Former Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas's December 1st comment sums up the progress made by the immigrants right movement in 2010. What Chief Venegas was talking about was not just the failure of the Dream Act it was the failure of the Obama administration to stop the deportations and their unwillingness to even propose comprehensive immigration reform.
Fact: Deportations were at an all time high in 2010.
Fact: In 2010 Thirty Billion Dollars ($30,000,000,000) was spent on walls and border enforcement.
Fact: During the 2008 Presidential campaign, then candidate Barack Obama promised to make immigration reform a top priority. Yet in the last two years the administration has done nothing but talk, Nancy Pelosi didn’t allowed the house to debate or vote on Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the Senate defeated the Dream Act.
Why was the Dream Act defeated in the Senate? Because Harry Reid could not, or would not, deliver the Democrat Senators votes. If all of the Democrat Senators had voted for the Dream Act it would have passed. But five Democrat Senators voted no and one was absent. On the other side of the aisle three New England Republicans voted in favor and that would have been enough to break the filibuster if the Democrats had delivered on their promise.
What are the prospects for immigration reform legislation in 2011? It seems really bad but there are some glimmers of hope. It may be that the need for farm workers (AgJobs), the need for skilled workers (H-1Bs) concerns about internal security (National ID cards) and the unfairness of disenfranchising children (Dream Act) can be brought together to pass a comprehensive bill that solves some of the problems. But none dare call it amnesty.
In the 111th Congress the House and the Senate both “betrayed” the Hispanic and pro-immigrant voters. Their reasoning was a combination of cynicism and political calculation. Cynically they might have felt that Hispanic voters don’t have anywhere else to go. The political calculation was that voting for CIR would alienate more conservative voters than it would gain Hispanic voters. In todays political climate they are probably right.
There is one politician however for whom this calculation doesn’t work. President Obama was elected in 2008 in large part because Hispanic voters turned out in record numbers and voted for Democrats. If he wants to be reelected in 2012 he has a political reason to keep Hispanic voters an active part of his coalition. His administration has already shown a willingness to use it regulatory authority to accomplish what it can’t get legislatively. The EPA’s threat to regulate carbon emissions is one example. The Obama administration if pressured can implement via regulation a pro-immigrant agenda that will take much of the pressure of our poor and poorly documented underclass.
First they can dramatically decrease the deportations. They can close most of the detention centers. The Justice Department can stop working cooperatively with local police forces to identify and deport immigrants. They can stop I-9 audits which have the same effect as workplace raids.
President Obama can slow the construction of the wall for environmental and Native American humanitarian reasons. He can spend much more time visiting and working cooperatively with Mexican authorities to allow a freer flow of people and goods across the border. He can allow the use of matricula consular cards for federal business.
Why would he do any of this? Because we can put pressure on him and he wants to be re-elected. When Chief Venegas said "Our friends have betrayed us" he stated a fact as he saw it. There is still time for our friends to help us so we can help them.