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Frustrated Calls for Immigration Leadership from President Obama (Then and Now)

by Jacquelyn Mahendra on 03/18/2010 at 1:02pm

This week has seen mounting pressure on President Obama to make good on his promise to reform our dysfunctional immigration system. From key community organizers who are planning this Sunday’s March for America to the first Member of Congress to endorse then-Senator Obama’s presidential bid, here are a few important voices on the matter.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) had this to say today at Huffington Post, in a piece called “Obama on Immigration: Then and Now:”

Three years ago, when I met with Senator Barack Obama in his Chicago office and we contemplated his possible run for the presidency, I was enthusiastic.

On that day, it was hard for me to imagine a time I would have to say no to Barack Obama when he asked me for support. But last week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sat down with the president, and he asked us to vote for the health care reform bill — a bill that denies immigrants the opportunity to purchase health care with their own money. It was one more in a string of disappointments for the Hispanic community, and today, I no longer find myself able to confidently say “yes” when President Obama asks me for his support.

Gutierrez continues with a comparison of Obama’s committments to the Latino community as a candidate and his record as President:

After Barack Obama announced his candidacy, I was in the field from coast to coast promoting him. I promised the Latino community that –at last– we had a candidate who would fight for us and for our causes.

Then, as a candidate, Senator Obama told packed auditoriums, “I think it’s time for a President who won’t walk away from something as important as comprehensive reform when it becomes politically unpopular.”

Then, he said, “I will make it a top priority in my first year as President – not just because we need to secure our borders and get control of who comes into our country. And not just because we have to crack down on employers abusing undocumented immigrants. But because we have to finally bring those 12 million people out of the shadows.”

That was then. This is now.

Now, for Latinos in this country –for anyone who cares about fair, comprehensive and humane immigration reform– Barack Obama has delivered “change.” It’s been a change for the worse.

Then, candidate Obama said “I am absolutely determined that by the end of the first term of the next president, we should have universal health care in this country.”

Now, the President defines “universal” as everyone but immigrants, who are denied even the opportunity to pay into the system, to demonstrate their commitment to a healthier America, to access care anywhere but the emergency room at the greatest expense to us all.

Then, candidate Obama brought thousands of Latino activists to their feet by promising action on comprehensive immigration reform.

Now, President Obama devotes one out of 71 minutes in the State of the Union to immigration.

Then, he said, “We cannot and should not deport 12 million people. That would turn America into something we’re not; something we don’t want to be.”

Now, in his first year alone, the President has deported a record 387,790 immigrants, ordering ICE to remove 13 percent more undocumented immigrants than George Bush did during his last year in office.

Now, as American families continue to be separated, as immigrant workers continue to be abused by employers, as the need for a fair and sensible solution becomes more urgent every day, this administration’s action on comprehensive immigration reform can fairly be summarized with one word: nothing.

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