Immigration activists urge Obama to act boldly

Latinos and immigration activists want the president to curb deportations and allow more immigrants to remain in the U.S.
Associated Press
Apr 15, 2014

Latinos and immigration activists are warning of political peril for President Barack Obama and Democrats in the fall election unless the president acts boldly and soon to curb deportations and allow more immigrants to remain legally in the U.S.

Many activists say Obama has been slow to grasp the emotions building within the Latino community as deportations near the 2 million mark for his administration and hopes for immigration legislation fade. With House Republicans unlikely to act on an overhaul, executive action by Obama is increasingly the activists' only hope.

"There is tremendous anger among core constituencies of the president and the Latino and Asian communities in particular," said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, which champions immigration change. "He has a momentous choice to make."

Activists credit their sit-ins and hunger strikes for Obama directing new Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to review the administration's deportations policy and suggest ways to make it more humane. Now they're focused on ensuring they get the outcome they want — an expansion of Obama's two-year-old policy allowing work permits for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children who have been in school or the military.

The program has helped more than 600,000 people. Activists want it expanded to include more immigrants, such as those who have been in the U.S. for at least five years or who since their arrival have had children. Depending on how it's defined, that could help many millions more.

Obama has said he doesn't have the authority to take such a step without Congress. At a White House meeting with religious leaders Tuesday he emphasized he wouldn't act on his own while there still was a window for congressional action, participants said.

Republicans have warned that a unilateral move by Obama would end any possibility for cooperation on immigration legislation. A bill to improve border security and offer a path to citizenship for many of the 11.5 million immigrants here illegally remains stalled in the GOP-led House 10 months after passing the Senate.

But many activists say they've all but given up on Republicans and argue that Obama has the responsibility and authority to take expansive steps to legalize large segments of the population. They worry that Johnson's review will produce only small measures aimed at slowing deportations and improving procedures.

"At this point anything short of an affirmative administrative relief program for parents of U.S. citizens and Dreamers is not enough," said Lorella Praeli, director of advocacy at United We Dream, which represents immigrants brought here illegally as kids, known by their supporters as Dreamers. "The clock on Obama has run out."

Administration officials haven't tipped their hand on the timing or outcome of Johnson's review, though activists anticipate initial steps fairly soon. Peter Boogaard, spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, said the review will be completed expeditiously and the aim is to see "if there are areas where we can further align our enforcement policies with our goal of sound law enforcement practice."

Despite the complaints from activists, Republicans accuse the Obama administration of inflating its record on deportations by counting people removed as they're attempting to cross the border or shortly thereafter. In the 2013 fiscal year more than 60 percent of the nearly 370,000 deportations were of recent border crossers, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Immigration activists, meanwhile, say they feel betrayed by Obama, who was elected with strong Latino and Asian support in 2008. They complain his strategy of winning GOP cooperation by increasing enforcement has failed.

Cynthia Diaz, 18, participated in a six-day hunger strike outside the White House last week to protest her mother's detention. She pointed to Obama's promise to prioritize immigration reform.

"That's how he got the Latino vote, and now he just stabbed us in the back," Diaz said, adding she and others would think twice in the future before supporting the president and his party.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said recent polling shows a drop-off in enthusiasm among Latino voters. "Lack of progress on immigration is hurting our chances of getting these voters out to vote," Lake said

Immigrants' rights leaders say executive action by the president would energize Latino and Asian voters, as happened before the 2012 election when Obama deferred deportations for young immigrants. However, it also could mobilize conservative voters.

Frustration has spilled over onto some of Obama's allies in Congress. Protesters from California were arrested last week after swarming the offices of Democratic Reps. Loretta Sanchez and Xavier Becerra to push toward stronger action.

"We're doing everything that we can," Sanchez later complained. "So when they come and they pressure us it's almost like, 'Guys, we understand where you're coming from, but what we need to do is we need to get a vote out of" House Speaker John Boehner. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said activists were giving "a gift to the Republicans" by targeting Obama instead of the GOP.

Obama expressed a similar complaint at a meeting with immigration rights groups last month, asking officials present to give him 90 more days and meantime keep the focus on the GOP. Participants portrayed a president getting drawn reluctantly into contemplating executive action and focused, at least initially, on smaller steps that he told them would likely not satisfy them.

That meeting, and Obama's announcement of a review by Johnson, came shortly after Janet Murguia, head of the National Council of La Raza, labeled Obama "deporter in chief."

Now activists are waiting for Obama's next step.

"The pressure for sure is working, and I think the question is how bold are they ready to go," said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. "The hard part is this is not a bold administration, and especially on immigration where the focus has been on legislation."

Comments

The Big Dog's back

hz, open your right wingnut eyes. This originally had nothing to do with being anti Gov. This man is a thief, stole land from us, lost his day in court rightfully so, and now wants to hide behind women and militias.

Like I try to tell people, there is no reasoning with right wingnuts. Facts bounce off their heads.

deertracker

Hero, I am a bit shocked at your posts. Aren't you a law abiding citizen? Would you use your wife and kids as a shield? Does the word entitlement come into play here?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Entitlement to what? I am as law abiding as most everyone else. I have gotten tickets before. I also see protests such as this, Occupy, Tea Party rallies, or any other similar gathering as a great chance to discuss important issues about life, our government, and the priorities of our society. The ranchers killed nobody, weren't shooting in the air, or otherwise made a statement without the use of violence.

I can make my own points, but if others who are women or children stood by me as I did I wouldn't hide behind them but neither would I patronize them and tell them to go home and leave it to the "menfolk". But then again I'm not Cliven Bundy. I can only follow along with his protest and use the opportunity to ask questions and find out what's going on.

I think you'll notice that I post under my store's name. My store serves women and children aplenty. What I speak of here under this name must not only reflect my views but protect those of the people who come into the store. If you wonder why I seem defensive or as inquisitive as I am it is because I want something better for everyone regardless of religion, gender, political affiliation, etc.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

How did he steal land from "us" when his family had been homesteading and ranching on the land for a great many decades before the BLM was even a twinkle in a politician's eye? This issue is raising a discussion and awareness of things going on in our Federal government.

Can you answer the question of "Why does the Federal government own 87% of Nevada?" Let's follow that up by, "What is that giving 'us'?"

dontknowmuch

But its okay to welcome lawbreakers with open arms as if they deserve preferential treatment? Dog you're kind of a hypocrite

Bluto

The huge glaring difference to your example is GUNS . Even though some protest in the civil rights movement erupted into violence , violence itself was not condone by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. . Yes , there were the more militant Black Panthers and others , but they were just as bad as these militiamen , and I wouldn't support their methods either . I also didn't condone the violence at Occupy Wall Street , but did support the peaceful efforts of that protest . If the militiamen had showed up without their guns and supported Mr.Bundy , I might have been impressed , and perhaps more sympathetic , but they didn't and I'm not .

Babo

Day in Court??? LOL. Do you really believe Bundy received a fair shake in a United States court room when the United States was his opponent? Yes he undoubtedly got his "day" in court but due process of law was likely nowhere to be found.

The Big Dog's back

If he doesn't like the United States then he needs to get out. Right now I consider him a domestic terrorist.

Donegan

Bloodthirsty tonight huh? Typical Democrat, If you cannot oppress them you want to kill them.

The Big Dog's back

I didn't see you speaking out when the cops were cracking heads at Occupy Wall Street.

deertracker

Of course not, that was "different". SMDH!!!!!

Donegan

I didn't see you labeling them domestic terrorist either.

dontknowmuch

+1

rbenn
downthemiddle

It is amazing to read the comments of people who I assume work and pay taxes, but don't comprehend that their taxes have been going up for decades to pay for the millions of illegals who have simply walked in to the US and flopped down an anchor baby. Every relative of that baby is now eligible for free food, medical. schooling thru college, on and on.

Now the democrats bait them in with more cradle to grave free stuff, just to buy their votes.

Tax revenue can no longer support basic services, like police and fire... and nobody seems to know why.

JudgeMeNot

Like.

The New World Czar

Giving amnesty to tens of millions... and then what, tens of millions more? Who is paying for this?

JudgeMeNot

Yes, more immigration means more Democratic votes cause the democrats know there is a huge erosion in thier own voting base. The added costs of more Spanish language schools, signs, text books etc. will be staggering.

PRESS 2 for English.

It will be interesting to see how blacks react to illegals elbowing them out of spaces in the entitlement lines.

Fromthe419

Pretty simple, apply for a visa and come here legally, otherwise when caught you have to go home.

downthemiddle

It is also interesting to read rather well written comments from people who have made it clear that they are very democrat/ pro obama, but are critical of things like illegal immigration and high taxes. These people do not seem stupid....

Whoever is telling them how to vote is VERY effective...

The Big Dog's back

Who are you referring to?

Darwin's choice

Why? Suddenly feeling stupid?

downthemiddle

Thanks

The Big Dog's back

Buzzzzzzz. Wrong answer.

Josh31's picture
Josh31

If we kicked out all of the illegals, Norwalk, Willard, and the surrounding areas would assume near ghost town status.

The Big Dog's back

Ya'll were cheering when the cops were cracking heads at the Occupy Wall Street movement. And these people had no guns, didn't threaten to put women in front of them, and didn't steal land from you and me.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Are you referring to the people who crapped on police cars (and many public places/parks), raped women in tents, dealt drugs, incited violence, or destroyed property? You mean the actual criminals who were within the movement and jeopardizing/distracting the peaceful protesters elsewhere?

How many ranchers raped people during the protest against BLM agents? Apparently none as no shots were fired nor heads cracked.

Donegan

To ease the tension of Dogs blood thirsting the cattle are no longer "Illegal" They are "undocumented" That should get him chilled out enough to try to give the cows voting rights along with healthcare.

The Big Dog's back

Your "news" channel advocates killing Americans (Dems) everyday.

Bluto

Why were no shots fired ? Because the authorities had the good sense to back down . The militiamen were itching to take this to the next level and willing to gamble the lives of their families in the process . I'm sure that those officers at that point had all the proof they needed to know that these guys are nut jobs . What happens next ? I guess we'll see when Mr. Bundy tries to take those cattle to market .

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