The 2009 political winds gave Democrats a substantial majority in the House and a filibuster -proof Senate, yet a year of inter-party bickering left the President empty handed when it came to health care legislation, cap-and-trade and immigration reform.
“People are angry and disillusioned,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) said in a recent interview.
Gutierrez criticized the Obama administration for not trying harder for legislation that would grant amnesty for most immigrants. The Illinois Congressman and author of 2010 comprehensive immigration reform legislation conceded that he short at least 18 votes in the House and therefore unable to move the bill he sponsored.
Gutierrez made a trip this week to Los Angeles to discuss amnesty and to headline a town hall meeting at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church, known as “La Placita,” which has acknowledged its sanctuary standing for illegal immigrants.
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Gutierrez said that Obama’s failure to push immigration reform was symbolized by his State of the Union address last Wednesday, “when he devoted 38 of about 7,300 words to the issue.”
“The throwaway line,” Gutierrez said, was the final straw for many activists. Many hard-line immigration activists have been perturbed by the Obama Administrations continued deportations and enforcement actions that haven’t led to any real progress on reform.
It’s been reported by government data that President Obama has continued the removals of illegal immigrants. In 2009, deportations grew to 387,790 from 291,060 in 2007 under the Bush administration.
In a statement from the Department of Homeland Security, spokesman Matt Chandler said the administration remained “committed to confronting this problem” by using administrative and enforcement tools as well as work with Congress to find more solutions.
Gutierrez’ inability to consolidate fellow Democrats to pass meaningful reform and offer amnesty to most of the nation’s 12-20 million illegal immigrants, issue more family visas, increase worker protections doesn’t sit well with impatient immigration groups.
“Get ready to be bombarded with all the scary and racist, hate -filled arguments on why this country should not pass comprehensive immigration reform and why we should give mass deportations, or ‘attrition through enforcement’ a chance,” according to immigration activist Tony Herrera. “Then get ready for massive celebration from the 12 million undocumented immigrants who will embrace their new-found American citizenship, they’ll move on and quickly and quietly assimilate into our fabric of society, some have already begun such assimilation, but those anti-immigrant groups will remain, small in numbers, but increasingly vocal, persistent in their attempt to drive a wedge and stifle a cohesive and multi-cultural America.”
The cynical sniping continues from Gutierrez on his website regarding the immigration battle expected to heat up later this year. “In the immigration debate, some things are constant. They never change. One is that opponents of immigration reform will use it as a wedge issue and will blame everything from unemployment to rising health care costs on immigrants. Your favorite lost on Dancing with the Stars? Let’s blame immigrants for that one, too.”
Terse rhetoric will not encourage those on the fence to support immigration activists especially in a tough economy and double-digit unemployment.
“Skeptical politicians believe it drives poll numbers, cynical commentators believe it drives TV ratings. The immigrant blame game is one of the most predictable and most deplorable, elements of public debate in our nation,” according to Gutierrez.
“In Congress, we’ve responded year after year with legislation, often bipartisan,” Gutierrez explains. While many immigrant opponents would never even come to the table to craft a workable solution to the urgent crisis, immigration activists sit patiently at that table, often making concessions after concessions and going home with nothing.
But it’s precisely the illegal immigrant activists’ tactics that many Americans find hard to understand. For example many illegals play “the keeping the family together card.” Gutierrez says he is interested in “The ability of a mother to stay with her son or an honest person to find work and for all families in the country to be safe-three simple principles. Three American principles. Not just for immigrants, but for all of us. Every American will benefit from this bill, from the heightened national security, from the commitment to family unity, from the common-sense approach to jobs and our economy,” the Congressman finished.
However, Americans concerned with illegals that entered the country illegally and play the family card, explain that nobody is keeping families apart. “Illegal immigrants can go back to their home country and reunite with their families. Nobody is forcing parents to leave their kids behind, it’s a big misnomer,” say anti-illegal immigration activists.
As a candidate for President, Obama said, “We need immigration reform that will secure our borders, and punish employers who exploit immigrant labor; reform that finally brings the 12 million people who are here illegally out of the shadows by requiring them to take steps to become legal citizens. We must assert our values and reconcile our principles as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. That is a priority I will pursue from my very first day.”
However, fast forward a year and in the President’s first State of the Union speech in which he spoke vaguely about immigration, “We should continue to work at fixing our broken immigration system to secure our borders and enforce our laws and ensure that everyone who plays by rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.”
Not exactly what immigration reform activists were looking for from President Obama.
NumbersUSA, an organization committed to legal immigration said, “If the President really believed that putting Americans back to work was an emergency that called for tough measures, he would have announced a suspension of most new immigration of foreign workers and mandated E-Verify verification to keep illegal aliens from U.S. jobs.”
It sounds like the American voters have persuaded the White House that “comprehensive immigration reform” is far more controversial than the other items the President mentioned directly in his yearly address, according to Roy Beck of NumbersUSA.
“And for that, we can thank the millions of Americans who have contacted the White House in the last year to express their opposition to ‘comprehensive immigration reform,’” Beck finished.
Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) addressed the issue of American jobs being held by illegal immigrants this way; “We could cut the unemployment rate in half simply by enforcing immigration laws. Unfortunately, the Obama administration continues to ignore the eight million illegal immigrants holding jobs that rightfully belong to out-of-work citizens and legal immigrants.”
In an effort to have their voices heard immigrant rights supporters are organizing a national mobilization demonstration on March 21 of this year and hope to have at least 100,000 immigrants ready to march in Washington D.C.
Without immigration progress, Congressman Gutierrez warned that many Latinos would stay home from the voting booths this year and for the 2012 presidential election if D.C. fails to produce immigration reform and grant amnesty.
“We need to hold all of our political leaders accountable,” he said.
If the tea party events held across America the past year are any indication as to how the American people feel about immigration reform and amnesty, Washington politicians will face the wrath from voters on both sides of the issue.