that right is left, up is down, wrong is right.

As for Thomas, please read this and then I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. The terminology you use makes me think you have some background in immigration, and your views make me think maybe you work for DHS. Do you? What is your connection to the issue? What are your goals and objectives for immigration policy?

Did you know that the term "undocumented" was used by the Carter administration, and that the emphasis on "illegal" came as a reaction to that usage? I didn't know this until I read some of the nativist websites. History matters and the law matters, as much as restrictionists would like to wipe those things away.

Gary Stein said:

I got lost? sorry

Analisa said:

Okay, I just wrote a letter to Gavin Newsom and posted it this morning. Now, will you answer my question, Rockstar Blogger? I want to know if you've heard about the census boycott and your thoughts on that. And I'd really like to know if you think my alternative plan could work -- boycott the Democrats in midterm elections and launch a petition campaign to let them know we mean business. Our demands: CIR, end the policy of "crimmigration" and restore civil liberties.

Or do you prefer Gary's plan to mine? He may be more endearing (i could hear the click of those champagne glasses when i left change.org). But I've been your faithful follower for the past year, helped out with the threads when you asked, and went to bat for you repeatedly. And you ignore me. (sigh)

(see, you're not the only one good at guilt tripping people)

Oh, I know, i know...you secretly adore your restrictionist groupies the best. Fess up! ;-)

Dave Bennion said:

I'm not on board with the census boycott because it is shooting oneself in the foot--the GOP loves the idea and who knows, may be involved in promoting it thru backchannels.

Still I respect Nativo's perspective--if I were that hardcore I would stop paying my taxes because of all the evil things the federal government does at home and abroad.

A midterm boycott is worth discussing, but again may be a way of shooting ourselves in the foot. Perhaps another alternative would be (1) to sharpen the message that migrant rights are human rights, get behind a coherent message to inject into the netroots (Sanctuary editors working on this now), make this a progressive litmus test like civil rights or the environment and (2) to focus efforts on promoting Dems who "get it" on immigration like Gutierrez, Polis, Nadler.

And Lisa, I really do appreciate all your involvement over the last year--I know that dropping off change.org left the small community there hanging ... but unavoidable unfortunately. I'm not trying to ignore anyone, i'm just overstretched at the moment :)

Lisa said:

Forgive me, Dave. I was teasing you…but I suppose I was longing for someone to pay attention to my plan. Well, I think you’re probably right…it could backfire. I like you ideas, and I hope you’ll keep us updated on the strategies you’re developing. I apologize for leaving change.org, but I was too pissed when I logged in every day and my favorite blogger wasn’t there. So I voted with my feet…but I can always go back if I see some real and positive change. You know that I admire you for the incredible job you’re doing.:-) I apologize for my outburst.

I hate to contribute to the shocking lack of civility going around, as documented by Nezua...folks muttering the "R" word and referring to migrants as "undocumented"…although I'm quite not sure if the "R" word refers to racists or restrictionists...or if the words are somehow conflated. he,he. Ay, I better quit while I’m ahead.

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