Republicans have certainly mismanaged their relationship with Latino voters. There is no love for the GOP. But the Obama Administration appears hell-bent on doing everything possible to put the Latino vote back in contention. How? By maintaining a callous and deeply unpopular deportation policy.
Immigrant advocates on Monday condemned the administration's recent findings that a policy designed to reduce the deportations of otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants has had almost no effect.There is no way to understate the effect of this news. It has dominated Spanish language media, and cynical Republicans have jumped at the opportunity to show fake concern for the results. It has given Sen. Marco Rubio a chance to grandstand with his own inadequate version of the DREAM Act, while Republicans blast (legitimately, for once) the administration for breaking its promises on immigration reform. As a result of this intense media focus, the Latino community is incredibly well informed on the issue—they'll speak to you about "prosecutorial discretion" and know who John Morton is (do you?).
An ongoing government review has found that fewer than 2 percent of the more than 400,000 pending deportation cases have been halted.
The government says thousands more cases will be closed, but critics say the paltry results so far expose an unwillingness among immigration agents to enforce the new policy.
"We were quite hopeful that the new policies would usher in a new era of humane enforcement," Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice Education Fund, told reporters on a conference call with other advocacy groups. "A year later, we are sad to declare that the implementation of this policy is failing. [It] has not made this better and to some extent has made it worse."
As one attendee at Netroots Nation noted at a panel on immigration reform—a temporary halt to deportations for non-criminal undocumented immigrants would be worth tens of millions of dollars in Spanish-language television ads for the Obama campaign.
Instead, the Spanish-language media is dominated by stories about Obama's broken promises—first, his promises to tackle the issue in the first year of his presidency (which he didn't bother doing), and second, his promise to reduce the number of deportations. Believe it or not, splitting up families is not good politics.
This administration has deported more people than previous Republican administrations. Yet he hasn't gained a single vote from the nativist xenophobic Right. Not only would halting non-criminal deportations be the humane thing to do, it would also be good electoral politics.