Back in the summer of 2008, when the heady promise of hope and change was still fresh and unspoiled by the realities of political expediency and power, candidate, Barack Obama sat down and answered some questions about immigration issues for the editors of The Sanctuary.
While many of his responses were the kind of predictable boilerplate we've come to expect from those running for office, a quick glance back allows us to see just how little his promises and pronouncements actually meant.
1. Could you please articulate what you think are the most pressing issues for the U.S. immigrant community, at home AND abroad, and how you would hope to address those issues as President?
At home, the immigrant community faces a real challenge from the tension our inability to fix our immigration system has engendered. Abroad, not enough is being done to encourage job creation and economic development and to decrease the pressure to immigrate without authorization to the U.S. in search of work.
2. Do you support comprehensive immigration reform?
3. What policy conditions would comprehensive immigration reform have to meet in order for you to support it? Please be specific.
I fought in the U.S. Senate for comprehensive immigration reform. And I will make it a top priority in my first year as president. Not just because we need to secure our borders and get control of who comes into our country. And not just because we have to crack down on employers abusing undocumented immigrants. But because we have to finally bring the 12 million undocumented out of the shadows.
We should require them to pay a fine, learn English, abide by the law, and go to the back of the line for citizenship – behind those who came here legally. But we cannot – and should not – deport 12 million people. That would turn American into something we're not; something we don't want to be
Two years out, it's become painfully apparent that reform has been far from a "top priority" for the Obama administration and Democrats in general... But more troubling than the broken campaign promises, is the reality of how this inaction has effected Latino and immigrant communities across the country.
At the time, he claimed he didn't want to "turn America into something we're not; something we don't want to be" ... yet that is exactly what has happened.
Is America supposed to be a place where people are rounded up and detained because of the color of their skin? A place where the citizenship of those born on it's soil is open for debate? A place where masked vigilantes, empowered by local lawn enforcement, are sanctioned to terrorize entire communities like nightriders of the old south? Where local demagogues set up self proclaimed "concentration camps" to detain whole segments of the population? A place where municipalities and states pass Juan Crow laws aimed at driving out and intimidating ethnic minorities?
Yet, this is the current state of affairs under Barack Obama's leadership.
Rather than standing up to the extremists and radical fringe of the far right, he has looked to compromise and appease them. .... perhaps not always in word...but certainly in deed.
He's arrested, detained, and deported more non-criminal undocumented migrants and spent more money on "border enforcement" than any other president in history. .. recently adding an additional 600 million dollars to the already bloated border-security budget.
And for what?
To appease the right-wing extremists who question the very validity of his presidency and now pull the strings of a Republican party aimed at destroying him through obstruction and inaction.?
To save the butts of vulnerable blue-dog democrats who provide his party a majority in name only and work at odds to its core principles in order to preserve their power?
To further the machinations of political hacks like Schumer and Emanuel whose Machiavellian political worldview revolves solely around the acquisition and maintenance of power?
Like another great political orator who promised us a "shinning city on the hill," but forgot to mention that it would be built on a mountain of debt and the broken backs of the poor and working classes, Obama promised hope and change, but neglected to tell us that it wouldn't be for those to whom he promised it.
It's time to take the ball, leave the playground, and let those who've allowed the bullies to rule figure out how to play their game without one.
For far too long Democrats have relied upon being the lesser of two evils to maintain their coalition. As long as Republicans can be counted on to be more racist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, anti-labor, greedy and hypocritical, Democrats have had little to do but throw a crumb here or there to their core constituencies to mollify them and keep them in line.
Extremists like Rand Paul, Sharron Angle, and the rest of the tea-party nutcases, are gleefully paraded out by Democratic operatives to instill fear in their base just as the Republicans rely on other fears to motivate theirs.
We hear it even now as Latino voters become increasingly disenchanted with the Democratic Party. Various operatives tell them, "but look at how much worse it will be for you if you let Republicans take control?" . ... and that is in fact true.... but how much longer can they be asked to withstand being pawns in a political chess game that tears families apart and forces them to live in constant fear.
It's time to play hardball.
Until Congressional Democrats realize that they were returned to power after ten years in the minority in order to fix the mess left behind from Republican rule, and that Obama sits in the Whitehouse because he was supposed to spearhead change ... they deserve no more consideration than their opposition.
"Give us a majority" was their mantra ..."and we will turn this mess around". ...And millions of new voters took to the polls to give them that majority.....and in return they got watered-down healthcare reform, more endless war, and no immigration reform. In fact what they got was more troops on the border and more people criminalized, jailed and deported for simply trying to make a better life.... precisely the same situation that would have occurred five years earlier with HR4437, if not for millions taking to the streets. Yet at the end of the day, Sensenbrenner's enforcement only policies now prevail ...thanks to the current Democratic leadership.
Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer can count heads with the best of them. Let them try to figure out how they hold power without the Latino, immigrant, and pro-migrant vote. Let them decide if holding blue-dog seats in deep red states is worth losing races easily won in blue and purple states with the help of Latinos and immigrant voters. Let them do the math. Let them try to put together a winning electoral map while those who provided the margin of victory in so many crucial races in 2008 boycott elections until some real meaningful change is made.
A few weeks back, while talking to his netroots supporters in Las Vegas, Obama told them to continue to hold him accountable. But holding him accountable is not about writing blogposts and tweets about what he's doing wrong ... it's about votes.
It's about control of Congress....It's about the subpoena power of the majority to tie up an administration in endless investigation. If Republicans gain control of Congress, Obama becomes a lame-duck, one-term president...if Democrats remain in control, he has a chance at greatness if he so chooses.
But to attain that victory he and his party MUST deliver something. They MUST make the hard choices and decisions to insure those who hold the key to re-election have some relief.
No more promises. No more platitudes, No more excuses. The time for action is NOW.