Accountability Moment: Obama and Senate Democrats Are Holding Back Immigration Reform

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illegal dreams.jpg

A striking difference between yesterday's May 1 immigrant rights rally in Washington, D.C., and the rally on the National Mall on March 21 was the message. Another was the mood.

The speakers on March 21 included advocates, immigrants, and a fair number of politicians. President Obama even spoke in a recorded message about his sorrow for the families that are torn apart by the broken immigration system. The crowd was silent during his message and gave him a massive cheer when it was done. The mood that day was exuberant and hopeful.

The mood at yesterday's May 1 rally in D.C. was one of anger and betrayal. Speakers talked about President Obama's broken promises, his failure to promote immigration reform, and his continued support for programs like 287(g) and InSecure Communities that lead to racial profiling by local law enforcement. They talked about the 400,000 people deported in Obama's first year of office, more than any single year of the Bush administration. Children spoke of their parents currently in the process of being deported by President Obama, and they asked him not to break up their families.

The immigrant community is starting to realize that, when it comes to immigration policy, President Obama and the Senate Democrats have been saying one thing and doing another. They express regret for family separation, for the workers who have paid into the tax base for decades but still face deportation, and for the DREAM Act students brought here as infants who live under the shadow of exile. But through their actions, they wholly support the status quo enforcement-only immigration system.

President Obama's DHS continues to defend the fatally flawed 287(g) program which permits and encourages local police like Sheriff Joe Arpaio to engage in rampant racial profiling. Obama's point person on immigration reform, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, is too busy trying to meet ramped-up deportation quotas and dealing with ICE scandals to focus on mobilizing political support for immigration reform. Most importantly, Obama's ICE continues to deport immigrants--family members of citizens, Dream-eligible students, workers, homeowners, taxpayers--at a rate of 1,000 a day.

Senate Democrats continue to appropriate more and more money for ICE's enforcement operations. Senate Democrats have still not introduced an immigration bill, though they keep pretending to. In March, they announced a blueprint. Last week, they announced a plan. In the hope of appeasing Senate Republicans and their nativist constituents, Senate Democrats keep moving the legislative goalposts to the right in a pathetic display of self-bamboozlement. But there is still no bill! Moreover, key Senate Democrats like Senator Schumer and Senator Menendez refuse to allow a vote on the DREAM Act based on the pretense that they are busy fighting for comprehensive reform. Liars!

Much of the focus yesterday was on Arizona's new racial profiling law. The renewed national focus on immigration due to the Arizona law accounted for the cameras and reporters at yesterday's rally that were mostly missing on March 21. But those at yesterday's rally understood that Arizona's law only has bite in the context of the failed national enforcement-only immigration system. And that President Obama could kneecap the bill easily enough by instructing ICE to withhold cooperation from Arizona law enforcement. (Click here to ask him to exactly that.)

But President Obama and Senate Democrats are more afraid of nativist conservatives who will never vote for a Democrat than they are of Latin@ voters who helped give them their current majority and helped put Obama in the White House. Their plan to say one thing and do another worked as long as their pro-migrant constituents were kept in the dark. The Reform Immigration for America campaign (RIFA) and other immigrant advocacy organizations have facilitated this program of deception by giving President Obama an uncontested platform to deceive the marchers on March 21, by urging the grassroots to rally without telling them who is on their side and who isn't, and by failing to communicate to the grassroots the dismal political conditions for immigration reform. By doing this, RIFA risks burning out the grassroots again, who came out in force in 2006 only to find stepped-up deportation quotas and a lack of political support. This strategy of deception also represents a missed opportunity: to mobilize the grassroots with urgency and anger against the fake allies in the Senate who rely on their political support.

If President Obama and Senate Democrats want to avoid the wrath of the immigrant community and its allies, they must push for rational immigration reform rather than a retread of enforcement-only laws that fail harder the more restrictive they become. They must understand that they cannot lie to their constituents without facing consequences. They should believe that Congressman Gutierrez's civil disobedience yesterday is only the beginning of actions that target Democrats, not Republicans, as the current obstacle to immigration reform.

Senate Democrats should stop the charade and introduce their own immigration bill without GOP support. They should push it forward to force each Senator to show whether he or she is for the immigrant community or against it. They will learn, as Senator Reid is learning, that when you rely on votes from the immigrant community to stay in office, immigration is only a political liability when you fail to act.

Then if, as everyone in the Senate expects, immigration reform fails to pass this year, the Senate should call the DREAM Act for a vote and push it through so their Latin@ constituents don't stay home from the polls en masse in November.

Senate Democrats have failed to support immigration reform as a human rights and civil rights issue--most of them simply don't see it in those terms. So it is up to the immigrant rights community to ensure they see it in terms they can understand: as one protester put it, "Democrats, don't count on us again if we can't count on you now."

[Image: Luke Sharrett/The New York Times]


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Despite my serious reservations with the Democratic Party based on Democrats': Failure to pass any pro-migrant legislation despite holding the White House and large majorities in both houses of CongressFailure to introduce any comprehensive immigration... Read More

The failure of the Democrats to pass the DREAM Act in December prompted the Washington Post and Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) to declare President Obama's immigration reform strategy a failure. Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum expl... Read More

4 Comments

Rob said:

Yes
Our undocumented Latino friends here have all been let go over the past year . . . jobs which they've faithfully held for the past 10 years to put their kids through school in hopes of a better life. The climate has changed such that none of them are able to find any work anymore. I see dozens of latinos waiting by the freeway each morning as I drive to work waiting to be hired as day laborers . . .
One of our friends is unabashedly being taken advantage of by an entrepreneur who pays her 15 cents each to put together jewelery necklaces which are then sold in local shops for $10 each. Our friend's hands are covered in blisters and her health problems are multiplying, her unemployed husband massages her aching muscles every day trying to help.
The doors once opened wide to accept them, now they are left high and dry and afraid to leave the house . . .

CRW said:

As with the fight for civil rights for gays and lesbians, all it takes is actually knowing one person or one family to change hearts and minds. Demonizing doesn't work when the person being deported is your next-door neighbor, brother-in-law, or friend at church. It's heartbreaking. I agree with your earlier statements that the congressional Dems and the Obama administration must be held accountable for foot-dragging on immigration reform.

Mary Pranzatelli said:

The other day I received a call from a man working for the Democratic party asking for a campaign contribution for Democrats, and the upcoming Senate race. I responded by asking him, if they had a list of the Senators that are running, that are on the pro-side of Immigration Reform, because I do not want any of my money going towards any Democratic candidate that oppose's CIR. I also told him, I was tired of Democrat's who are not really liberals. I was told that the donation is a general donation, and he had no way of making sure my money would go only to pro-immigration reform candidates. I told him that I could not give him my money, because I can not support candidates that were not supporting the platform that we elected President Obama on. I also told him that we needed a real solution to this problem fast. I have written the campaign which is now again headed again by(David Plouffe)by email, and text message many times to voice out. I wrote that Immigration was the reason that brought me to the campaign to begin with, and why is it not being addressed the way it was promised to be. I did recently hear (David Plouffe) talk about it on the video (as a key issue we would be addressing with constituents), but I have to ask myself where does my efforts lead us to. As a Democrat I find what is happening on this issue personally disturbing at this point, and only want to spend my time working where I will see results that bring us real change. Immigration was the issue that brought me back into politics after dropping out years back. I fought so hard, and spent endless hours fighting for change, and did not think Obama would jerk us around with Immigration and use it as a "wedge" issue. He promised us CHANGE. He told us to elect him, and he would not give us the same Washington game. I believed for the longest time that he would come through for us all, and be able to bring us a decent Immigration bill, amongst other things that he promised us all. I am realistic, but I was brainwashed to believe that Obama was the solution to the problems we all face. I am not feeling the HOPE anymore, and might just focus on local politics instead, and also continue to attend the vigils, and protests on Immigration. I just can't give up! Local politics will help the Democratic senate, and my candidates locally are all pro-immigration reform, but we know that many of them are just playing that national game: "Let's use immigration as a "wedge" issue to bring out minority constituents!" I am realistic when it comes to politics, but too many people are suffering in this system, and it is obviously a game of politicians that are going to try to keep Immigration the same for as long as we all let them get away with it. :(

beholder said:

You don’t like it.

You don’t like it cause the white man losing his power. Yes I said the white man is losing his power. Everywhere you look it happening.

Here a lesbian running the city. Here a meskin own the airwaves. Here a Muslim, a brother, here the landlord a quiet Chinese but he don’t bow and scrape. You used to buck your teeth and squint and he remembers. Now you pay the man.

For you the only black man worth mention is Bill Cosby or Famous Amos. That what they teach you in the schools. But you do not have the power to stop Louis Farrakhan.

You locked up H Rap Brown, Huey Newton, the only place you keep a black woman on her knees.

You keep the monkey on the junkie back, locked up tight and messed up so when he come out he ties up again, maybe this time be the last.

You deny the Tea Party a white supremacist organization. But I don’t see any black faces in that crowd.

You say that your Miss America not barred to any color, but when the real beauty win you claim it was rigged against the whites. Oh you losing your looks too baby.

And you don’t like it.

That’s why you keep a list and laws. That’s why you lie about it, distort the figures on murder, kidnapping, rape, the crimes that white people refuse to do. Assaults, smugglers, drop houses, home invasions, drugs and welfare recipients. These are the small pox blankets poisoning the minds of America.

And who care about something – anything! -- other than that a socialist.

Presidents elected while black deserve the black ball. No matter he cleaning house after the white man’s watch, the house that the black men built.

This is America.

What’s not to like and cheer about?

We got illegals in our schools getting learned on the white man’s dime and why is that they always a white man on the dime, nickel, quarter or dollar in the country of freedom and equality. E pluribus unum.

Out of many, one.

Yeah, we know who the money is. We know who the many and who the one.

We got madmen trying to take the Indians out of Cleveland and the Redskins out of Washington. We even got our Fightin’ Whities trying to fake us out.

Rights are there for the white man, promises for everybody else. Promise of reparations promise of reservations, promises never to do it again.

And like every promise ever made by the ones writing those rights who it went to? Who get the benefits? Who turn those words into profit?

Now those laws are turning. This nation is rising up and sinking under your feet. It’s got a rotted core. It’s an earthquake, tsunami, storm and rage that rend the bedrock of your temple. The alabaster pillars going to drop.

The great white father turning to dust.

No more entertainers, no more football players, no more basketball, no more waiters and dishwashers, no more cleaners with your white shirts, nobody to hate cause they part of America too. Look around you.

They running it!


--An immigrant poem by beholder

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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on May 2, 2010 8:35 PM.

May Day 2010: Friends Keep Promises was the previous entry in this blog.

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