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Yesterday, the President met with Latino celebrities and news personalities to talk about his push for comprehensive immigration reform.  This followed a similar meeting with other leaders last week, a meeting which I attended.  

As many have pointed out, these aren’t the first meetings the White House has held on immigration, and they certainly won’t be the last.  

At our meeting, the President made it clear he is willing to use the political capital he has to make the case for immigration reform that can fix our nation’s dysfunctional immigration system in a way that ends illegal immigration.  He brought together a number of unusual allies – including former Republican officials and elected leaders, business representatives, mayors, law enforcement leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders from across the political spectrum and civil rights leaders – and asked for their assistance.  Their engagement will be critical to creating more political space for a policy breakthrough.  In particular, pro-reform Republicans must challenge their allies in Congress to work on this issue on a bipartisan basis or the immigration system will remain broken forever.  

Although it is undeniably true that we need congressional action to enact a lasting solution, there are many things the Obama Administration can and must do now to make the system work better for families, workers, businesses, and the country.

At both meetings, there was a discussion with the President about the fate of the DREAMers, young people who came to the U.S. as children and are American in every way but their citizenship. The President reiterated his strong support for the DREAM Act and urged us to engage Republicans so that the bill can finally become law.  We all agree that passing DREAM is essential.  But there is more the Administration can do to end the deportation nightmare for DREAMers until Congress finally passes this important bill.  

The President has the authority to end the deportation of DREAMers, and even grant affirmative, temporary relief (“deferred action”) to these smart and talented young people who have grown up in America and know no other home.  As my colleague, Maribel Hastings, explains, “’deferred action’ includes a stay of deportation and (potentially) the opportunity for a work permit.  It DOES NOT provide firm legal status and can be revoked at any point.”  Earlier this month, 22 U.S. Senators sent a letter to the President expressing their support for granting “deferred action to all young people who meet the rigorous requirements for . . . the DREAM Act.”  They agree that our nation is better served by allowing these individuals to go to college, join the military, and work legally than remain in the shadows under threat of deportation.    

Although it will take an act of Congress to resolve their status permanently, and Republicans in particular need to come to the table, the President clearly has the authority to give DREAM-eligible young people a temporary reprieve.  In 2009 DHS granted deferred action to widows of U.S. citizens until Congress passed a law to permanently fix their immigration status, and in 2010 DHS granted deferred action to people who would benefit from immigration protections under the Violence Against Women Act.  There is no reason why the same couldn’t be done for DREAM Act-eligible young people.      

The President could also help mend the relationship between police and the immigrant community that is so crucial for crime fighting, by limiting police enforcement of immigration laws to dangerous convicted criminals.  Right now, programs like 287(g), Secure Communities, and the “inherent authority” doctrine created by the Ashcroft Justice Department sweep up thousands of non-criminals, instead of focusing on their stated targets.  Law enforcement leaders have repeatedly said that these programs’ lack of focus undermine community policing and make all of us less safe, because immigrants are less likely to report crimes when they fear that contact with the police could lead to deportation.  

There is real pain in immigrant communities due to unrelenting enforcement-only policies written by hard-line Republican congressmen with the goal of removing every single undocumented immigrant from America.  Although President Obama did not write those laws, he is now implementing them, and many believe his Administration has not done enough to focus enforcement on the “worst of the worst.”  That fact is going to translate into real political problems for the President unless he implements bold changes in the way his Administration conducts enforcement—along with his inspiring call for Congress to enact a more sensible immigration policy.

For Latino voters and others who care deeply about immigration reform, Obama’s presidency is being defined by two factors: 1) the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, after being told the President would pursue a bill in year one; and 2) this Administration’s record number of deportations.  These inconvenient facts are not only well known to Latino immigrants but to Republican operatives eager to depress the Latino vote in 2012 and eager to change the subject from their own bad records on immigration reform.  

While it is clear that the GOP has a “Latino problem,” new analysis by Latino Decisions, which specializes in analyzing Latino voting behavior, finds that the President’s record has resulted in his own liabilities among the fastest growing voter bloc.  Earlier this month, Latino Decisions released its latest tracking poll. The results should raise concerns at the White House and the new campaign HQ in Chicago. Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions wrote:

“Despite a 73% approval rating, only 41% of Latino registered voters say they are certain to vote for Obama in 2012.”

That 32-point gap, according to Barreto, “could spell trouble down the road.”

According to Barreto, the key to engaging Latino voters is immigration:

"If [immigration] is not addressed up to 2012, you're still going to see these big gaps," says Barreto. "People are going to be frustrated and not necessarily excited about voting."

An editorial last week in La Opinión titled “More than Just Meetings” also laid out the challenge for the President:

The immigration issue was essential for Obama to gain the backing of Latinos during the last election. Now he must do something to overcome a general feeling of frustration. We’ll have to see whether the president issues an executive order, or if he emphasizes the need for comprehensive immigration reform after reinforcing the border like he has and increasing deportations. What is certain is that more needs to be done than just holding periodic meetings at the White House with immigration reform stakeholders.

So, while the President’s political advisers may think that Latinos won’t vote for any Republican, there’s a real possibility that Latinos won’t vote in the numbers Obama needs in swing states like Florida, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico UNLESS he makes a bold move on immigration.  With Congress paralyzed over the issue, administrative action is the only clear avenue available.  

That is why many of us have been telling the President, in effect: “Deferred actions” speak louder than words.

Cross-Posted at America's Voice and Huffington Post.

Originally posted to AmericasVoice on Fri Apr 29, 2011 at 11:32 AM PDT.

Also republished by LatinoKos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I understand we have 104 nuclear power plants (0+ / 0-)

    in this country.

    We don't not produce enough oil to meet our energy needs.  It is madness to allow more immigration into our country as it will raise our energy requirements and make our unsustainable situation more unsustainable.

  •  Why shold these illegals be given (0+ / 0-)

    special rights? They came here illegally. What I can't get past is how they somehow feel like they are entitled automatically to legal residency because ICE didn't catch them. What does it say to those who have been waiting years, if not longer, to come here legally to see a group of people get special rights and rewarded with legal residency? Why should anyone bother coming here legally if the illegal immigrant apologists like you will grant them all residency? And let's assume we implement an amnesty. What are we going to do in 20-30 years later when there is another group of illegals here?

    My biggest problem is that it sends the wrong message by giving these people legal residency. What's the point of playing by the rules?

    That said I could support the DREAM Act for those brought here as children. They didn't chose to come here and they shouldn't suffer from the sins of their parents. Their parents should be deported, though.

  •  I am waiting for the diary that pushes the GOP and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    blue dog dems ( my own dem senators voted against start) since this one I have read over and over again.  I can insert any situation that comes to potus desk and there are countless diaries saying the same thing.  Yet there is hardly any push back against these GOP and BD Dems that sit back and vote against these progressive legislation.  

    Funny enough when potus gets progressive legislation passed the same "hold his feet to fire" folks are crickets  and the bar is raised again.   I guess you want him to do like Mr. Walters in WI, that works so nicely doesn't it.

    33 senior citizens paying over $6k more in Medicare costs to pay for 1 millionaire/billionaire’s tax cut.Not on my watch...president Obama.

    by NorthCacalakaGirlForBO on Fri Apr 29, 2011 at 01:09:49 PM PDT

  •  Addressing the actual content of the diary: (0+ / 0-)

    It is very discouraging that Obama is managing to piss away the support he had from a major part of his base.  He should do the right thing and prevent the DREAMers from being deported.  He should also really be more worried about losing support from states like California, where we will have a Hispanic majority within the decade.  
    Instead it seems more likely that the deportations will continue and actually continue to increase as he tries to pull more support from anti-immigrant and conservative voters.  

    I wish I could support Obama but more and more I'm feeling like I may not be voting for him next year.  He has sacrificed too many issues on the principle of pragmatism when he could be fighting for real change.  In too many areas his actual policies are no different than the Republicans.  I need to see some improvement.

  •  You DO know he's deporting more immigrants than (0+ / 0-)
  •  Why is it that diaries on immigration (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    always elicit such nonsensical comments?  Sometimes I feel like people read the word "immigration" and then their brains just melt and leak out their ears.  Just for once I'd like to read a cogent discussion about this topic on Daily Kos but I'm certainly not going to hold my breath.

  •  Obama No, in 2012 (0+ / 0-)

    I said it before and I will say it again. I voted for this black
    President once but no more. He has lied to me and all of the
    Latinos who voted for him. I do not need to tell you what he
    has done to whole Latino families with his deportation machine. I simply will not vote in 2012....unless he changes
    his tune and grant deferred action to all illegals.

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