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The Empty Promises Of Immigration Reform

February 5, 2011

The Politics Of Immigration Reform: Promises, Promises, And More Promises

Immigration reform is a tough issue.

That’s the lesson learned over the past two years.  And it’s harder to achieve without the support of self-declared supporters.

The Dark Age of Immigration Continues

Over the decade from 1998 – 2008, immigrants were the targets of one political attack after another.

It was not only that rules for permanent residence and other immigration benefits were tightened. It was not simply that safeguards against apprehensions and deportations were eliminated.  Or that regulations for deportation defense and immigration appeals were narrowed.

Rather, immigrants became the scapegoats for many of our social ills.

As a result, immigrant communities felt a sense of relief when Obama was elected president.  Democrats took over control of Congress and the Senate.  It seemed the cries for a comprehensive review of immigration laws would finally take place.

Immigration reform, our new president promised, would take place within the first 100 days of his administration.

The White House change took place just two short years ago.  It feels like two lifetimes ago.

Politically speaking, the last two years have not been successful in the eyes of immigration reform advocates.

The anti-immigration rhetoric has grown worse.  Deportations are increasing at record-breaking rates.  More money is poured into border security measures, even while study after study shows the financial and practical shortcomings of such an approach.

Being actively engaged in immigration wars as a Riverside immigration attorney, I’ve been forced to relearn a lesson my mother taught me long ago.

Talk is cheap.

The New Spin: Things Will Be Different This Time

Two weeks ago, President Obama delivered his second State of the Union address. He expended 144 words on immigration during the hour-long speech. A significant portion was spent on deportation-related issues, not positive reform measures.

After the speech, his supporters tried to spin such minimization into praise for his commitment to reform.

Like many other reform advocates, I found Obama’s words hallow and empty.

Talk is cheap.

The history of Obama and Democratic Party neglect over the past two years, despite periodic platitudes, speak far louder than fancy phrases coined by speech writers.

Even though his spinsters tried to assert Obama’s speech demonstrated his support for the DREAM Act, the reality showed otherwise.

During his address, he never mentioned the DREAM Act by name. In a speech of such national magnitude, this omission is odd if he intended to show his support for deserving, hard-working undocumented students.

Coming off defeat in December, DREAM Act proponents need a leader to stand with them.  To show courage in the face of adversity.  To stand tall in a room of immigration reform opponents.

Ignoring the name of the legislation shows political weakness, not strength.

I could be wrong.  It may not be a sign of cowardice.  It could illustrate a lack of commitment.

I’m not alone in this view.

Following the president’s speech, one Dream Activist blogger poignantly noted :

“[W]e believe the President wasn’t as clear and direct as he should have been in his statement and needs to stop dancing around the issue of undocumented youth. In his remarks, he failed to mention the DREAM Act, even once, as a solution to these problems. The President needs to stop caving to the rhetoric of the anti-immigrant movement and become a real champion of immigrant rights and the DREAM Act.”

Compassionate Conservatives To The Immigration Rescue?

Some Republicans sense the opportunity.

In recent weeks, they have attempted to move to the forefront of the immigration debate.  Surprisingly, on the pro-reform side.

It’s an old political ploy.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Since more and more immigrants are growing disillusioned by the lack of support by Democrats, a political vacuum exists. By posturing as pro-reform advocates, these Republicans seek to pick up votes for the next round of elections.

For these elected officials, it’s a no-lose situation.

They know the majority of their party will not stand idly by and quietly watch pro-immigration laws be enacted.

They also know many Democrats remain afraid of political shadows.

Fearing the backlash of anti-immigration forces, as outlined in The Battle To Pass The DREAM Act: It Ain’t Over Until It’s Over, Obama and other Democrats do not want to align too closely with DREAM Act supporters and pro-immigration reformers.

Without Democratic leadership to aggressively push forward immigration proposals, the limits of immigration reform support from these compassionate conservatives will not be subjected to public exposure.

They understand talk is cheap.

Unfortunately, empty promises often works in politics.

By , Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics

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