It won't be long before the Obama administration deports its 2 millionth undocumented immigrant.
With a bit less than three years left in his second term, Obama has deported more people than any other American president before him, and many Hispanics in the United States are understandably angry. Since November, at least two of Obama's public appearances have been interrupted by demonstrators assailing the president about the record number of deportations. Obama has patiently explained that he can do little without the support of Congress, and that he lacks the authority to stop most deportations.
But the president may be wrong about that. According to some attorneys and legal experts, Obama can in fact stop most, if not all, such proceedings. Also, Obama has promised in the past that his immigration policies would focus on removing undocumented criminals, yet his administration is actively deporting immigrants who have no criminal record. Clearly, supporters of immigration
reform have reason to be irritated.
White House officials seem puzzled by the Hispanic community's anger - and the attacks are coming from all sides. In a recent speech, Janet Murguia, the
president of the National Council of La Raza (the most influential Hispanic organization in the country), labeled Obama "the deporter in chief." Powerful Latino lawmakers like Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, and Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida have started pressuring Obama to end deportations that do little more
than separate families. Even the student-led United We Dream organization recently changed its strategy from pressuring Congress to act on immigration reform to pressuring Obama to use executive actions to stop deportations.
The shift of focus from Congress to Obama has caught some Hispanic leaders and media commentators off guard. Many thought that House Speaker John Boehner and the Republican Party's refusal to even debate the immigration legislation approved last year by the Senate would remain the focus of the community's discontent. Instead, Obama has come under attack.
Here's my take. According to national polls, most Hispanics support a path to legalization for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Many have given up on Republicans, whom they perceive as being anti-immigrant: they don't even bother to pressure Republicans to support such legislation, since the party has essentially blocked the passage of any immigration-related bill in recent months. So Hispanics will likely punish the GOP in the presidential election in 2016, and Republicans will lose the White House again.
Republicans, however, have brushed away this threat. They believe that blocking immigration reform efforts in Congress won't affect them too much in this November's midterm elections, and that their eventual presidential candidate will outline his views on immigration policy in 2016. They think that they will be able to woo Latino voters then, and that the White House is still
within their reach.
Ceasing to push Republicans to act is the wrong strategy. I think it's too early to give up on the GOP - many months remain before the midterm elections, and there's still time to convince them that passing immigration reform would benefit them and the country. So the spotlight should remain on Boehner, the Republicans, and their anti-immigrant attitudes.
We should not ease up the pressure on President Obama either, until he unilaterally ends the deportations of people who have no criminal record and stops separating "mixed families," or those with both relatives who are undocumented and who are here legally. This contradicts his claim that he supports a path toward legalization, since those are the same immigrants who
would benefit from such legislation. While Obama did recently order a review of his administration's deportation policies, that is simply not enough. He can do more. He should do more.
We Hispanics like to say that our community is no longer a sleeping giant.
Now it's time for us to prove it.
This column is provided to Fusion courtesy of The New York Times Syndicate.
Jorge Ramos is one of the most influential journalists in news today. He's been dubbed the Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media — a title he's earned by taking on people in power over signature concerns like immigration, gun control and equality. Now, on Fusion, he brings that unique, raw and authentic sensibility to an English-speaking audience. "America with Jorge Ramos," airs weekly on Tuesday on Fusion at 10 p.m. EST/7 p.m. PT.