Monday, March 24, 2014
Vaya con Dios, Latinos tell President Obama
NEW YORK – Their honeymoon was already over, but last week, after the oldest and largest Hispanic advocacy organization in the country made clear it no longer supported him, the Latino divorce from President Obama became oficial.
It happened Tuesday at the National Council of La Raza Capital Awards gala, in Washington, when the group’s president, Janet Murguía, called Obama “the deporter-in-chief” in her keynote address.
With those words she added her voice — and the considerable weight of the NCLR — for the first time to the increasingly loud chorus demanding that the President use his executive powers to stop deportations, which are about to reach the 2 million mark. Obama has repeatedly said he cannot do so.
NCLR and Murguía have close ties to Obama. Cecilia Muñoz, the White House Domestic Policy Council director, was La Raza’s director of research and advocacy before moving to the White House. Apparently so as to not jeopardize its access to the President, NCLR had been the last important immigration reform organization to hold back public criticism of the administration’s record-breaking deportation policy. That all changed last week.
“We respectfully disagree with the president on his ability to stop unnecessary deportations,” Murguía said. “He can stop tearing families apart. He can stop throwing communities and businesses into chaos. He can stop turning a blind eye to the harm being done. He does have the power to stop this. Failure to act will be a shameful legacy for his presidency.”
Making the split even more significant is the fact that it was at a 2008 NCLR event that then-candidate Obama, vying for Hispanic votes, spoke these moving words: “When communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids, when nursing mothers are torn from their babies, when children come home from school to find their parents missing, when people are detained without access to legal counsel, when all that is happening, the system just isn’t working, and we need to change it.”
Six years later, with immigration reform dead in the water and massive deportations continuing unabated, Obama’s words sound like demagoguery — and have come back to haunt him. “I agree that Obama doesn’t need to wait for reform to stop deportations,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, who last Wednesday, along with more than 250 farm workers, day laborers, students, family members and supporters converged on Albany for his group’s 17th Annual Immigrant Day of Action.
The NYIC went to Albany to push its Immigrant Equality Agenda, advocating for the Senate to pass the New York Dream Act, for drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants, enhanced access to health care and preventing state and local law enforcement agencies from acting as immigration surrogates.
“Obama should stop deportations but we need to keep the pressure on Congress to pass immigration reform, both need to happen,” Choi said.
As if not to leave any doubt that his policy won’t change, Obama’s budget proposal calls for $2.6 billion for deportations and border security and $5.4 million for the Department of Homeland Security’s disastrous 287(g) program, which trains local law enforcement officers to serve as immigration agents and which most House Democrats voted last year to defund. It also handsomely rewards the despicable private prison industry — companies like Corrections Corp. of America and the Geo Group Inc. — by allocating $1.3 billion to lock up a minimum of 30,359 immigrants each day no matter what.
As Sen. Bob Menéndez, who also spoke at the NCLR event on Tuesday said, “The current deportation apparatus is an outrage, and it’s a tragedy.” On Wednesday, two more senators, Dick Durbin (Ill.), the second-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership, and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) backed Menéndez. Yes, the divorce is official, bitter and totally justified.
(From the Daily News)
[Photo is of President Obama during better times with NCLR's Janet Murguía.]