Immigration reform advocates and their allies are furious that President Obama and the Democrats have once again broken their promise to take action on immigration and deportations. Writing at RH Reality Check today, Joe Sudbay explains why. It goes back to the White House’s original calculation that stepped-up deportations — more than 1,000 every day and 400,000 every year — would be the thing to bring Republicans to the table on the issue. As Joe writes:
[We saw the] administration’s deportation numbers climbing into record territory, surpassing two million by the spring of 2014. On more than one occasion, senior White House officials have gone so far as to boast about their tough stand on the issue.
As a consequence, the idea of Obama as “Deporter-in-Chief” has taken hold among activists. Janet Murguia, president of the Latino advocacy group National Council of La Raza, even used that term in March: an indicator that something is drastically wrong.
The tough enforcement strategy was going to bring GOPers to the table. That worked, huh?
It was the president who said on June 30 that he would take action on this issue by summer’s end. It was his agreement. Let’s be clear: Record-breaking deportations should not have been a hallmark of the Obama administration.
There is a lot of anger about this latest failed commitment, particularly from DREAMers, who are taking the lead in demanding real results. Those from the left who attempt to dismiss or downplay these fearless young activists’ efforts and outrage are doing themselves and their party a disservice. There is already pushback from many who want us to know Republicans are worse. No kidding. But most of us who work on these issues expect to be screwed over by the right. It’s worse when your friends do it.
Part of the Administration’s calculation not to act right now seems to assume that immigration is the kind of toxic issue it was a decade ago. It’s not — polling shows that a supermajority of Americans now support immigration reform with a path to citizenship. But some Democrats continue to believe in the old paradigm:
In a September 5 article in the Guardian, three anonymous Democratic officials laid bare the cravenness with which their party takes Latino voters for granted, as they explained to reporters why Obama shouldn’t keep his word:
Another Democratic operative, closely involved in one of the Senate’s most competitive races, told the Guardian the White House should revert to its initial strategy of seeking a long-term, permanent solution to the immigration crisis through bipartisan compromise and drop the executive order idea.
Asked if the campaign had tested how voters in the state would react to a presidential decree on immigration, the operative replied: “I don’t need polling on this. I know it would be bad”…
Other Democrats, such as the unnamed person quoted in this New York Times article, fear that immigration will prove to be as toxic for the left as they believe gun control was in 1994. This is particularly absurd. I worked on gun control back then. We had nothing like the growing Latino and Asian demographics to support our efforts.
If anything, a more parallel political issue would be the fight for LGBT equality throughout the country. For me, equality isn’t a calculation. It’s my life.
The danger for Democrats and Republicans alike is not understanding how personal an issue immigration is. It’s intensely personal for the Latinos whose votes both parties need. And if both parties keep being willing to sacrifice their relationship with Latino voters, that calculation is going to haunt them electorally in a big way:
I don’t think a lot of folks understand how personal it is. Until your life is voted on and the subject of ugly debate, you don’t really have standing to challenge the validity of an issue. That’s not how it should work. You can’t have us when you want us. And that is what I’ve seen from my consulting work on immigration, too. As Dr. Gary Segura, co-founder of Latino Decisions, often says, “demography is unrelenting.”
In July, Latino Decisions also noted, “Latino voters are tied to the undocumented community, this issue is personal. This is THE essential reason immigration is a gateway issue for Latino voters.”
Obama and other members of the Democratic establishment clearly view Latinos, who care deeply about immigration, as expendable in 2014. But watch how many of them shift gears after November’s election because they need the Latino vote to win two years from now.
For immigration advocates and activists, this isn’t some kind of political game. They are fighting for their families. Political actions have consequences, and this one will impact real people. If you think otherwise, ask Ohio resident Pedro, now facing imminent deportation, his wife Seleste, and their kids—or one of the tens of thousands of others affected by the president’s refusal to act.