Last weekend, after the president gave in to calls from Democrats in the Senate worried about re-election, Obama talked with Chuck Todd about his decision:
"We had been pressuring the president for years, and had really stepped it up: we were stopping deportation buses and reuniting families through the border fence; a month before the announcement, my organization and NDLON organized a hunger strike of people with family members in detention in Lafayette park. Finally the president signaled that he would be acting, and we all backed off and trusted he would follow through, asking that he offer enough relief for our families. Now we just feel used."
"This problem with unaccompanied children that we saw a couple weeks ago... got a lot of attention. And a lot of Americans started thinking, 'We've got this immigration crisis on our hands.' Now, the fact of the matter is that the matter is that the number of people apprehended crossing our borders has plummeted over the course of a decade ... It's now below what it was last year. But that's not the impression on people's minds. And what I want to do is, when I take executive action, I want to make sure it's sustainable."
The above quote is what's known as a weak cop-out: he is right in that perceptions are skewed as Fox News hosts like Laura Ingraham and Lou Dobbs scare Americans with fairy tales of children with Ebola and gang members, claiming that these children are cover for a Latino invasion that will hurt the average American worker; he is wrong, however, if he thinks that people like Laura Ingraham will ever not whip their audiences into a frenzy at the prospect of a large undocumented immigrant population being offered any status. With around 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, we know one day that Band-Aid is going to have to be peeled, and it's never going to feel good for the one doing it.
The unaccompanied minors Obama referenced had been coming into the country before the summer, driven from their country by gang violence so prevalent that it was leave or die for many; we know for a fact that many of the children deported back to Central America have been killed shortly after deportation, Jose Diaz Balart's interview with a young survivor of the trip was heart-rending and, even after working with survivors of torture and sex trafficking victims, one of the most difficult stories I ever wrote was about my friend's ride on La Bestia from Honduras to Texas.
What changed, however, was the media attention it received. Once photos and stories of children being "warehoused" in kennel-like conditions started to get into the mainstream, the story stuck and became the new thing for Republicans to be angry and call Obama "lawless" over. These are the same people who led the government shutdown and forced through a vote to defund DACA, which is almost entirely funded by fees paid by applicants. Don't expect them to act smart, don't expect them to be empathetic.
In the end, a flood of children in need scared conservative voters, pushed by right wing media into a near-panic that led them to spitting on pro-children demonstrators who got between them and the kids they wanted to tell "nobody wants you here, go home and die." The GOP, sensing this, called the children diseased invaders and not only wanted to deport them, but also used them against the administration. Democrat senators saw a mob of Tea Partiers frothing at the mouth and leaned on the president, who then caved in an attempt to hold the Senate.
Make no mistake: it is the push from those anti-immigrant protesters in Murietta, and people like them, that ultimately led Obama to delay his immigration order. Once again, the Tea Partiers are pushing around the White House, and the repeated criticism of this administration is clearly demonstrated: they cave to the irrational screams from far-right conservatives, who have been screaming nonstop since Obama was elected.