Will Obama meetings on immigration reform bear fruit?

President Obama met earlier this week with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on immigration reform. This meeting followed two others on the subject. The first was with business leaders and Republican and Democratic politicians, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the second with Latino media personalities such as Don Francisco of the Univision Spanish language variety show "Sabado Gigante" and actress Eva Longoria of "Desperate Housewives."

The May 3 meetings were apparently a response to pressure on the administration to back off of its aggressive immigration enforcement efforts, which have produced a record number of deportations over the past two years. Activists and Latino congresspersons are annoyed that after promising to support a comprehensive immigration reform during the 2008 presidential elections, Obama and the Democratic Party leaders in Congress put the whole issue on the back burner. Yet enforcement has continued on the upswing, not mostly through factory raids, but through other mechanisms. These include increased auditing of employers, which results in the firing workers who can not prove legal status, increased use of Social Security number checkups to force people out of their jobs, and increased pressure on local and state authorities to participate in programs that deputize police as immigration enforcers.

The immigrants' rights movement pushed to get immigration reform done in Congress early in 2009, precisely to avoid getting it entangled in the politics of the 2010 midterm elections. But this is exactly what happened, and the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, plus millions of their legal resident and U.S. citizen children and spouses are paying the price.

The two demands that have come from the base and were presented to the president by the Hispanic Caucus on Tuesday, are:

*Back off on aggressive immigration enforcement against non-criminal undocumented immigrants in two categories:  Youth who would be eligible for the DREAM Act; and undocumented parents of young children who were born in the USA and thus are U.S. citizens. The Hispanic Caucus and immigrants rights activists are basing this plan on a leaked memorandum by Homeland Security staff that identified the use of "parole in place," among other things, as a method whereby deportation of people in these categories can be suspended. The Immigration Law Foundation has given guarded encouragement to the idea that the president can legally use such methods.

*Back off on the current aggressive promotion of the two federal programs that deputize local law enforcement to act as auxiliary immigration police: "Secure Communities" and "287 g." Although these programs are supposed to target immigrants convicted of serious crimes, they often sweep in ordinary undocumented immigrants who are no danger to the community, as well as increase racial profiling of Latinos and friction with immigrant-friendly communities.

Neither of these things amount to granting "amnesty," let alone "citizenship" to undocumented immigrants, as some media erroneously reported. They are limited stopgap measures aimed at alleviating the suffering of immigrant families until a legislative fix can be found.

However, so far the administration appears to be rejecting this in favor of a new legislative push that has little chance of succeeding while anti-immigrant Republicans control the House of Representatives. To get enough GOP votes to get a bill passed would require very major concessions. Some that have been floated include:

*"Sealing" the Mexican border. The trouble with this is that nobody knows what it means (duct tape?), and undocumented immigrants would come in by sea anyway, as some already do, or overstay tourist and student visas.

*Re-insert large-scale new guest worker programs into immigration reform. In the main immigration reform bill in the last Congress, most such programs were removed; this allowed both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions to support the legislation. It was not, however, pushed either by the White House or the Democratic leadership in Congress and so failed. The idea now is to trade off some sort of legalization of the undocumented for new large-scale guest worker programs. This would gain big business support, which might bring some Republican legislators over to the pro-reform side. But it would lose the support of most of organized labor, which has been crucial to the whole immigrants' rights movement.

The administration cannot keep kicking the can of immigration reform down the road for fear of the electoral price of action. Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel took the position that nothing should be done on the subject until the first year of Obama's second term, i.e. 2013. But then there would be the 2014 midterms to worry about, and after that 2016 and so on ad infinitum.

Better to act now to stop the escalated enforcement actions. There will be controversy, but millions of Latino and other voters would defend such an action at the polls in 2012.

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  • President Obama is never ever going to do anything positive with regards to immigration reform. He has done something though. He has deported more ilegal immigrants than any other President in the history of the USA. Most of those deported have been NON-CRIMINAL Aliens contrary to popular belief and most are overwhelmingly LATINO. He has refused to use his executive privilege such as re-activating 245i, a now suspended section of the 1996 Immigration Reform Act which would allow all out of status persons(ilegal aliens) present in the USA 5 or more years, with no criminal records, with US citizen-Legal US Resident Alien spouses or US born children to pay a $1,000 dollar fine, pay all cost associated with the immigration process, pass background checks and eventually adjust their immigration status here in the USA to that of temporary Legal Resident Alien. President George W. Bush twice opened 245i during his 2 terms in office. In addition to President Obama's refusal to do anything which would grant relief to the undocumented and their families, he has even deported US born children(US citizens) because as he deports the ilegal aliens, their US born children follow their parents back to some of the most violent and poverty stricken countries in Central America and even to Mexico which is in the midst of a horrendous Narco war. Many of these US citizen children are even dying in these third world countries as they are forced into abject poverty and then become ill or require emergency medical attention for emergencies such as appendicitis or even pneumonia then because of the lack of health insurance and medical care in these third world countries, many often die from a medical condition which would have easily been treated here in the USA. And still, tragically President Obama absolutely refuses to take action that is 100% within his grasp and which is part of his executive authority which would aleviate the plight of not only the undocumented but also that of millions of US citizens realted to the undocumented. It's election time so you will see more and more of President Obama's spokespersons speaking out of both sides of their faces or one representative will say something favorable about immigration and then another administration official will proudly boast of how Obama has deported almost 2 million ilegal aliens in less than three years, more than President George W. Bush ever did in 8 years as President. So someone, anyone, please tell me again how is it that President Barrack H. Obama has been good for Latino's? Please tell me someone, how President Obama is a friend to the Latino community? Oh I know, he appointed Sonia Sotomayor as Supreme Court Justice. Ok, except that Justice Sotomayor IS NOT AN IMMIGRANT! She was a US citizen by virtue of being born in the USA and even if she was born in Puerto Rico, ALL persons born in Puerto Rico are US citizens by birth because Puerto Rico is a US Territory. President Obama has allowed the nation to become more anti-latino than ever before as state after state enacts laws which not only are racist in nature but also are very familiar to the same laws that the Civil Rights Movement fought against. Yet President Obama allows the madness to continue. At this point he is not just a bystander. He is the President of the United States of America now for 3 years. If he would have really wanted to do something that would offer relief to the undocumented and their US citizen family members, then he would most certainly have done so by now. With friends like President Obama, the Latino community does not need enemies. Excercise your right to vote Latino's. And when you do, I urge you to rememberthat President Barrack Hussein Obama has destroyed millions of our fellow Latino's lives as well as their families and even their US born children which just so happen to be our fellow Americans. Vote President Barrack H. Obama out of office in 2012! Yes we can and we can't possibly do any worse!!!!

    Posted by William Borrego, 10/28/2011 4:17pm (4 years ago)

  • If Obama meets the needs of his opposition it will succeed. The facts are that the ultimate power rests with those few that hold the financial balance in our economic system.

    Posted by Clyde Barrows, 07/14/2011 2:50am (5 years ago)

  • FYI......Christopher Columbus did not discover America, He discovered American Indians that were already there. So if everyone goes back to their own country , what country are the non-native Americans going to ?

    Posted by peterpan, 05/06/2011 10:56pm (5 years ago)

  • Jerry: hard to swallow for you?We immigrants are here to transform that arrogance.

    Posted by genio, 05/06/2011 7:54pm (5 years ago)

  • Genio : If you are here illegally for 12-15 years and paying taxes, you are not doing anyone a favor. So are all americans who are born here. Besides, by paying taxes as an illegal, you are just proving that you are respecting the law and will continue to once you are legalized. Off course there are always exceptions but why isn't it good to pay taxes? How do you propose all of us get all the benifits we already have? Evidently, you believe that if you don't have legal status here, you shouldn't have to pay taxes. Unfortunately, no one invited you to this country. You happened to barge in illegally to better you life. That is fair because everyone aspires for a better future. But just because you aren't legal, that don't mean you don't benifit from whats already in place. All those wanting to get legal, I am sure, are more than willing to get right with the law and respect the systems in place. Everyone wants to come here for better opportunity and there is nothing wrong with that. However we intend to keep America #1 and hence only need those who respect the laws just like any other legal person. Your comments about Hypocrisy and Full Rights with legalization, only speaks of how ignorant you are. Sorry I have to say it and no offence intended, but I must tell you, that even those who apply and come here legally through proper channels, abide by the laws before the actually reeive their permanamt Green Cards. It is the arogance of people like you who make it bad for all. In an illegals position, the first thing to even be considered is being polite. Nothing is your birth right especially after you break the law. I do understand your plight but hey, politeness and sympathy go a long way and there is nothing wrong with being humble in your situation.

    Posted by Jerry, 05/06/2011 5:53pm (5 years ago)

  • Good article.
    And to Jerry mostly: what about undocumented whom are 15-20 years paying taxes, no criminal record,fare english, good profesionals, parents off usa born citicens, etc.Lets be clear. The goverment takes their taxes but don't give them a chance to legalize their status, no rihts for them, rigth to vote, participation in unios or a political party, or buy a gun if they want, or legaly open a busines,etc.. How hipocrats are they. More than that: this is an aproximation to an apartheid for 12 millions and about 5 whom legality is under threat. Full rights, full legalization is the only way. Represive mesures going to create more problems. And bad a way nothing is wrong with foreing languages and cultures.

    Posted by genio, 05/05/2011 5:26pm (5 years ago)

  • Kicking the can down the road - this is exactly what the current congress has done. Prove me wrong!!!

    The simple fact is that there is no will to fix it due to political reasons. The legal immigration needs to be fixed first, even if you want to legalize or do something about the 11+ million illegal immigrants. People with MS and PhD's are tired of waiting in line for decades; and all we hear from the administration is that: "They are deeply committed to immigration reform, and we all should work together". every 6 months the same lines are repeated. A huge reverse brain drain has already started and will only grow with time. Good luck to the competitiveness to US, which it has enjoyed all these years, with major contributions from immigrants (read legal).

    Common Man!

    Posted by Legal immi waiting in line, 05/05/2011 4:41pm (5 years ago)

  • If no amnesty at least waive the 10 year ban on the sons and daughters of "American citizens" that have filed the right way paid the fees and are eligible for the green card; but are disqualified for 10 years because of overstaying a visa time frame at some point or another.

    These people have American citizen parents banning a son or daughter for ten years is cruel and harsh and serves zero purpose other than to drive families apart.

    The 245i was once a policy that is you are eligible and you file your papers the "RIGHT WAY" as everyone squawks then the 245i would be a document you would pay a $1000 fine and you would be forgiven overstaying a visa due to the fact you are eligible and have paid waited and filed the right way.

    Since deleting the 245i this has left thousands of Americans sons and daughters files frozen in limbo...

    Posted by LostNTime, 05/05/2011 12:38pm (5 years ago)

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