Wednesday, July 2, 2014

President Obama’s Immigration Wait And See Looks To Maximize Political Impact

President Obama’s latest Rose Garden immigration announcement has left reform advocates scratching their heads while exhaling a heavy sigh of disappointment. The President spent most of his speech blaming Republicans for not passing immigration reform. When he was done finger pointing, he revealed that he has ordered the transition of interior immigration enforcement resources to the southern border, and that he has requested recommendations by the end of summer on what unilateral steps he can take to stem the tide of his record deportations. In sum, he merely promised to think about what he may do to stop deportations at some unspecified date in the future. 
The question becomes, why does the President need the rest of the summer to determine what actions he may take that are constitutionally permissible? Over the past two years he has been provided numerous suggestions from a crowd of sources including immigration lawyers, think tanks, reform advocates, members of his own party, and from undocumented immigrants themselves. So why does he need more time before taking action, and more importantly what has he been doing the last month since postponing the deportation review other than wasting time?  
The answer to me is clear: President Obama is delaying the expansion of prosecutorial discretion initiatives to time their announcement as close to the midterm elections as possible to maximize their political impact. In the meantime, while we wait for the President’s next Rose Garden press conference, tens of thousands of immigrants that could potentially benefit will be deported. What adds to the frustration is that the President spent the better part of his presidency claiming he does not maintain the constitutional authority to stop the deportation carnage, which he clearly does, as evidenced by the previous steps he has taken to provide both temporary and permanent deportation relief to specific classes of individuals.
To compound matters, this all comes on the heels of the President’s request for two billion dollars of additional resources to enable his administration to quickly and expeditiously deport the wave of unaccompanied children from Central America that have flooded the border. 
The response to this request has been swift and harsh.
Recently installed American Immigration Lawyers Association President Leslie Holman called the president’s decision “unconscionable” explaining that “rapid deportations without any meaningful hearing for children who are rightly afraid of the violence and turmoil from which they fled is wrong, and contradicts the fundamental values of this nation.”
On social media, former Board of Immigration Appeals judge Lory Diana Rosenberg expressed shock and outrage stating that “the efforts being made to ignore our protection obligations and to eliminate the due process rights of children from Central America - to have a credible fear examination, to be considered for humanitarian parole, to be reunited with parents and family in the U.S. is abominable, cruel and inhumane.”
Unfortunately, the President’s desire to rapidly deport children without due process isn't the only thing his administration is doing that is cruel and inhumane. A complaint has recently been filed on behalf of 116 unaccompanied immigrant children ages five to seventeen alleging torture, abuse, and mistreatment by agents of the Obama administration while being held in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Examples cited include physical abuse and beatings, sexual assault, racist and sexist insults, death threats, denial of urgent medical care and medication, theft, prolonged sleep deprivation, extended exposure to excessively cold temperatures, and the employment of tight metal restraints to inflict pain into wrists and ankles, as well as the denial of adequate food and water. This is the Obama administration's Abu Ghraib, only the abuses are on U.S. soil, and the tortured are children.
Suffice it to say the president doesn't need Republicans to act on immigration reform to clean up the mess in his own house, and he certainly doesn't need the rest of the summer to ensure the abuses are eliminated, and the abusers prosecuted.
The bottom line is that this President has been dragging his feet to provide deportation relief under the pretext that he was allowing the Republicans to act, when it has become blatantly obvious that they never had any intention to pass immigration reform. Betting on them was as much political folly as it is political suicide because unless the President enacts bold measures that provide deportation relief to the majority of the undocumented population you can rest assured that the Hispanic electorate will not come out to support his party this fall. 
What Mr. Obama doesn't seem to comprehend is that Latinos have long figured out that immigration has always been about politics to this President, and they simply are tired of waiting while their communities are destroyed.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Untenable Cost Of Doing Nothing On Immigration Reform

The following was originally published on Fox News Latino:

This past week House Democrats introduced a discharge petition, which if successful would force a vote on previously stalled immigration reform legislation. Most acknowledge that the strategy has been employed for the singular purpose of shaming House Republicans for their inaction on immigration reform, and has virtually no chance of success. In sum, Democrats are engaging in thinly veiled political gamesmanship motivated by the desire to score points in advance of the midterm elections. Most see through the charade.

Cristina Jiménez, Managing Director of UnitedWeDream.org, the nation’s first and largest national immigrant youth-led organization, has outspokenly scolded House Democrats for chasing rainbows while refusing to press President Obama to stop his record deportations. Ms. Jiménez observed that this is nothing more than a distraction, stating “political maneuvers like the House Democrats' discharge petition are just getting in the way.” 

Immigrant activist Erica Andiola of the DRM Action Coalition agrees, commenting that it is unconscionable to use the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants for political gain. Both agree that President Obama’s two million deportations have created a human rights crisis of epic proportions, demanding immediate action by the Executive Branch. They explain that the immigrant community can no longer wait for the Republicans in Congress to get their act together.

The Immigration Policy Center’s Walter A. Ewing brings credence to their argument, acknowledging the hypocrisy of the Obama Presidency in a report tracking the growth of the U.S. deportation machine. He points to the administration’s conscious expansion of detention and deportation as a major point of contention, reflecting that "rather than putting the brakes on this non-stop drive to deport more and more people, the administration chose to add fuel to the fire."

The Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project has also chimed in releasing a report that found that the deportation machine has been fed by a vast increase in federal criminal prosecutions for immigration related crimes, which has changed the landscape for Federal prosecutors. It did not go unnoticed that at 48 percent, Hispanics make up the bulk of those prosecutions. 

Meanwhile, Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) sifted through the numbers finding that in 2013 there were nearly 100,000 prosecutions for immigration related crimes, an all-time high. TRAC determined that new prosecutions were filed against 97,384 defendants, a 5.9 percent increase from 2012, and a 22.6 percent increase over the past 5 years, resulting in a 76 percent increase in federal criminal prosecutions for illegal reentry since President Obama took office. 

What this translates to is that the Obama administration has made a strategic decision to turn an unprecedented number of immigrants into convicted criminals when their only criminal infraction stems from an immigration law violation. In sum, they have been found guilty for doing everything in their power to try to get back to their family. This policy change has resulted in a padding of the criminal removal statistics that the administration touts in an effort to deflect scrutiny from their 2 million deportations. And at what cost?

Customs and Border Protections’ Fiscal Year 2013 budget was $11.9 billion. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s budget was increased to $5.9 billion. Another $2.9 billion was spent by Enforcement and Removal Operations in FY 2012. That’s not pocket change.

It is time to acknowledge that tax paying American citizens can no longer afford to continue writing checks to fund an out of control deportation machine that is disproportionately targeting people of color. Especially since passing immigration reform will actually save the country money. The Congressional Budget Office determined that immigration reform will result in almost a trillion dollar reduction of the nation’s deficit during the next two decades in addition to yielding long term benefits to American workers and the economy. Now we are speaking a language that even the most partisan Republican can understand.

Case in point, perennial budget hawk Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has recently acknowledged the inevitability of immigration reform stating reform is a question of when, not if. The problem he notes is that there aren’t enough Republican votes to reach a consensus on the issue. The clock is ticking, Congressman.

In fact, the time has long passed for hyper-partisans on both sides of the aisle to put down their midterm elections swords. Americans are tired of excuses and gamesmanship. Doing nothing to address our immigration crisis to score political points is simply an untenable strategy that is emptying our nation’s coffers while destroying families. It is a strategy that must be abandoned in favor of the adoption of common sense solutions. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Activists: We Want An Emancipator, Not A 'Deporter In Chief'

Via NPR:

"Activists who support an overhaul of the immigration system are angry and frustrated. The immigration bill that passed in the Senate in June is stalled out. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is on pace to deport some 2 million illegal immigrants since taking office six years ago."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Advocate at White House Immigration Meeting: Obama didn't listen to us

On Friday, President Obama met with 17 immigration reform advocates at the White House to discuss the fact that he has recently been the object of public derision and shame over his indefensible deportation record. The meeting was described as "sometimes tense but mostly cordial," with the President talking down to the participants. From one unnamed attendee: "It had the feel of him schooling us, but it didn't have the feel of him listening to us."

The attendee further explained that the meeting was more about Obama challenging advocates by demanding a shift of political strategy back to blaming the Republicans than about what steps the President can actually take to do something to stop his deportation machine from needlessly destroying millions of families. 

Anyone surprised?

Here is the full list of the attendees:

Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security
John Podesta, Counselor to the President
Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President
Cecilia Munoz, Director of Domestic Policy Council
Katie Beirne Fallon, Director of Legislative Affairs
Deepak Bhargava, Center for Community Change
Angie Kelley, Center for American Progress
Marielena Hincapie, National Immigration Law Center
Eliseo Medina, Fast for Families
Frank Sharry, America’s Voice
Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO
Ali Noorani, National Immigration Forum
Arturo Rodriguez, United Farm Workers
Mee Moua, Asian American Justice Center
Gustavo Torres, Casa de Maryland
Gabriel Salguero, NALEC
Angelica Salas, CHIRLA
Mary Kay Henry, SEIU
Karen Narasaki, CAMBIO
Lorella Praeli, United We Dream
Janet Murguía, National Council of La Raza
Eddie Carmona, PICO

Click here for the original source of this article.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Bowing to Pressure from Advocates Obama Calls for Review on Deportations

President Obama for months has repeatedly stated that he is powerless to curb his record deportations by further expanding prosecutorial discretion initiatives such as deferred action or parole in place.  It appears he found his powers again after meeting with three leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss the fact that he is getting slammed in the press and on social media over his deportation record.

The strategy of pressuring the White House has clearly weakened the President's resolve, as he has flip-flopped again stating his willingness to review deportation policies to ensure that people are deported as humanly as possible, because when you are destroying a family with deportation you want to make sure that it is done humanely.  Apparently, Obama is only powerless when the focus is solely on the GOP's failure to move reform legislation through the House.

Keep the pressure up, as it is Kryptonite to this President.