The prospects for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) are dwindling day by day. Even the proposed Dream Act to help the children of the undocumented (aka illegals) secure university-level education is slowly diminishing. Moreover, I am convinced that the heartless and even poisonous positions being taken by many fellow Americans will sink any hopes of achieving some satisfactory resolution of the current immigration crisis. The Arizona law is a dreadful harbinger: it is ‘vigilantism’ codified into law. This is encouraging other states to seek the same cover for vigilante action. Vigilantism in our history shows that it can readily become a basis for lynchings.
Obama and his fellow Democrats appear to lack the political bravery to take strong leadership on immigration reform. This suggests they have lost whatever courage they may have possessed early on. It increasingly indicates that the President is listening to his top political advisors who have convinced him like Rove did to President Bush that CIR is ‘lose lose’ proposition. They read the polls and know how to count. California for instance has 42 percent white population, but this group represents 70 percent of voter registration within the state. Then combine this reality with the deep divisions among the Hispanic community plus general Latino voter apathy. Further exacerbating this situation are the potential high negative feelings toward immigrants held by some in the Black and Asian communities. All this may be telling Mr. Obama to turn tail on CIR or anything related to immigration reform that could result in positive action for illegal aliens. Moreover, the current Administration is militarizing the US-Mexico border while faintly apologizing over the recent shooting of a Mexican teen by the Border Patrol. In sum, there is no penalty for not doing anything to resolve or achieve some progress on the current immigration tangle. Enforcement or clamping down on the presence and flow of the undocumented into the country seems to be the preferred way forward. However, a severe penalty lies electorally should any constructive attempt be made to help alleviate the current impasse to do the right thing.
On top of it all, the Latino national leadership is AWOL as usual. One big problem appears to be that our narrative lacks passion. With passion, one moves mountains and captures the imagination of the majority. It seems the Latino narrative plainly may not evoke deep feelings like slavery did or the drama of the Cubans fleeing communism or the high seas trek of many immigrants over the last two centuries. Jumping fences, digging tunnels under the border, hiding under the car’s floorboards, and fording river puddles are not captivating. Chases across the desert are equally uninspiring as opposed to the high drama of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, NY. Add this to the unjust perception that Latino immigrants are a motley lot seeking hand outs. When the vast majority of immigrants came to America before mid 20th century, the US had not established a social safety net to provide those in need. An exception was made for Cuban exiles because their narrative coincided with the height of the Cold War. Hence, their flight from Communism was readily embraced. Now with a social safety net (medicaid, food stamps, etc.) available the dominant white majority in this recent economic downturn has grown mean-spirited and appears to fear these immigrant ‘hordes of mendicants’ who will feast on their largess. Hence, the Latino narrative becomes even more unappealing. Latinos are viewed like the Native Americans who were colonized and occupied by Anglo-Americans simply putting a stake in the land and proclaiming it was no longer Native American property. Likewise the Alamo and Gold Rush served to conquer the Spanish-speaking people of the Southwest. This may explain why Latino narrative does not fit into the traditional American immigrant saga. Distressingly, high hopes for a practical, timely and humane resolution seem to evaporate as time passes. Then again, the Washington approach may be to get out from under the problem (encontrar una salida) and not to resolve it.