Why do I keep pushing on comprehensive immigration reform? It’s not just because I believe our current laws are better suited for the 20th century and that the economic benefits to reform are tremendous to our strapped local budgets. Or that it will help our global economic competitiveness if we attract engineers, scientists, and founders of technology companies if we modernize our visa requirements. Or that it’s better security than building More! More! More! fences because you can actually regulate and know where an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants are living, working, and raising their familias. Or that keeping them together is Family Value Número Uno, especially because many have U.S. citizens.
President Obama does not make laws–that’s for Congress to do and the Republicans there aren’t and haven’t been playing. Immigration is also a hot topic which has his White House and campaign advisors saying Stay Away, Far Far Away! But the President has bucked the polls and voter data on other controversial issues such as health care reform and his symbolic support of same-sex marriage.
I realize he’s got a full plate and must set priorities. The economy, job creation anyone? But unlike his advisors, campaign strategists, surrogates, and supporters, I don’t push, but probe his agenda. Being challenged everyday in tweets, comments, and heck, even being ripped into by a friend over drinks makes me a better journalist, blogger, and thinker. Even though I am but a speck in the President’s universo, my continuing squeaky wheel on an issue of great emotional importance to an emerging voting bloc, combined with that of others, is a challenge that can make him a better leader.
As it appears in in Fox News Latino where I am a regular politics columnist.
By: Viviana Hurtado
President Barack Obama’s coming out in support of same-sex marriage has left me wondering when Mr. Obama will finally wager serious political capital to overhaul our immigration system.
His announcement came days after the White House Cinco de Mayo celebration, which I attended. The president knows how to play to an audience: he stood before us, affirming his support for comprehensive immigration reform, rewarded with chants of sí se puede–Yes We Can! When he challenged congressional Republicans to approve and send him a DREAM Act to sign into law that legalizes and puts college and military-bound undocumented immigrant students on a path to citizenship, applause mixed with cries of “4 More Years!” You can read more about my White House Cinco de Mayo experience here.
Obama said that one of the reasons for this political “evolution” is not wanting to explain to his daughters that some Americans aren’t afforded the same legal protections as others. Yet, how does he explain to Sasha and Malia that days after his Cinco pledge of support for immigration reform, he won’t follow it up with a big gesture such as a one-on-one broadcast television interview that sets the news cycle on fire? How is he going to tell his daughters that we’re in year four since candidate Obama promised immigration reform and that this continued delay means many of the estimated 12 million people who live and contribute millions of dollar to the economy will continue to live in fear that at any moment, La migra may pick up and deport a mom or dad, often times of a U.S. citizen?
I witnessed how tricky immigration reform is early on in my career as a journalist in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley–one of the poorest regions in the country with a population that is 90 percent Hispanic. Undocumented immigrant labor fills an insatiable need of otherwise law-abiding American citizens: farmers need their crops picked, families need their houses built, restaurants owners must feed hungry workers, and working moms need their homes cleaned. Yet I also observed school systems and emergency rooms crushed by waves of undocumented immigrants needing services. Left to fend for themselves, communities have demanded more help from the federal government that promised it, but mañana-reform will be addressed tomorrow because of today’s gridlock in Washington.
It is within this context that the restrictive immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama are born. But a state-by-state approach to reform smacks more of, on one hand of racism and nativism or on the other, tolerance than an economically and socially viable policy. Neither comprehensively regulates the immigrants who come and those that hire them, making sure all who are here are accounted for and fully contributing to services provided. What we need is for the president to show the same leadership on immigration reform that he chose to demonstrate on same-sex marriage–totally missing from his likely Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Immigration ranks far behind the “pocketbook” issues of the economy and jobs, but matters to an emerging voting bloc that feels invisible and taken advantage of by both parties.
Mr. Obama we know where you stand on immigration reform. America needs you to deliver–now.If President Obama is re-elected, will he make immigration reform a priority?