Presidential Leadership on Immigration Reform Needed!

Latinos and Obama

Obama’s Immigration Reform

Jennifer Lawson Zepeda

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama commented about the lack of presidential leadership on immigration reform in 2006.  At the speech to the League of Latin American Citizens, he promised this crucial block of voters whom he would need to fight against Sen. John McCain, in the November elections that he would do better. At that time he said:“When 12 million people live in hiding in this country and hundreds of thousands of people cross our borders illegally each year; when companies hire undocumented workers instead of legal citizens to avoid paying overtime or to avoid a union; and a nursing mother is torn away from her baby by an immigration raid, that is a problem that all of us — black, white, and brown — must solve as one nation.”

His actions following that speech proved he was using rhetoric to gain the Latino vote.  Obama has done nothing to follow up on the words given in that speech and many Latinos are reconsidering their vote in 2012 because of he didn’t keep his promise.

Latinos Denounce Obama in 2012

In 2011, many Latino Leaders are denouncing support for Obama in the 2012 presidential race because of the way he has avoided this politically hot-button issue.

He has slid away from his rhetoric of “It’s why I reached across the aisle in the Senate to fight for comprehensive immigration reform.”These days, he is leaning as far away from immigration reform as he can to avoid offending the Republican mindset — people who have been on a steady agenda of dividing Latino families through deportations.  And through doing this, he inadvertantly helped a new divisive effort to pass laws against immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members.

States passing anti-immigrant legislation
Several states are now passing anti-immigrant legislation that has resulted in a wave of immigrants fleeing these states.  The overall effect of this legislation is that those states are losing much needed revenue as immigrants flee and this furthers the decline of our economy.

Alabama’s H.B. 56, signed into law on June 9, 2011, is the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant law.

  • It makes it a crime to be without status.
  • It requires law enforcement to check the papers of anyone they suspect of being undocumented
  • It mandates that public schools check the legal status of their students
  • It abrogates any contract made with an undocumented immigrant
  • It makes it a felony for undocumented immigrants to contract with a government entity including for such basic services like as having water connected to your house

The result of this law is that crops now rot as most of the migrant workers who normally work these fields have moved to other states to find work. Hundreds of millions in tax and farm revenue have left with them.

Arizona’s SB1070, signed into law in April of 2010, unleashed immediate protests and reignited the over immigration reform nationally.

The provisions of this law that spurned the anger were:

  • Became a misdemeanor for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying required documents.
  • Required state law enforcement officers to attempt to determine an individual’s immigration status
  • Banned state or local officials from restricting enforcement of federal immigration laws
  • Cracked down on those sheltering, hiring and transporting illegal aliens

This led to  HB 2162 passed in 2011 amending the wording of SB1070 that Janet Brewer had signed.  It was passed because SB 1070  ensured that racial profiling would result from enforcement.  HB 2162 amended the bill and left it up to the discretion of the officer to determine if questioning regarding legal status was justified.  There were several amendments that made this racist legislation more palatable and slid the issue of immigration into fascism with the stroke of a pen.

Currently, about 20 other US states are working on similar legislation and the trend is towards an unfriendly nation towards immigrants.  So much so, that now LEGAL immigrants have become the focus and target as “job takers” and a group in California has taken out ads against legal immigrants.

Latinos were key to Democratic victories in 2008.  We have the power to swing crucial states in 2010.  Obama’s unsuccessful attempts to prevent the state legislation has not motivated many Latinos to support his next term.  These laws are in direct opposition to the U.S. Constitution, and Obama could have supported opposition to these laws based on that alone.

As a friend of mine once said, “I wonder what he’s going to tell them in 2012…”