Obama’s failure to sign an executive order to halt the deportations has left his credibility with the Latino electorate in shambles.
Haven’t we heard this before? This was the visceral reaction of the immigrant community to President Obama’s brief remarks about reform during his State of the Union speech last Tuesday.
“So let’s get immigration reform done this year,” the President said, his words sounding like a tired ritual of political expediency, moreso for focusing exclusively on the economic advantages of legalization while ignoring the painful human tragedy of deportations.
“We…remind the President that he cannot issue a call for action on immigration reform without also recognizing the power he has to bring meaningful relief to our community,” said Javier Valdés, co-executive director of Make the Road New York.
“After almost two million deportations, President Obama’s enforcement machine has caused untold damage and suffering for families in New York and beyond,” Valdés added. “He signaled his willingness to advance an agenda with his executive powers, and we call on him to immediately suspend deportations and keep immigrant families together.”
Yet although Obama in his speech asserted his willingness to use his executive powers on a number of issues, and even announced an Executive Order to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 per hour during his address, halting the deportation of non-criminal immigrants was not one of them.
The President’s inaction — his callousness, some would say — on this painful issue has cost him dearly in terms of support from Latino voters, 71% of whom voted to re-elect him. According to a Gallup poll, Obama’s approval rating among Latinos is in free fall, plummeting 23 points, from 75% in December 2012 to 52% in November 2013.
Such a drop in support is only natural and is bound to get worse as long as Obama keeps up his cruel policy of massive deportations.
No one in the Latino community buys his argument that he doesn’t have the legal powers to stop the deportation of law-abiding immigrants. How come, people ask, that the President can take executive action on Iran, the minimum wage and climate change but not on deportations?
His denials notwithstanding, the President does have the power to sign an executive order to halt the deportations of immigrants with no criminal record. He did it for DREAMers, advocates say, and he can do it to end the cruel separation of immigrant families. What is lacking is political willingness.
Make no mistake, the President’s credibility with Latinos is in shambles. He seems to have completely forgotten the moving words he pronounced in 2008 during his Presidential campaign while vying for Hispanic votes.
“When communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids, when nursing mothers are torn from their babies, when children come home from school to find their parents missing, when people are detained without access to legal counsel, when all that is happening, the system just isn’t working, and we need to change it,” Obama eloquently told the National Council of La Raza.
Compassionate words indeed, but five years later massive deportations continue practically unabated and have become this administration’s main immigration policy.
That’s why when César Vargas, the co-director of the Dream Action Coalition said that “[WE] will continue to hold accountable the president for every deported parent, for every deported child and for every family separated under his administration,” he could have been speaking for the whole Latino — in fact, the entire immigrant — community.
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