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Ryan Campbell Headshot

Groups Offer Obama Cover to Deport

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To get to immigration reform, they'll have to go through Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in an election year To get to immigration reform, they'll have to go through Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in an election year.

The SEIU and several other groups, having released a statement asking the Obama Administration to hold back on administrative relief on the same day that the administration announced its plan to wait yet longer for immigration reform from the House, immediately smacks of the obvious: advocacy organizations coordinating with a White House they should be pressuring. Though there have been no signs strong enough to justify holding our breath for another two months on legislation, both the SEIU and the Administration have decided to do just that. While every organization needs to decide how much they want to cooperate and how much they want to agitate, the SEIU has clearly made a miscalculation, and is offering the Obama Administration cover it shouldn't.

"... We strongly urge President Obama and his Administration to allow for [the legislative] process to take place before issuing administrative action," wrote the SEIU in it's statement. With that, several organizations claiming to represent the best interests of the immigrant community publicly pushed for the Administration not to change it's deportation policy. At a rate of 1,100 deportations/day, this is over 70,000 deportations for a community that has already suffered a record rate of deportations under this Administration. While this would ordinarily be a bad idea considering we have the least productive Congress ever, there have been signs to show immigration reform is even less likely right now, such as Eric Cantor's (R-VA) difficulty in his district.

Eric Cantor (R-VA) has discussed immigration reform, even going so far as to say he would introduce the KIDS Act, and alternative to the DREAM Act which wouldn't include citizenship. Although Cantor is not outspoken on immigration reform, he brings it up from time to time. At a meeting in his district, Cantor took a stand against a Tea Party challenger's hardline stance against immigration, and was instantly drowned out by boos.

Since he has started having these problems around immigration, he has been careful not to speak on the subject, has taken immigration reform off of his party's agenda and has even pushed against the ENLIST Act to allow immigrant soldiers to achieve immigration status (literally the least that could be done for immigrants OR the troops, and it's being sacrificed to D.C. politics). What chance does a comprehensive bill have if supporting the troops is trumped by thwarting even modest immigration reforms?

D.C. politics for organizations are an interesting dynamic: orgs. will have the opportunity to meet with far more influential people, who will google them before letting them through the door.

This access, of course, comes with a price: They want you to help push the rhetoric and policy of their party. For example, when they want to do something that will hurt your community, you are expected to help provide cover for their policies with your people so it seems like the least bad of several bad choices.

In this case, however, it clearly isn't: Bringing down the deportations, cutting through the decades of red tape for applicants, expanding work authorization and other measures are all clearly available to the President. While this may upset the GOP, quite frankly, everything else does as well, and the 50 votes to repeal Obamacare were going to happen no matter what the administration did. While we could depend on Republicans to make an impressive show of how outraged they are if anything was done, the alternative is to allow them to keep fighting amongst themselves while they get nothing accomplished.

This is good electoral politics for Democrats, and even better if they have organizations within the immigrant rights movement to provide them cover in exchange for inviting them to another meeting or two: they look reasonable giving the Republicans in the House time, who in turn look worse with Latinos when they can't deliver, providing more cover for Obama to come in and do something administratively. For the immigrant community, however, it is disastrous as they endure another two months of a record-setting deportation rate because, while the legislative clock may be on hold with the least productive Congress in history, the deportation clock is not.