Yesterday, I read this piece by Ruben Navarrette titled Obama drops ball on immigration. I scratched my head and then thought to myself, “I don’t think President Obama ever really picked up the ball on immigration since he has occupied the White House.” We have seen evidence of this by his administration’s continuance of the ICE raids and racial profiling in the name of immigration enforcement. Additionally, I have never thought that comprehensive immigration reform would be a promise that comes to fruition in the first few years of this administration given the dire economic circumstances and the obstacles in selling health care reform.
I have been of the opinion for the past year, ever since we witnessed the economic meltdown last fall that immigration reform would occur more incrementally, not comprehensively, as so many people have proposed. My view is that Obama’s initial movements and statements about immigration reform were made before he and those around him had taken full stock of the economic situation. No matter how much you may want immigration reform, arguing for it when unemployment is still rising in many states is certainly challenging.
Admittedly, I’m disappointed in Obama’s recent actions and statements on immigration, but as this piece in The Economist points out, his administration “has been tinkering with immigration policy all year.” The Department of Homeland Security has made movements to expand the controversial 287 (g) program of training local law authorities to enforce immigration laws. This is what has given us the Sheriff Joe situation in Maricopa County, Arizona.
My view is that Latinos, collectively, aren’t pushing Obama and their representatives hard enough on immigration reform and its related issues to force the issue in the next year or so. While I do see glimmers of hope among the more activist base within the Latino and pro-migrant community, I still see so many who are unengaged within our communities. Let’s face it, although President Obama and his wife can certainly attend CHCI galas with us and make proclamations that “todos somos Americanos,” at the end of the day, it is going to be those calls to our representatives’ offices, along with letters to the White House, that are going to get the immigration train moving. We can’t even get Joe Baca and Loretta Sanchez to formally back the DREAM Act with co-sponsorship, which would be a great first step in reforming immigration laws by giving young people who are already here and contributing to our society legal status. To conclude, I suggest that those of you who are pro-immigration reform minded make those calls and send those letters. The framing of the immigration issue will be key, and we cannot afford to have it hijacked like we have seen with the health care debate. Rep. Gutierrez has signaled that he will introduce an immigration reform bill next month, so we already have a heads up.