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President Obama: Actions Speak Louder than Words
WASHINGTON - May 11 - President Obama’s speech yesterday on immigration reform in El Paso, TX is an indication of the continuing importance of the Latino vote in the upcoming 2012 elections, and immigration reform as a central civil rights issue for the Latino community.
At the same time as the Republican Party has moved sharply to the extreme right on the issue of immigrant rights—going so far as supporting a repeal of citizenship rights for US-born children, and promoting laws like Arizona’s SB1070 or Congressman Sensenbrenner’s HR 4437, the Latino vote has brought a majority of Democrats to office on the promise of immigration reform.
Yet, in its absence the Obama Administration has continued to pursue Bush era enforcement-only policies which have resulted in record deportations of immigrant working class families.
The President referenced this on Tuesday when he said, “Now, I know that the increase in deportations has been a source of controversy. But I want to emphasize: we are not doing this haphazardly; we are focusing our limited resources on violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income. As a result we increased the removal of criminals by 70%.”
Yet, ICE's own figures belie that reality, citing that only 30 percent of people deported through "Secure Communities" are violent criminals, while the number of people arrested who have no criminal history has more than doubled.
The president should tell that to Abbehi Medrano, a US citizen whose father was deported and whose US mother passed away shortly after, leaving Abbehi and her sister in the United States to struggle to work and pursue a college education without their parents’ support. Abbehi's is just one of the thousands of families suffering under these enforcement-only policies.
If President Obama wants to regain the trust and vote of Latinos in the next election cycle, then he must:
· Work to win passage of the DREAM ACT that was just reintroduced in Congress;
· In the absence of legislative reform, support the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ recent call for a moratorium on the so-called “Secure Communities program” and other ICE ACCESS programs;
· Use his executive authority to take administrative action at Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide relief to immigrant families with strong ties to the community—DREAM eligible students, family members of US citizens, and those who have not committed serious crimes.
Latinos are now the fastest growing population in the country, and they are watching the president closely. President Obama’s enforcement-only policies are alienating his own base of supporters by catering to an extreme right that as he himself acknowledged yesterday, "will never be satisfied” and “will continue to move the goal post.”
If he wants the Latino vote in 2012, he will need to show that real change does indeed take courage.