At the Atlantic today is a great Molly Ball piece tracing the evolution of immigration reform in recent years, and explaining just why advocates are so furious about President Obama delaying executive action on immigration and deportations. Immigration reform has been punted on by Republicans and Democrats alike, and the immigrant community is tired of politicians making promises, then breaking them when the going gets rough. Read quotes from our Executive Director, Frank Sharry, about this disappointment below:
To understand why these advocates are so hurt and angry, you have to understand the meandering road immigration reform has taken over the course of the last decade—a road littered with false starts, broken promises, and a community repeatedly left in the lurch. Latinos feel that they have been jerked around by politicians who alternately pander for their votes and shunt them aside when their priorities become inconvenient—like now. Obama in particular has made a series of pledges on immigration, only to abandon them all. Now, when the president says he still plans to act—just give him a couple of months—reformers don’t know whether to trust him.
“What next?” said Frank Sharry, head of America’s Voice, who has worked for immigration reform for decades. “Obama makes another promise? It turns out that other justifications for delay emerge post-election?”…
“What is the relationship between the Democratic Party and the fastest-growing group of voters in the country?” Sharry asked. “What’s galling to us is [the implication of] ‘Oh, we’d love to help the brown people, but we might lose some white votes in doing it, so you’re expendable.’” For years, the activists have been told to be patient, that they’re next in line, that something else takes priority and they just have to wait. Many of them can no longer be placated….
After the election, Obama says he still plans to act, and the White House believes the activists’ anger will quickly fade when that happens. Sharry, for his part, believes the president’s latest promise. “But what I hear in the street is, ‘He’s a liar. We elected him, and he’s given us nothing but deportations,’” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of activists—the next generation of leaders of the Latino community—who are never going to forget that Democrats found them inconvenient.”
There are indeed signs that Democratic willingness to anger Latino voters could have electoral consequences, starting this year. Yesterday, Lynn Sweet at the Chicago Sun-Times wrote about Democrats in Illinois who are worried about Latino vote turnout. Democrats in Colorado should also especially be worried, as is illustrated in this Fox News Latino article:
“Our coalition is outraged by President Obama’s continued lies and betrayal of the hard working, contributing immigrants who are the fabric of this country,” said Sonia Marquez, North Region Organizer for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition Action Fund. “He has dragged us along for far too long with his false hopes and false promises”…
“The lack of leadership on this issue from him and Colorado Senators [Mark] Udall and Bennet has not gone unnoticed,” Marquez said. “President Obama and Senate Democrats will continue to be held accountable until they deliver what has been promised and is long overdue”…
The Republican Party may be dead to Latino voters, but Democrats shouldn’t take Latinos for granted, either. As Allert Brown-Gort, a professor at the University of Notre Dame and former associate director for the university’s Institute for Latino Studies told Fox News Latino:
While Latinos have been leaving the Republican Party in droves, the re-concentration in the Democratic party has yet to solidify. A deep sense of betrayal from both parties would be enough to leave Latinos even less politically engaged in the future. This would be a senseless loss for Democrats, since they need Latinos in order to win the demographic bet.