By Gonzalo Santos, Commentary, South Kern Sol
On June 30th, President Obama announced, after months of deliberate delays, that he was giving up on the Republicans in Congress to come up with a bipartisan immigration reform he could sign this year. He stated he was going to begin to take action on his own “at the end of the Summer.” He still doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry, despite his announcement in May that he intended to “make the process more humane,” which triggered a plethora of precise and effective recommendations, then announced in June he was delaying until August “to give space for the Republicans to act.” In fact, he wasted years pursuing a chimera, during which most immigrant advocates urged & pleaded with him to drop the massive deportations, over a thousand a day, which he blithely ignored, reaching a record two million this year. Some achievement. It remains to be seen what sort of action he intends to take now, and just how many of the 11 million by-now-terrorized immigrants he intends to extend relief to. We must insist he acts boldly and inclusively to protect from deportation, and begin to reunify, as many immigrant families and individuals as would be eligible under present proposals! No more excuses, no more delays!”
Obama also announced that he’s sending Congress a request for $2 billion to cope with the surge of unaccompanied Central American children coming across the U.S./Mexico border, fleeing extreme violence and poverty (long in the making, in no small measure due to our foreign policy in the region), many giving themselves up to the Border Patrol – if they are lucky enough to make it through the extremely dangerous route. His seeking emergency resources to attend to the immediate safety and well-being of the children is laudable, but not his approach to solving this most serious humanitarian and structural crisis, namely, by seeking changes to the 2008 law that protect the human rights of such children as prima facie international refugees (Mexican children, appallingly, are not covered and are subject to inhumane detention and summary deportation). So, in effect, Obama wants to dispense with current humanitarian law and gain authority to deport these children on a fast track, in the misguided believe that by doing so, and by launching lame publicity campaigns in Central America, it will deter any more desperate children from coming. Mexico, it must be noted, has been subject to both methods for the last two decades and over ten thousand corpses have tragically littered the border desert zones. It will be the ultimate moral bankruptcy of both Congress and the Obama administration if the only point of bipartisan agreement and cooperation finally reached on the immigration issue will be to nullify due process to deport these helpless children back to extreme levels of violence and certain death. And ultimate policy failure as well, for none of the restriction-only measures will work anymore, if they ever did.
So, no time to cheer for anyone is doing the right thing just yet. More like time for both the Republicans and the White House to atone for having caused, respectively, callously, needlessly, so much human pain and suffering over the past years. I would include past congresses and administrations as well. And if and when president Obama acts forcefully to begin to correct the awful mistakes of his last six years, we will defend him and perhaps even forgive him – but not before. The same applies to the Republicans: if and when they begin to abandon their present callous, hate-filled path and redeem themselves for the decades of fanning the flames of anti-Latino racism and xenophobia, they may begin to climb out of the political oblivion they have condemned themselves with Latinos and all other immigrant communities of color – but not before, and not easily; it will take some time to heal the wounds, perhaps a generation or two. In the meantime, and as always, the eyes of history – some say God – are watching. And so are we.
Dr. Gonzalo Santos is a Sociology Professor at CSU, Bakersfield, CFA Representative for Kern Coalition for Citizenship and an occasional contributor to South Kern Sol.