In response to the unprecedented actions of immigrant rights groups in cities across the country, officials in the Obama Administration announced changes to administrative policies that will give 300,000 people currently in deportation proceedings the right to a hearing before an immigration judge. Nothing more. More than a few of the 300,000 will likely still be ordered deported by judges known by immigration lawyers to consistently deny immigrant pleas for justice.
While the administrative changes are an important change for some of the 300,000 people that may benefit from the President's shift on immigration policy, the announcement of these new policies may actually end up creating more credibility issues among Latino voters, many of whom are wondering whether they will again support Candidate Obama.
Consider, for example, how today's announcement of the president's deployment of his administrative discretion contradicts the repeated and vociferous statements he made about not being able to use his executive authority to, for example, stop deporting DREAM Act-eligible students. As recently as last week, on the eve of and in response to our National Day of Action, President Obama said in an interview with Latina magazine about our long-held demands that he used his executive authority to stop deporting DREAMers, "Well, the truth of the matter is that we have exercised as much administrative discretion as we can."
President Obama and his operatives in campaign offices throughout the country were shaken up by the rise of the Angry Latino Voters who protested and delivered tens of thousands of petitions to end the extremely controversial Secure Communities or "SCOMM" program during last Tuesday's National Day of Action, when Latino communities in several US cities protested at Obama campaign offices. Unfortunately for those nervously counting votes in the Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago, the immigration math just doesn't add up.
That's because the Administration's changes to immigration policy do little to help the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants who are not currently in deportation proceedings. The vast majority of undocumented immigrants in the United States will still wake up tomorrow in fear of the possibility that President Obama will continue to authorize and send heavily-armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to tear down their door and put a gun in their face, or in the face of their children in one of the daily middle-of-the-night raids.
While there will be a temporary jolt of excitement amidst the confusion and diversionary euphoria of Thursday's announcement, Latino voters are no longer apt to forget President Obama's failure to fundamentally alter or abolish devastating immigration policies like the SCOMM program, which was the impetus for our recent National Day of Action. In this sense, the Obama Administration's announcement represents a (Less Than) 3% Solution to the crisis that his administration has caused in the lives of the more than 1 million immigrants he has already deported, the majority of whom have committed no crime other than seeking a better life for them and their families.
Bubbling beneath today's announcement is an immigration crisis that will continue to widen and deepen the campaign crisis we see in news stories featuring pictures of Angry Latino Voters carrying colorful placards saying "Obama is Separating More Families Than Bush" and "Stop Secure Communities NOW!"
The Latino crisis has become so deep for President Obama that he and members of his Administration like White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz have taken to aggressively repeating misleading statements about the immigrants that their Administration is raiding, terrorizing and deporting: that they are criminals. Continuing to repeat such false claims when the Obama Administration's own records show that most people being deported have no criminal record will only result in more protesters at campaign offices, more petitions to the White House and more voters telling pollsters that they might stay home on election day 2012.
Further deepening the crisis is Thursday's lesser-known release of hundreds of documents revealing what U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin said was an attempt by Obama Administration officials to deceive states and local governments about how SCOMM was supposed to work "There is ample evidence that ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and DHS [Department of Homeland Security] have gone out of their way to mislead the public about Secure Communities," said Scheindlin in her written opinion about the release of the documents.
The devastation done by the dark sun of SCOMM cannot be covered up with the finger of administrative changes. Viewed thru the lens of the Latino voter, ending SCOMM is probably one of the best ways to revive and animate the very dynamic Latino electorate, an electorate for whom immigration is as much a personal as a political issue. A June 2011 Impremedia/Latino Decisions poll shows that 53% of Latino voters know an undocumented person and 25% of us know someone who was or will be deported by scandalous immigration policies like SCOMM.
So, if President Obama is to really help Candidate Obama regain favor with Latino voters, he will have to start by ending SCOMM, the primary rallying cry of those of us demanding real immigration justice for our families and friends. Nothing less will do.