Tag Archives: barack obama

State of the Union: Disappointment and Determination

Last night, along with many of you, I tuned into President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address. While I was genuinely interested to hear the President speak on the full scope of the issues facing our country right now – and there are many – I was, of course, especially interested to hear what he would say about immigration reform. More pointedly, I wanted to know if he would say anything at all.

Towards the end of the speech, word 6,300 of 7,000 total to be exact, President Obama did mention immigration.

“We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system to secure our borders, enforce our laws and ensure that everyone who plays by the rules can contribute to our economy and enrich our nation.”

While I was glad that the issue was mentioned and that the President noted the current system is broken, I think I speak for many passionate immigrant rights and immigration reform advocates when I say I was more than a little disappointed.

After words of commitment at key times, after the Latino and New American vote helped put him into office, after months of  lip service to the idea of just and humane reform, after years(s) of hard work and organizing, after flexing our political muscles on the Hill, in the streets and across the country, we deserve more.

As Maegan at VivirLatino pointed out, last night was a missed opportunity to demonstrate to the American public why immigration reform is inextricably linked to the other major issues facing our country.

He failed, as so many do, in pointing out where health care reform and immigration reform intersect.

And where the economy and immigration reform intersect and where immigration reform and jobs intersect. At one point, the President said:

“In this new decade, it’s time the American people get a government that matches their decency.”

And it’s time that government produce an immigration system that matches the country’s decency too. Too many people are suffering right now at the hands of this broken system, for it to just be a passing thought in laying out the domestic agenda.

So, where do we go from here? For those of us who remain committed to seeing this through in 2010, for those of us who refuse to believe that last night was the “death knell” for reform?

First, we organize. We keep knocking on doors, holding town halls, protesting in the streets and marching on Washington. We win hearts and minds and political power the old-fashioned way: through action.

Second, we keep the pressure on Congress. Today alone, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly stated the Senate’s commitment to immigration reform, Senator Chuck Schumer noted that progress is being made on the legislation he is currently drafting and Rep. Luis Gutierrez took it to the blogosphere to remind Congress that the responsibility rests squarely on their shoulders:

Though he clearly supports the notion that our laws must reflect the contributions immigrants have made to literally build this country, it is clear to me that Congress cannot wait for the President to lay out our time-line for comprehensive reform.

Third, we raise the stakes. We start demanding reform, rather than asking. It is clear that Congress is still more swayed by their fear of the political complexity of this issue than they are of the power of the immigration reform movement and the political power of the Latino and immigrant electorate. Its time to change that.

In the next few months, there are some big things planned, including a large-scale march on Washington, DC on March 21st. Its time to show Congress that we WILL hold them accountable and its time to force President Obama to take the leadership he promised on this issue.

With this said, it’s worth noting that using one speech as the barometer for the likelihood of a huge issue’s success or lack thereof is probably not the best approach to take. While I will admit that I was disappointed and a bit disheartened last night, it has only stoked the fire of my commitment to see this issue through in a real and tangible way.

But determining the future of immigration reform on a “word count” in the State of the Union address is bad strategy. Instead, immigration advocates should keep Presidential promises in perspective, redouble their efforts and continue to hold Congress’s feet to the fire.

Who’s with me?

Game On: Obama will Move on Immigration Reform this Year

Today, President Obama heard our cries for immigration reform, and he has responded to our calls for action! An article appeared in the New York Times breaking the story of Obama’s intention of moving on comprehensive immigration reform this year. All I have to say is – it’s about time!


According to the article Obama “plans to begin addressing the country’s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.”  The President will speak publicly about his intentions in May and will begin rounding up a team of experts and advocates this summer, in order to begin crafting the legislation.

This news is an affirmation that Obama will make good on his campaign promises of immigration reform.

He said then that comprehensive immigration legislation, including a plan to make legal status possible for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, would be a priority in his first year in office.

This is a  politically savvy move – Latino and New American voters turned out in record numbers for Obama this past November.  But the bottomline may not be political,  it may be that this is the right move for the economy. Immigration reform is a crucial part of any plan to get our economy back on track. Not only will bringing workers out of the shadows increase wages across the board, it will increase our tax base, reward responsible employers and ensure fairness in the labor market. If  we want a level playing field where both American and immigrant workers are treated fairly and if we want to make sure everyone pays their share of taxes, we need comprehensive immigration reform.


The article goes on, unfortunately, to cite too of the most infamous anti-immigrant groups in the country, FAIR and Numbers USA. Both groups are quoted giving reasons for why moving on immigration reform would be “politically disastrous” for Obama. But, they seem to have underestimated both the President and the groundswell of support for reform that we have been witnessing across the country.

Just last month, Mr. Obama openly recognized that immigration is a potential minefield.

“I know this is an emotional issue; I know it’s a controversial issue,” he told an audience at a town meeting on March 18 in Costa Mesa, Calif. “I know that the people get real riled up politically about this.”

But, he said, immigrants who are long-time residents but lack legal status “have to have some mechanism over time to get out of the shadows.”

Immigrants need a way out of the shadows in order to help fix our economy. Fair and NumbersUSA clearly have no understanding about economic policy and no sense of what it will take to mend our communities and bring prosperity back to our families.  They are driven by their ant-immigrant agenda, no matter the cost.

Across the country, advocates are gearing up for May 1st, a day typically used to celebrate immigrant rights and remembered for the massive immigrants marches in 2006. Advocates, immigrants, faith leaders, community leaders and elected officials are all ready to stand with the President and make sure that immigration reform is passed in 2009.


Anticipating opposition, Mr. Obama has sought to shift some of the political burden to advocates for immigrants, by encouraging them to build support among voters for when his proposal goes to Congress.

Marissa Graciosa of FIRM made this statement earlier today:

We endorse President Obama’s call for immigration reform and admire his courage to fight for something we all know must get done. This is the kind of bold and visionary action we expect from our political leaders.  Climbing our way out of this economic crisis means forward thinking policies that include fixing a broken immigration system that has created a servant class in our midst. America’s economy cannot recover if we allow 12 million immigrants to continue to live and work in the margins of our society.

Obstructionists will throw everything at this Administration’s attempts to create a society which recognizes the inherent value and worth in us all.  For too long we have shrunk in the face of key decisions that must be made to get our country back on track. We will not allow this to happen.

We’ve seen first hand the pain of immigrant families ripped apart by unjust raids.  Our communities and our nation have suffered long enough.

You know what that means? That means that our time is NOW. We must not only continue to fight for reform, but we have to bring our efforts to the next level.

Mr. President, you can count on us to make just and humane immigration reform happen this year. Game on!

Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric = Political Suicide

From Simon Rosenberg’s Blog at NDN:

[Sunday} on Meet the Press, Tom Brokaw cited NDN in asking Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) whether the weak showing of the Republicans these last few years with Hispanics was endangering their Party’s ability to be a majority in the 21st century.

Regardless of your party affiliation, it is clear that Latinos were the decisive vote in this past election. It is also clear that they swung towards the Democrats. An excerpt from the full transcript of the interview (which is posted at NDN):

Senator Martinez: The fact of the matter is that Hispanics are going to be a more and more vibrant part of the electorate, and the Republican Party had better figure out how to talk to them. We had a very dramatic shift between what President Bush was able to do with Hispanic voters, where he won 44 percent of them, and what happened to Senator McCain. Senator McCain did not deserve what he got. He was one of those that valiantly fought, fought for immigration reform, but there were voices within our party, frankly, which if they continue with that kind of rhetoric, anti-Hispanic rhetoric, that so much of it was heard, we’re going to be relegated to minority status. (bold added). 

The nativists and anti’s can no longer get away with their language of hate and their scapegoating of Latinos. Politically speaking, it is suicide. And realistically speaking: it is aiding and abetting in the murder of innocent immigrants. Stop the hate.

Community Organizers Welcome One of their Own to the White House

cccThe following is a statement from Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change (FIRM’s homebase).

The Center for Community Change is an organization that has been developing community organizers and community organizing for 40 years, in partnership with hundreds of local organizations nationwide.

“Community organizers across the country congratulate the historic victory of one of our own and herald the role community organizing played in revitalizing participation in our democratic process.

“Community organizing helped mobilize voters like never before with grassroots organizations engaging in electoral politics. Sen. Obama’s own campaign was modeled on the tools of organizing, building the national groundswell that got him to this moment.

“Election Day is just the beginning. Community organizing will continue to play an important role in keeping an expectant and motivated electorate working together with the new Administration to find solutions for our shared problems. Together we will strive to realize the dream we voted for – an America that works for all of us.”

On December 4, thousands of grassroots leaders will host Realizing the Promise: A forum on Community, Faith and Democracy to lay out a strategy to work with President-elect Obama and the new Congress on the people’s agenda for change.

New American Voters: This Election’s Soccer Moms

vote-aquiReports are pouring in from all over about the impact of the immigrant and Latino vote on yesterday’s elections.

From CNN:

Latinos are responsible for Obama’s victory in New Mexico and contributed strongly to his margins in Nevada and Colorado. In New Mexico, Latinos constituted 41 percent of the electorate and voted for Obama by a 69 percent to 30 percent margin; white voters in New Mexico supported McCain 56 percent to 42 percent.

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Making the Immigration Argument in a New Economic Reality

Today at MigraMatters, Duke has a really thoughtful post about the incoming administration (whoever that may be) and how they could deal with immigration sensibly and comprehensively. It is a must-read.

Come January 20, 2009 a new administration will take office in perhaps the most precarious times the nation has faced since the 1930’s. Fighting two seemingly endless wars and with an economy on the verge of collapse, it is not an enviable position for any leader.

While both candidates have avoided the immigration debate like the plague during the campaign, it has moved down the list of important issues for voters, replaced by more pressing issues like healthcare or the economy. But in order to address these more pressing concerns in any meaningful way, the new government will need to tackle immigration once and for all.

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Third Debate and No End to the Silence on Immigration

Again, Wedensday night’s debate between Barack Obama and John McCain gave no indication about where either candidate stands on immigration.

Despite pressure put on both the candidates and the moderator, Bob Schieffer, the debate at Hofstra University continued the pattern of emphasis on the economy, healthcare and the War in Iraq.


However, immigration is involved in all of these issues. By silencing themselves on immigrantion, both Obama and McCain are refusing to address large portions of the issues American’s are concerned about.

As  Marisa Treviño at Latina Lista points out: Immigration is ALL about the Economy.

Too often immigration is seen as a negative separate influence on the nation’s economy. Yet, a new report shows that immigration has a much more positive impact on the future health and stability of the nation’s economy when it’s looked at via Main Street USA.

A recent report released by the University of Nebraska at Omaha backs up the connection between immigration and the economy. A connection that, according to the report, would help to bolster are struggling economy.

…the researchers found that the state’s immigrants pay in about 7 percent more than what they use in government support. Also, if immigrants were removed from the state’s labor force in key industries like meat processing or construction, the state’s production would lose $13.5 billion.

In these times, where every dollar counts in helping faltering state and city economies, it seems foolhardy for either candidate not to address the immigration issue..

And yet, there was only a brief mention of immigration in the debate, when McCain accused Obama of misrepresenting his position on immigration in the much-covered Spanish Language Ad wars.

In the hours after the debate, pundits and talking heads leaped into action, reporting as though they were covering a sporting event and recalling, play-by-play, who performed well and who did not.

This is hardly helpful for the American public who deserves REAL answers from the potential future president(s). They certianly missed their opportunity.

End the Candidates’ Silence on Immigration!

So far, one topic has been glaringly absent from the Presidential debates: immigration. As I’ve posted various times in the past few weeks, both Barack Obama and John McCain have yet to answer a debate question on the topic (even while they court the much sought-after Latino vote).

Obama and McCain haven’t been afraid to talk about who is to blame for the demise of 2007’s immigration bill. In dueling Spanish-language ads, McCain has unfairly accused Obama of trying to block the major immigration bill that he supported. Obama retaliated with an equally questionable ad tying McCain to immigration hardliners like Rush Limbaugh who McCain has generally stood up to. Yet amidst all of this finger-pointing, neither candidate has adequately addressed the bottom line: what would they do, as president, to fix our broken immigration system?

Well, now is the time. Organizations and individuals across the country are calling on both candidates to address immigration during the upcoming debate on Wednesday night.

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) held a press conference in their Manhattan office today at noon to discuss what they hope to hear from the candidates and describe unprecedented efforts to get out the immigrant vote. Tomorrow, immigrant advocates and supporters are expected to rally outside the debate at Hofstra University asking the candidates to stop “ignoring the 12 million elephants in the room.” Senators McCain and Obama should take this opportunity to break the silence.

Let’s hope that both candidates heed the overwhelming desire for this issue to be addressed.

McCain and Obama avoid the Immigration Issue

As I posted yesterday, there was absolutely no mention of Immigration during Tuesday’s Presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Plenty of other people have taken note, and are writing about it.

Latina Lista, lamenting the absence of a question on immigration during the debate, suggests what that question should be:

It’s particularly disappointing that immigration wasn’t addressed in light of another massive immigration raid that took place only 263 miles away from the debate site.

Had the candidates had time to answer a question on immigration, it should have been one question that would not have dealt with the regular issues that pit them against other members of their party like amnesty, border security or the border fence.

It would have been the one question that neither candidate has addressed but because of the situation in the country, it’s imperative that they do:

Do you support a moratorium on immigration raids?

Immigration Impact, the Immigration Policy Center’s blog, also had some words on the candidates silence regarding immigration and is ready with their own questions for Obama and McCain.

After two presidential debates and one vice-presidential showdown, the American public is still waiting to hear what John McCain and Barack Obama have to say about the elephant in the room: immigration.

Everyone from the Latino community to immigration advocates to probing journalists have been eagerly awaiting the immigration topic to be addressed by both candidates.

The debate is an opportunity for both candidates to set their records straight once and for all, including:

  • Who really was responsible for the fall of 2007’s immigration bill?
  • What should be done about the 12 million immigrants here in the U.S. without papers?
  • How will Obama and McCain address the problem of unscrupulous employers who hire workers, take advantage of them, and undercut their competitors?
  • Opponents to a path to citizenship say anything that provides legal status to those here illegally is amnesty: how do Obama and McCain define amnesty?  Do they support amnesty?  If not, what do they support?

How can Obama and McCain promise they will actually fix our immigration system rather than pass reforms that perpetuate the problem and lead to another 12 million coming in illegally in the future?

What questions would you ask the candidates? What would you like to hear them address about their positions on immigration policy?

Last Night’s Presidential Debate Left Something to be Desired

And that something was immigration. Again, there was no question regarding immigration and no mention of the issue.

Yesterday, in South Carolina, ICE raided yet another factory – but John McCain and Barack Obama had no words for the more 300 people arrested or the community that was disrupted.

They did, however have something to say about healthcare, the economy, the bailout, the War in Iraq and our relations with Pakistan.

Many people criticized the “town hall” format of the debate. Personally, I found it distracting and I think that rather than giving the debate a more informal and personal feel, it caused confusion, odd camera angles and a loss of substantive answers from the candidates.

In the polls:

CBS undecided focus group goes 39%–27% in favor of Obama. However, in terms of minds changed, it was a split. 15% now support Obama, and 14% support McCain. So, the net effect is probably zilch. At this point, that is good for Obama.

CNN post-debate poll showed Obama winning 54%-30%. Also, Obama gains a net 8% in favorability, while McCain unchanged. So, it looks pretty good for Obama. We are three for three as a ticket so far.

But again, there no mainstream media is discussing the gaping hole that was left by no mention of immigration.  So far all I can find on it is this post at VivirLatino, which covered the last presidential debate and its lacked of what they call “the I word”.
Did any of you send questions in for the debate? If so, were any of them about immigration?

I would be interested to see how many questions they received on the topic that were then ignored.