Obama Preaches to the Converted

By Miguel Perez

July 23, 2013 6 min read

Everyone knows that immigration reform is stalled in Congress, that House Republicans are the ones who need to be swayed to become a bit more compassionate with undocumented immigrants, and that comprehensive legislation is running out of time and supporters in Washington.

And so what does President Obama do? He preaches to the converted!

Instead of going on the stomp for comprehensive immigration reform with at least some of the passion he displayed when he campaigned for Obamacare, instead of reaching out to the Republicans who could still be swayed, Obama went to the Univision and Telemundo Spanish-language TV networks last week — to pretend that he is actually taking a leadership role on this issue.

He is not!

In the media, some treated the president's new Hispanic offensive as a major development. But it didn't make much sense. Some even reported that Obama was doing it "to increase pressure on House Republicans to pass immigration reform."

Really? Is that how you pressure House Republicans, or is that how you continue to fool Latinos?

You would think that the "Si Se Puede" President — after all his boasting in two presidential campaigns — would be leading a barnstorming trip to convince those who might still be on the fence on this issue. You would think he would be taking the fight to the opposition, in red states and districts where many open-minded Americans could still tell their representatives to stop bashing immigrants. You would think he would be out preaching against mean-spirited xenophobia and convincing the American people that we thrive because we are a nation of immigrants.

But nah! Not Obama. On immigration, he is not a leader. He just plays one on Spanish television.

While House Republicans keep looking for ways to block a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Obama reiterated on Spanish TV that such a path "needs to be part of the bill."

But why isn't he out there on the stomp, telling the rest of the country?

Those who make excuses for the president claim that Obama is "leading from behind the scenes" because if he gets involved more overtly, he could spook the Republicans who are needed to pass the immigration bill.

In other words, he should not lead because the opposition might not like it.

And how has that strategy been working for him? How many Republicans has he swayed by staying out of the immigration fight for the past 41/2 years?

After all the times the Republicans have refused to compromise on this issue, and all the times they have moved the goal posts, what the president should be doing is ridiculing and repudiating the mean-spirited and un-American behavior of those who forgot the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

He should be out there talking with and about immigrants, and humanizing the issue just like he did with people who needed health care reform.

Minority House members who visited the White House recently said Obama was actually "weighing" the idea of going on a barnstorming trip around the country, but senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer told The Associated Press that the president is not ready to take a stronger position on immigration. "There might be a moment where the hammer comes out," Pfeiffer said, "but we're not there yet."

The immigration reform bill that was passed in the Senate was declared DOA when it arrived in the House, and we're note there yet? House Republicans are getting ready to introduce more draconian crackdowns on undocumented immigrants, and we're not there yet? Speaker John Boehner says the House will not tackle comprehensive reform, but separate measures that would increase the crackdowns before even considering a pathway to citizenship for those already here — and we're not there yet?

So what does it take for this president to "get there?" What do Republicans have to do for him to bring out "the hammer?"

Let's face it: It is becoming embarrassingly clear that Latino voters were duped by a president who doesn't want to spend his political capital on immigration. Of course, many Latinos voted for Obama because choosing Mitt Romney would have been masochistic. But doesn't Obama owe us some accountability? Don't we deserve more than some token appearances on Spanish TV?

Unfortunately, the president and other Democrats seem perfectly content with letting immigration reform fail, so they can blame the Republicans in future elections. But how long can they play that game?

When Obama found the courage to speak about racial profiling and the Trayvon Martin case last week, we saw him humanizing a controversial issue with remarkable appeal. Surely he spent political capital there. Surely he spooked the conservative extremists. But surely, he also helped open-minded white Americans understand black Americans a little better. It was great!

If he could speak that way about our undocumented immigrants, if he could go around the country telling their stories, highlighting their contributions, describing their potential as American citizens — if he could illustrate just how much they could boost our economy — we would have comprehensive immigration reform in a hurry, because the American people would demand it.

What we need is leadership.

C'mon, Mr. President: "Si Se Puede."

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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