I wrote yesterday about a meeting Obama had scheduled with Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham to talk about immigration reform.
Well the meeting was postponed. According to RollCall:
A meeting between President Barack Obama and Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) scheduled for Monday afternoon on immigration reform has been postponed and will be rescheduled later this week, thanks to flight cancellations in South Carolina.
At a 2008 speech to the League of United Latin American Citizens, then-Senator Obama said:
“We need a president who isn’t going to walk away from something as important as comprehensive immigration reform when it becomes politically unpopular,” he told the group. “That’s the commitment I’m making to you. I fought with you in the Senate for comprehensive immigration reform. And I will make it a top priority in my first year as president.”
That was in 2008.
Now we have had a taste of how Obama governs and how he promotes legislation. There is no excuse, therefore, to think that somehow the dynamic of immigration reform legislation will be any different than it was for healthcare, even if Republicans have a more “bipartisan” role.
I have had the dubious benefit of reading some comments over at the Orange and even one here at DD which question the need for immigration reform as well as how our immigration laws ought to be reformed.
The challenge of keeping this political debate in a progressive frame is, in and of itself, daunting and entails wading through many incorrect statements by Democrats who have been conditioned by our media into a state of blissful and comfortable ignorance as to how our immigration laws affect all of us, not just folks trying to become citizens here in the USA.
I’m going to try to go slow. This is a complicated topic which has been deliberately distorted by nativist groups who have managed to worm their way in to both the mainstream media (see my yesterday’s essay regarding CIS) and our day to day culture.
The politics especially will be difficult to ascertain in the face of Obamacrats and hardliner Dems who don’t care about reform but only electoral victory. I have already read comments saying that because of the poor economy it would be a terrible idea, politically, to work on immigration reform, that folks don’t care about it, that we need all our jobs for us, etc., etc.
And those are the nicer comments.
But let’s talk about politics and let’s talk about the economy.
From Duke Reed over at Migra Matters (emphasis mine):
There are numerous reasons why it would be wise for Washington to address the nation’s failed immigration policies sooner rather than later and finally fix a system that no one on either end of the political spectrum believes is either functioning properly or serving the best interests of the people . Even though studies show that reforming immigration would be a boost to the economy at a time when it could surely use one, and human rights issues make reforming the system a moral imperative, many still believe that it’s an issue too politically hot to handle.
Since nothing yet has provided the requisite motivation to those in Washington to move forward and tackle reform, it’s time to start to look at it through a prism they can understand: Pure Machiavellian political calculation.
As has been rightly pointed out, reform cannot be a one party affair, and to get it accomplished there will have to be some reaching across the aisle and bipartisan compromise. Yet, given the current polarization in Washington, accomplishing such a task might seem to be impossible … until of course we look at the alternatives.
I wish that the moral imperative alone would sway folks to realizing this is an urgent challenge that needs to be met.
But I will instead look at this politically, and the first aspect of that is that in our present situation folks need jobs.
From the footnotes of Duke’s post, here is a study by Raul Hinojosa for the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center (warning, pdf) (emphasis mine):
This report finds that comprehensive immigration reform that includes a legalization program for unauthorized immigrants and enables a future flow of legal workers would result in a large economic benefit-a cumulative $1.5 trillion in added U.S. gross domestic product over 10 years. In stark contrast, a deportation-only policy would result in a loss of $2.6 trillion in GDP over 10 years.
You don’t see this information in the mainstream media … ever wonder why?
There is one other political factor for Democrats to think about and that is the large turnout of Latino/a voters for Obama in the Presidential election.
From Patricia Murphy at the Capitolist:
But after Obama’s victorious presidential campaign, in which he won with 67 percent of the Latino vote, immigration advocates say they are still waiting for the results that Obama promised them 18 months ago. And their patience is wearing thin.
“There is a palpable, grassroots anger that is going to go national if there is not a breakthrough soon,” said Frank Sherry, the founder of America’s Voices, a group that advocates immigration reform. “If there’s not, I think the effort to pass legislation will become akin to a social movement to raise the moral stakes of 11 million people living in the country with no meaningful rights.”
Other Latino leaders and immigration advocates say they understood that the president had to deal first with the economic crisis that confronted him when he came into office, and even that he chose to address health care reform as his next domestic priority. But in interviews with Politics Daily, several said they believe that some Democrats are slow-walking reform to avoid dealing with the politically hot-button issue.
“I think there’s a bit of this Rahm Emanuel kind of mentality, where they think that immigration reform is a liability for Democrats who would rather not take a tough vote,” said Brent Wilkes, executive director of the LULAC group that Obama addressed in 2008. “They think that as long as they think they can keep the immigrant community mollified, they can just put it off without delivering on that promise.”
Both the Republicans and the Democrats will, of course, court the Latino/a vote.
From an editorial in the New York Times dated March 1, 2010:
The administration has doubled down on the Bush-era enforcement strategy, unleashing the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local law enforcement agencies and setting loose an epidemic of misery, racial profiling and needless arrests. The intense campaign of raids and deportations has so clogged the immigration courts that the American Bar Association has proposed creating an independent court system that presumably would be better able to command adequate resources.
Tensions and anger in immigrant communities are rising. Religious and business groups are urging change – for moral reasons and because they believe that bringing immigrants out from the shadows would help the economy. Young students who have patiently waited for the Dream Act – a bill to legalize immigrant children who bear no blame for their status – are frustrated. Groups across the country are planning to march on Washington this month, demanding action on reform.
Progressive immigration reform will not only NOT hurt the economy, it will help it. It will create new jobs. It will give the Democrats more votes in 2010.
Enforcement-only policies have not worked and the moral damage it has done to our country rivals the moral damage done by US torture.
But I don’t expect morality to have a big place in this debate – the cowards and conservaDems and Obamacrats and Dem party hardliners will appeal to morality only to shut down progressives who may have a question or two for this Administration on its present – and future – immigration policies. I would imagine the mantra of “he’s the PRESIDENT, he doesn’t do LEGISLATION” will be repeated, but the fact is the Department of Homeland Security and ICE are Executive Branch organizations and have a great deal of power in and of themselves in this situation.
The politics are on the side of the progressives.
We must grab the narrative and hold on tight in the face of the rightwing noise machine and its newly arrived cousin, the OFA/DLC noise machine.
I know that this essay and the one I wrote yesterday is still very unweildy and disorganized, and I apologize for that. I’m workin’ on it, though!