tags: Análisis

The Promise

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19/08/09 a 9:22am por Jorge Ramos

Pulse aquí para leer el editorial en español

(Translated by Paco Fabián, America’s Voice)

This is what Barack Obama promised Latinos and immigrants: “What I can guarantee is that, during my first year [in the White House] we will have an immigration reform bill.” The question now is whether or not Obama will keep that promise (made during an interview with Univision on May 28, 2008).

That first year in the White House comes to an end on the 20th of January, 2010. But everything seems to indicate that the legalization of 12 million undocumented will take longer. During his recent visit to Guadalajara, Mexico, Obama said that he still had many issues pending in Congress—the economic crisis, a new health care system, energy reform—and that, as a result, immigration reform would have to wait until 2010

But 2010 is a very dangerous year. November of next year will see mid-term elections for Congress and it’s no secret that Senators and members of the House of Representatives are going to be more worried about their re-election than they are going to be about undocumented immigrants (who can’t vote). And it will be very difficult for them to support such a controversial issue if their re-election is up for grabs.

That’s why organizations like Mexican American Political Association don’t want to wait and are planning a boycott of the census until undocumented immigrants are legalized. Their message is clear: If you want to count me, first you have to legalize me.

However, the majority of Hispanic organizations, including the National Council of la Raza (NCLR) do not support the boycott and, instead, insist on putting pressure on Congress, no so much on the President, to make immigration reform a reality.

It is clear that Obama supports the legalization of undocumented immigrants. He has said it on several occasions. But he is also a very pragmatic politician. He understands that the creaming and attacks during the current health care debate are a prelude of what we can expect during the immigration reform debate. So he has decided to wait for the right moment.

Rushing reform in a Congress currently dealing with a host of other issues could be fatal. It has happened to us before in 2006 and 2007. But waiting too long could destroy the legitimate hope of millions. George Bush delayed movement on immigration reform for seven years, and when he wanted to move it, he had no political capital left.

In the meantime, thousands of immigrants continue to be detained and deported. It’s true that Obama has suspended the massive worksite raids that characterized the Bush years. But the new focus on employers to not hire undocumented immigrants has the same effect: More firings and more deportations. The reality is that this approach does not work — not with Bush and not with Obama.

The system is so lacking that it has allowed people who are not immigration agents to engage in raids. Last week, the controversial Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, sent his deputies to a paper plant in Phoenix and arrested dozens of undocumented immigrants. How is that possible?

Instead of persecuting immigrants, we should bring in more. The Cato Institute recently published a study that concludes that legalizing undocumented immigrants could result in a $180 billion economic benefit to the U.S. over ten years. That is to say, the economic stimulus to guide us out of this crisis has a name: Immigration.

It’s very disconcerting that President Obama wants to delay immigration reform until next year. But, at least for now, it’s the only hope for millions of people who no longer want to be persecuted unjustly.

Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008 (67 percent) in exchange for his promise of legalizing undocumented immigrants. They are not going to forget that promise.

I think Hispanics and Latinos can wait for the President for a little while. There is no other choice. He makes his own action calendar. But if nothing happens in 2010, Latino voters are going to remind Obama about that unfulfilled promise in the next election, giving what they got.