Washington There is finally hope for comprehensive immigration reform if only because the inside-the-beltway strategy is crumbling and the anger and hurt if finally forcing itself into the open and driving the debate. Many activists and advocates have been pleading for a rally, march or some show of strength and purpose since exactly such an event was squelched for Inauguration Day 2009. Now a year later with some small progress in tone, but mostly some severe disillusionment with the lack of progress on the local vigilantism sanctioned by 287g, the increased punitive enforcements and senseless family breakups from unnecessary deportations, and the thousands pushed out of jobs the base knows the score no matter what lipstick DC players might put on this pig.
Not surprisingly on the eve of the March 21st Rally and March, the President and his people summoned a dozen advocates for a meeting Thursday at the White House to try to soften some of the blows. Parsing the statements after it was over from participants was no easy task, especially reading the snarky line in the Times claiming the advocates were mainly happy to have had the President there for an hour of the session. I’m sure there’s a way that could have been written more patronizingly, but I’ll have to think about it. An hour from the President is frankly no big deal when dealing with the problems of 12 million plus undocumented immigrants and what this means to a core part of the progressive – and Democratic – constituency among Latino voters in this country.
There seemed to be little in the way of concrete progress from the meeting though. The President asking advocates to deliver Republican votes for the bill is a wild piece of “blaming the victim.” We can’t get there from here. From all reports of people in the meeting the President was testy and sparky in the meeting. He reportedly is chafing at being the target of the Rally and March. He was supposedly uncomfortable hearing about how bad a problem DHS is under Secretary Napolitano who has cranked up the enforcement without any relief and justice for immigrants. One participant claimed that Obama said he would meet with her.
From what I heard the biggest crack opening for relief on the way to reform was a tense exchange around the issue of whether or not the Administration is deporting immigrants without criminal records. The advocates placed the issue squarely on the table demanding that this be stopped. Reportedly the President claimed that they were not engaging in such deportations. This is not opinion but fact. These deportations are happening. If the President says they are not, this is something he can fix today by stopping such deportations and family breakups.
Realistically a bill seems unlikely for 2010 and pretty sketchy for next year as well, especially if it depends on reformers mustering bipartisan support, as I mentioned.
The odds improve if the movement is finally unleashed and allowed to put the pressure on not only the President but the other institutions and individuals standing in the way of reform. With DREAM marchers getting great traction and publicity by showing courage on their march up the East Coast and hundreds of young people and their supporters standing up in Chicago in an action yesterday where they declared they were “undocumented and unafraid,” the pressure is finally on the “by-and-by” folks caught in the DC lobbying strategies.
If we stop advocating and start organizing and leading the movement that is once again emerging, then real reform is possible. Maybe the events of these coming weeks are finally going to unleash the real forces of change?