Is Obama Stepping up on Immigration or Simply Shuffling Forward?

obama-immigration-mexico_picKiln, Mississippi   President Obama said recently that “…families can’t wait for the Republicans to do stuff.  So sue me.”  He’s been talking about the “bear getting loose,” allowing us to believe that he’s about to finally break the bounds of his own moderation and finally kick some butt.  All of this might be setting the table for some real action at the executive level that addresses the injustice being faced by immigrant families in the United States on a daily basis.  Or this might be another half-stepping, head fake, who knows?  It seems reform advocates are closer to being on our knees, praying or perhaps begging, for relief, as in his face demanding action, all of which is worrisome to me.

Reports in Politico of a meeting with “immigration advocates” before the President’s announcement that he was finally going to take executive action in the face of the Congressional stalemate were disconcerting, since according to SEIU’s Eliseo Medina the President, “…said he was going to wait for a decision from his attorneys.”  Are we talking about the President of the United States after six years in office and even more years of promises on this score?  Yes, it seems so, because in his report on the meeting, Medina said, “Obama did not indicate what kind of relief he would provide through his executive authority,” adding that “We would like him to do as much as he could to provide the most benefit to the most people.”  And, if all of this doesn’t sound like we have painted ourselves in a corner where in a classic sense “anything looks like up” to us, Politico makes it look like not only were we ready to buy any pig in this poke, but that we were hugging it out in some kind of weird jolly-jump at being handmaidens at the seat of power with this description:

The advocates appeared pleased as they filtered into the Rose Garden and stood on the sidelines. [Cecilia] Muñoz, who has clashed with the advocates while defending the president’s deportation policy over the years, embraced several of the administration’s toughest critics while waiting for Obama’s announcement.

Yikes!  Are these the same folks who only weeks ago, undoubtedly at Munoz’s request, had asked the President to take no executive action to give Speaker Boehner a chance to do something in Congress, which turned out to be spitting in the President’s face because the “deporter-in-chief,” as some reformers have called Obama, was not enforcing immigration laws?  Once we repeatedly lose any sense of irony, we also seem to lose any clue about peoples’ reality.

By comparison one is reminded of the great orator and organizer, Frederick Douglass’ speech around July 4th in 1852 in Rochester, New York when he slammed the hypocrisy of a nation celebrating its “independence,” while continuing to enslave millions who were coerced into being American immigrants.  Douglass proclaimed then, “What to the American slave is your Fourth of July?  I answer:  A day that reveals to him more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.”

Of course immigration reform and the end of slavery are not the same, but the destruction and separation of families, the pain, hiding, and fear of millions trying to make a life in an America that once beckoned to “huddled masses,” and the inestimable damage being done to the political and moral fiber of the country in its refusal to mete out justice fairly to more than 11 million people has to be a fight without quarter until won.

On Independence Day 2014, the Times called on the President to take the maximum steps possible to address the immigration deadlock.  But perhaps unwittingly they also reminded us why we are likely to still be very disappointed when we get only a few slices of reform rather than the half-loaf we might have hoped for:

Most Americans find the Republicans’ enforcement obsession unconvincing; polls support the moderation and legalization that Mr. Obama and Democrats have fought for.

We are past the time for “moderation” in dealing with immigration reform.

If we finally can get some real action, then it’s hugs all around.  But, until then this crisis calls for the Douglass’ reminder that “Power concedes nothing without a demand.  It never did.  It never will.”

We shouldn’t give an inch until then.

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