New Orleans Sixty odd folks ranging from business, labor,, and even some advocates met with President Obama to talk about a new plan for immigration reform in the troubled political environment we now face and in the still painful wake of last year’s loss of the DREAM Act. A tongue in cheek tweet from an official at NDLON, the National Day Labor Organizing Network asked if the meeting were a “campaign rally.”
Today’s New York Times reported on a covey of Congress folks who were pressuring the President to use various executive powers to establish a goal line, Hail Mary defense for the millions of families and young people caught in the current immigration crises. Spokes people for the White House jumped all over themselves to disabuse people of the notion that Obama would do diddle for immigration reform. They argued that he promised nothing and would do nothing that seemed to be an end around on Congress. These statements were deflating in a “what is it about ‘no,’ you don’t understand?” way.
Listening to a National Immigration Forum conference call among the activists yesterday afternoon, the only real evidence of progress continue to be in the fights, some successful like the victory by CASA de Maryland, in winning and fighting for mini-DREAM benefits for immigrant children for instate tuition. Disappointingly, too many other speakers continued to assert that the best strategy was for Obama to “fix” the situations through executive orders, once again arguing for political tactics that Obama himself seems to be expressly rejecting.
It’s not that it is impossible to imagine such a strategy being successful, but it is difficult to envision how it might come to pass without much, much stronger local organizing calling the question district by district, city by city, and battleground by battleground. I would have thought that the one thing that we would have learned in the most painful way, like a tattoo on our arms for a girlfriend long gone, is that any strategy that relied on the President to make a goal line stand or come through with a game changing ;play was bound to lead to even more heartbreak.
Surely we have learned by now that Obama responds to pressure not appeals. When his feet are held to the fire, he bends with the wind like a willow. When sweet reason, tears of sorrow, or knees bent to the beg, Obama responds with…well, he doesn’t respond at all.
Immigration reform isn’t hopeless. Strong local work is proving victories are still possible! But, nothing is going to happen in Washington or the White House. The whole fight is now in the streets of the city and the labor needs of the countryside. If we are willing and able to do the work, something might happen. If it’s all about hope, then welcome back to another room in Heartbreak Hotel.