Obama Insults Our Intelligence
The buildup was huge, but not as big as the letdown. President Barack Obama met with Latino and other pro-immigrant leaders and led them to believe that something different was about to happen. He had scheduled a major speech on immigration, and everyone expected him to finally begin to deliver the change he had promised.
Yet when Obama spoke at American University last week, we couldn't believe our ears. Like a broken record, he repeated the same things he has been saying about immigration reform since he was running for president. He was eloquent, as usual, but shockingly anticlimactic.
He reminded us that "we've always defined ourselves as a nation of immigrants," that immigrants "have always helped to build and defend this country" and that a "steady stream of hardworking and talented people has made America the engine of the global economy and a beacon of hope around the world." He even recited Emma Lazarus' poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, about the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Obama told us that "each new wave of immigrants has generated fear and resentments towards newcomers, particularly in times of economic upheaval" and that "the politics of who is and who is not allowed to enter this country — and on what terms — has always been contentious."
He reminded us that the illegal immigration problem is not just at our southern border but also with people who come legally but overstay their visas. He told us that the overwhelming majority of the undocumented immigrants in the country are hardworking people who stay out of trouble and are "simply seeking a better life for themselves and their children."
But it was all political grandstanding. There was absolutely nothing new in this speech — no outline of steps to take, no timetable for getting things done, no concrete commitments to fight for this issue as he fought for health care reform and other legislation that has gone through Congress, no new ideas to bridge the gap between proponents and opponents of comprehensive immigration reform.
He said this is an issue that "lends itself to demagoguery," yet that was precisely what he was delivering. He said his administration "will not just kick the can down the road," yet that is exactly what he was doing. He said immigration reform "has been held hostage to political posturing," and you have to wonder whether the president has looked at himself in the mirror.
Political posturing, Mr. President? You can write the book!
Quite hypocritically, Obama spoke about "the pervasive sentiment in Washington that tackling such a thorny and emotional issue is inherently bad politics" — when we know that some members of his own administration feel that way.
When he campaigned for president, Obama promised he would deliver immigration reform in his first year in office.
Nevertheless, conservative extremists — driven by racism and xenophobia — reacted as if Obama was caving in to Latino voters, giving away the motherland, granting amnesty to "criminals" and promoting other measures that only exist in their warped minds.
In fact, the president spent more time reassuring the right than he did the left. He bragged about having "more boots on the ground near the Southwest border than at any time in our history," about "a significant reduction in the number of people trying to cross the border illegally" and about stepping up enforcement against employers who hire undocumented immigrants.
Yet amazingly, though Obama was only giving Latinos and other immigrants the same old tired lip service that has become an insult to our intelligence, many of the so-called pro-immigrant leaders had the gall to praise the president's speech. They actually bought his demagoguery!
One said that the president "demonstrated great courage and conviction" and that "Congress can do the nation a great service by following President Obama's lead." Others made excuses for Obama, noting that he was "elected President, not king." And though some acknowledged that they were disillusioned by Obama's speech, others clearly remain more loyal to the Democratic Party than to their own community.
Now that the U.S. Justice Department had no choice but to sue Arizona for trying to usurp federal immigration laws and now that Obama has delivered this so-called "major immigration speech," they can tell Latino voters that at least Obama tried, that the Republicans wouldn't let him fix our broken immigration system and that we should continue to support Obama and other do-nothing Democrats.
Let's face it; with such leaders in the immigrant community, Obama can just keep claiming he is "ready to move forward" on immigration reform. But he is clearly under no pressure to lead.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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