From the very beginning, everyone knew there was something morally wrong with it. And yet, many Hispanic community leaders shamefully pretended not to see it and went along with the Obama administration's aggressive immigrant deportation policy.
They were duped into believing that by deporting thousands of sacrificial lambs, President Barack Obama would demonstrate strength on border security and gain a stronger position to persuade some Republicans to pass comprehensive immigration reform through Congress.
Yet now, almost 2 million deportations later, now that immigration reform has been shut out of Congress by Republicans, some prominent Democrats and Latino community leaders are acting as if they are surprised and outraged by Obama's record-breaking deportations. But they should really be sharing the blame for having supported Obama's farce for several years!
I remember how the increased deportations were originally sold to Latinos as a necessary evil, how many Hispanic community activists who trusted the president went out to warn undocumented immigrants that things would get worse before they got better. I remember how Obama administration officials let it be known that their raids, border re-enforcements and deportations were meant to convince Republicans, who insisted on border security first, to agree on a comprehensive immigration reform plan.
But that was years ago. For quite a long time, it has been obvious that there aren't enough sacrificial lambs to satisfy the xenophobes who are driving the Republican Party. This was noted in this column almost three years ago!
"It has become obvious that no amount of immigration enforcement would be enough to satisfy the thirst for deportations that drives the conservative (and most influential) wing of the Republican Party," I wrote in April of 2011. " Regardless of how many fences Obama tries to build or how many immigrant families he separates, conservative extremists will keep moving the goalpost to the right, until they deport even Obama!"
And yet Obama kept deporting immigrants at a record-breaking pace, with many co-opted Hispanic Democrats quietly acquiescing. Last year, a study found that Obama spent more on immigration enforcement than on all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute reported that while the FBI, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshal Service and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, cost a total of $14.4 billion in fiscal 2012, immigration enforcement cost $18 billion.
But amazingly, it wasn't until all the doors were finally shut on immigration reform that some Hispanic politicians and civil rights activists finally began to speak out bluntly against the president — and only in the past few weeks.
Perhaps the one who got most attention was Janet Murguia, the president of the National Council of La Raza, who called Obama the "deporter-in-chief." It was cute. But why did it take her so long to come to this conclusion?
Other prominent civil rights leaders and elected officials recently have been calling on Obama to use his executive powers to stop deporting undocumented immigrants who have no criminal record, just as he did when he stopped the deportation of the young undocumented immigrants known as "Dreamers."
And although Obama continues to deny he has the authority to do this, they remember he also had denied having the authority to help the Dreamers — until he did it.
"We respectfully disagree with the president on his ability to stop unnecessary deportations," Murguia told some 800 Latino activists at a La Raza dinner March 4 in Washington, D.C. "He can stop tearing families apart. He can stop throwing community and businesses into chaos. He can stop turning a blind eye to the harm being done. He does have the power to stop this. Failure to act will be a shameful legacy for his presidency."
Unfortunately, Obama is not the only one who has been "turning a blind eye." The problem lies with our own national Hispanic leadership, which is too often co-opted by the Democratic Party. The problem lies with a president who only used his executive powers to help the Dreamers when he needed the Latino vote to secure his re-election. And the worst part of the problem is that Democrats can continue to take Latino voters for granted. After all, what are we going to do, vote for a Republican whose immigration policies are likely to be much more draconian than Obama's?
Nevertheless, in the Hispanic community, people are asking why Obama continues running immigration policies that appear to be more conservative than even those of his Republican predecessors.
Since his strategy of increasing deportations to appease Republicans clearly didn't work, people want to know when the president will stop using immigrants as sacrificial lambs. If he believes undocumented immigrants deserve compassion and some sort of amnesty, why doesn't he begin using his executive powers to ease their pain? What happened to the "Si Se Puede"/"Yes We Can" president?
Of course, if Obama were to suddenly stop deporting noncriminal undocumented immigrants, conservative extremists surely would accuse him of failing to enforce U.S. law and granting "backdoor amnesty." And unfortunately, Obama seems to fear them more than the criticism now coming from the co-opted Democrats and Latino leaders who now are looking like fools for "turning a blind eye" to his deportations.
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.