President Obama – Stop Your Bullying!
By: Patricio Gomez (Mexican American Political Association)
Finally the cat is out of the bag in terms of what type of “comprehensive immigration reform” constantly referred to by President Obama. For four long years it was all speculation, although any sensible person who has been active on the immigration issue could read the tea leaves.
The aggressive enforcement measures on all fronts – secure communities program with local police, E-verify with employers, expedited removals on a massive scale, and a humongous border build-up – told the story. He mealy-mouthed excuses throughout his first term that CIR or executive order action was not possible without bipartisan support. He squandered his political capital coming off his first-term win on other political priorities, and we were not on the short-list. To date Obama is responsible for deporting approximately 1.7 million individuals, 70 percent non-criminals. He will reach 2 million by the end of 2013, an unprecedented number for any previous president. Considering this level of immigration enforcement by the administration you would think that the president would expect some push-back.
The Senate bipartisan “gang of eight” recently introduced their compromise legislation and it generally mirrors the president’s perspective on CIR. The important committee process has taken hold and a myriad of amendments have surfaced from both sides of the political aisle. There is obvious dissatisfaction from both the proverbial left and right. The left includes a full spectrum of immigrant rights advocates and activists, churches, and labor, and even an important segment of corporate America. The right encompasses the usual suspects, Tea Party types, conservative think tanks, media pundits and hosts, and a different slice of business. All are doing their best to alter the legislative dynamic and end product to their liking in the interests of their respective constituencies. If for nothing else this is to justify their existence.
The Washington Post recently reported that in a private meeting with a selective few Latino leaders, President Obama demanded obedience to the strategy laid out by the Senate leaders and the White House on CIR. He insisted that attempting to amend the bill in favor of the advocates’ concerns could risk scuttling the reform effort. Some of the objections aired in the meeting by the likes of the National Council of La Raza and the League of United Latin American Citizens were that the bill excludes too many of the estimated 11 million undocumented and the “path to citizenship” is considered too perilous for the remainder. Obama made very clear to the group that he expected them to get behind the Senate version and to not tinker with the proposal. Leave well enough alone, was his message. The Washington Post reported that Janet Murguia, president of NCLR, quoted the president as saying, “if the bill was presented on my desk today, I would sign it.”
Now, NCLR is not considered more than moderate in its advocacy for immigration reform by any stretch of the imagination. Since before the 2007 effort to pass legislation it had expressed support for bracero-type programs under Murguia’s leadership, and even signed off on E-verify and rigorous border enforcement. It’s been said by other national leaders that NCLR has no bottom line for compromise with the opposition. Nevertheless, even timid expressions of concern over the Senate proposal have been met with harsh cajoling by the White House and Democratic Party leaders. It goes without saying that those selected “leaders” and their organizations are recipients of abundant liberal foundation largesse. No one should expect that they will bite the hand that feeds them.
The Post also reported that many other religious and Latino leaders have complained that other parts of the legislation are considered quite draconian – pointing to the high $2,000 fee and the requirement to not be unemployed for more than 60 days during the ten-year purgatory period of temporary visa status prior to being eligible to apply for permanent residency.
Nevertheless, President Obama expects his liberal supporters to toe the line and not muddy the waters with favorable amendments to immigrants. He forgets that he was brought to the table of immigration reform kicking and screaming after four years of unprecedented enforcement. It was only after extensive polling by inside partisan pollsters indicating that he was losing Latino voters prior to last year’s election that he issued the executive order giving legal relief to young immigrants brought to the U.S. in unauthorized status by their parents. The Dreamer movement repeatedly embarrassed the White House with public acts of civil disobedience demanding executive action.
Latinos, Asians, and young voters pulled his chestnuts out of the fire in the battle-ground states replicating the 2008 experience. In this sense they owe nothing to the president. This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. The leaders taken to the woodshed by Obama know full well that the immigrant bases are not satisfied with the proposal on the table and are demanding unqualified legalization that is fair and humane, an end to deportations, and separation of families. Obama’s continued bullying and implied threats will only backfire.