Real Immigration Reform Needed, Not Just Words

Real Immigration Reform

President Barack Obama shakes hands with people in the crowd following his remarks on immigration reform at Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas, May 10, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama’s recent immigrant speech in El Paso, Texas, amounted to “much ado about nothing” for Latinos.

Instead of sympathetic words for immigrants in a re-election, campaign-style format, we need for Obama to make immigration reform a top priority in lieu of pandering to a growing Latino electorate.

Presidents, throughout U.S. history, employ catchy phrases to identify their administration’s policy priorities. We have, for example, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” President Ronald Reagan’s “War on Drugs” and, how can we forget, President George W. Bush’s “War on Terror.”

In this tradition, we need for President Obama to wage the “War on Xenophobia” campaign as a key part of his presidency.

Just like his predecessors, Obama’s “War on Xenophobia” campaign or humane immigration reform should include concrete plans of action, lobbying efforts with Congress, executive orders, legislative bills, allocated funding, Blue Ribbon Commissions and the necessary political capital investment to ensure victory.

Obama should push for a humane immigration reform policy to counter the Republican’s state-by-state xenophobia strategy. In doing so, Obama needs to be consistent.

While hectoring Republicans on the plight of undocumented immigrants and asking the GOP to acknowledge those who come to this country to “earn a living and provide for their families,” Obama has outpaced Bush in terms of actual deportations. This not only includes immigrants with major and minor criminal records, including those wrongfully convicted, but also honest, hard working individuals who obey the laws, purchase goods and contribute more to the economy than they receive in return.

Where’s the humanity that Obama talks about when a U.S.-born child comes home only to learn that her Mexican immigrant mother was deported? Where’s the justice that Obama talks about when 11 million undocumented workers toil in low-paying jobs that most Americans reject and benefit from in the form of cheap goods and services?

While Latinos represent more than 50 million individuals of the total U.S. population, neither Obama nor the next Republican presidential candidate can afford to take this ethnic group for granted, especially since Latinos generally favor a humane immigration policy over the existing unjust and broken system. Take, for example, the DREAM Act – a bill aimed at helping qualified undocumented students and those who serve in the military with a pathway towards citizenship. While Obama supports this bill, he hasn’t done enough to get the needed Republican votes.

If Obama truly supports Latinos in general and immigrants in particular, why didn’t he invest the necessary political capital late last year in Congress before the Republicans killed the DREAM Act? Why didn’t Obama play hardball with the Republicans, demanding the GOP’s support for the bill, when they wanted to extend the Bush taxes for the rich?

Given that the Republicans prioritized the tax cuts for the rich over any other policy issue, including high unemployment rates and rising housing foreclosures, Obama had the perfect opportunity to get this bill passed. Instead, it died in Congress, like the dreams of countless immigrant students and those serving in the military.

Alvaro HuertaIf Obama isn’t willing to risk his political capital, especially now with favorable poll numbers after the killing of Osama bin Laden, what makes the more than 50 million Latinos in this country think that Obama will pass a humane immigration reform bill anytime soon?

Alvaro Huerta

Alvaro Huerta is a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley’s Department of City & Regional Planning and a visiting scholar at UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center.

Republished with the author’s permission from The LA Daily News.

About Alvaro Huerta

Alvaro Huerta, Ph.D., is a UCLA Visiting Scholar at the Chicano Studies Research Center. He is the author of “Reframing the Latino Immigration Debate: Towards a Humanistic Paradigm,” published by San Diego State University Press (2013).

Comments

  1. Annette says:

    Where’s the humanity that Obama talks about when a U.S.-born child comes home only to learn that her Mexican immigrant mother was deported?

    Where’s the humanity and the compassion for the child whose parents DIDN’T sneak into our country? Why is the child of parents who broke the law a priority over the poor kids in other countries whose parents are willing to wait their turn to immigrate legally?

    Where’s the justice that Obama talks about when 11 million undocumented workers toil in low-paying jobs that most Americans reject and benefit from in the form of cheap goods and services?

    This is the biggest hoax in the immigration debate. Try talking to union certified construction workers that should be making $30-40/hour for skilled labor but who have to work for $6-10/hour because contractors and developers can easily hire illegal aliens in their place. Jobs Americans reject? No, illegal aliens are sucking up all sorts of jobs and destroying our capacity to demand living wages. The cheating employers get rich, while the American taxpayers have to foot the bill for their children’s education, housing, food and medical care. As usual, the rich get richer, the taxpaying citizens lose employment opportunities, and liberals run around screaming racism to prevent anyone from fixing the problem.

    While Latinos represent more than 50 million individuals of the total U.S. population, neither Obama nor the next Republican presidential candidate can afford to take this ethnic group for granted…

    Hispanics are already demanding dual language culture and a pro-Latino immigration policy. The immigration debate isn’t about good public policy or humane policies, it’s about creating a pro-Hispanic immigration system that prioritizes people from Latin America over other countries. Hispanics are the one immigrant group that has steadfastly REFUSED to become pare of American culture. They already demand that the government produce all communications in Spanish, and that their children be educated in Spanish instead of English. They threaten to vote against politicians that do not prioritize Hispanic immigrants over all other immigrant groups. They even demand amnesty for millions of lawbreakers, even though we have already given illegal aliens amnesty many times in the past. Amnesty simply encourages others to break into the country and demand citizenship ahead of all others waiting their turn to immigrate. The question is, why are liberals so eager to cut their own throats in order to help people who are cheating the system? Why not help the poor people who DON’T sneak across our borders and steal our resources?

    …the DREAM Act – a bill aimed at helping qualified undocumented students and those who serve in the military with a pathway towards citizenship.

    The DREAM Act is bad public policy. There is already a path for citizenship via military service, but this NIGHTMARE Act would allow non-citizens to receive huge amounts of public money while preventing our own citizens from attending college. Why do liberals support it? Because they can’t seem to distinguish immigration from ILLEGAL immigration, and because they’re afraid they’ll be called racist if they don’t promote policies that prioritize Latinos over other immigrant groups.

  2. Jackson Black says:

    Instead of sympathetic words for immigrants in a re-election, campaign-style format, we need for Obama to make immigration reform a top priority in lieu of pandering to a growing Latino electorate.

    That’s exactly the problem. A “growing Latino electorate” exists that will soon out-vote the native English speakers in the U.S. Once that happens, we’ll be forced to act as a dual language country, and pay for rewriting all of our signs, brochures, government communications. Every other immigrant group that came to this country was willing to learn English and assimilate, but Hispanic immigrants want to force their language on the entire country. Once Hispanics become a strong voting block, there will be no way to balance immigration to ensure non-Hispanic countries have equal access. Hispanics will demand we accept excessive immigration from Spanish speaking countries. Even now, before the massive Hispanic voting block has taken control, we’re being pressured to accept illegal immigration and reward it with amnesty.

    Why is more humane to help the child of an illegal alien than to help kids who are starving in other countries but who’s parents didn’t sneak into this country? Why are illegal aliens a priority over law abiding people? Where’s YOUR humanity, Alvaro Huerta, that you push for public support of illegal aliens AT THE EXPENSE OF AMERICAN CITIZENS AND CHILDREN IN OTHER COUNTRIES?

    The Dream Act isn’t needed to reward military service. It’s a way to promote illegal aliens ahead of US citizens in our colleges and universities. You can already earn citizenship by serving in the military. We don’t need the Dream Act for that, the process already exists. But it sounds good to well meaning liberals who are ignorant of current immigration policy. What they don’t realize is that the Dream Act will allow illegal aliens to legally go to college, which means that many Americans won’t be able to be accepted at those schools. It also means that our tax money, once again, will be supporting illegal aliens instead of our own citizens. It’s not xenophobic to want your tax money to go to programs that support you and your community. The problem is, for many people such as Alvaro Huerta, their community is simply all Latinos, but not necessary Americans. Maybe you’re the one being xenophobic Alvaro, since you automatically prioritize those who speak Spanish over other people.

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