Obama: Deporting Immigrants So Republicans Don't Have To

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The reactions this week by mainstream progressives to the Senate's failure to move the DREAM Act forward on Saturday shed light on the motivations of different groups in speaking out about this issue.

Markos Moulitsas' immediate reaction was to condemn Senator Jon Tester for being "morally bankrupt" and an "asshole" and "the Democrat I will most be happy to see go down in defeat" in 2012.

Markos was a big supporter of Tester, who raised a good chunk of money from the Netroots to win in a close election in 2006. Tester will have a tough campaign in 2012, and it just got a whole lot tougher by making a personal enemy out of one of the progressive blogosphere's most influential voices. This was a response likely to have some impact given the target and Markos's history of support for Tester. It was an effective response because Markos actually seems to care whether the DREAM Act passes or fails.

On the other hand, Organizing For America's reaction was to email supporters to ask them to call John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and tell them "to stop playing politics with immigration reform."

This is not likely to be an effective response. The tactic looks about as well-conceived as the DSCC's cunning plan during the Minnesota Senate recount last year to ask Al Franken supporters to sign a petition to his opponent Norm Coleman to concede the election to Franken, one of Adam Green's "Profiles in Bad Online Organizing."

OFA's response has much in common with the Democrats' broader strategy for passing comprehensive immigration reform--both are designed to promote the appearance of activity rather than to achieve any concrete policy objective. The thing is, these strategies can easily backfire. No one likes a fake friend, and it is easy enough to spot someone who is just going through the motions. OFA does itself no favors by angling for the Latino vote in such a transparently cynical way.

Just as President Obama does himself no favors by perpetually renewing his commitment to immigration reform while ratcheting deportations to historic highs.

How uninformed does he think voters are?

Wayne Cornelius's take on the failure of the Obama immigration strategy was on point:

The larger problem is that the entire Obama immigration policy strategy was based on a high-risk gamble that winning credibility on border and interior enforcement among members of Congress would buy the political space needed to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

This strategy was fundamentally misconceived because Republicans in Congress have found tough immigration stances to be reliably effective in mobilizing their base, and because the Great Recession heightened public anxiety and anger about immigration.

Why would you intentionally adopt immigration policies--like the abominable racial profiling Secure Communities and 287g programs--that energize your opponents' base unless you were profoundly detached from the affected communities?

Cornelius continues:

The Obama administration has continued the Bush II-era border fortification project and also significantly toughened interior enforcement, pushing spending on all forms of immigration enforcement to unprecedented levels. But with the failure of the Dream Act, and the negligible probability of enacting any larger legalization program in the next Congress, President Obama is left with nothing but the stick.

His immigration legacy may well turn out to be a step-level increase in immigration enforcement and spending, with no progress on anything unrelated to pursuing the undocumented - even high-achieving students brought to this country as children. To those of us who worked hard in his presidential campaign, that is a bitter pill.

It's also not a smart strategy if you want people who support pro-migrant immigration policy to vote for you.

So far, it looks like Obama cares less about winning over those voters than he does about not pissing off nativist Tea Party voters. And as long as he has groups like OFA helping him carry out this misguided strategy, he is unlikely to change course.


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This article from Julie Shaw in the Philadelphia Daily News examines the heavy caseload that Philadelphia's immigration judges face, and ways that long court delays impact the people caught up in the immigration enforcement system. The influx of cases ... Read More

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on December 21, 2010 10:25 PM.

Betraying the DREAM: Nativists in the Senate to Remember in 2012 was the previous entry in this blog.

Obama Praises DREAM Act While Deporting Dreamers is the next entry in this blog.

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