President Obama is about to make his much-anticipated speech on immigration reform in Nevada. Yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators announced they’d struck a deal on a blueprint for a bill that would include a “pathway towards citizenship.” There will be no small debate about how and when that pathway opens up.
But for the moment, there is cautious optimism in many quarters that reform is indeed on the horizon. On the surface, it seems a win for all sides. Obama and the Democrats can finally repay the Latino electorate for its faithful support (I was about to write “fealty”). The handful of Republicans in the senate and the house that must vote in favor of the bill for it to pass congress will finally be able to say that they’re doing the right thing by the immigrants they’ve been scapegoating since forever.
And Latinos and immigrants can take pride for decades of diligent organizing… and demographic authority of course.
But what price has been paid to get to this point? According to Politifact, the Obama Administration has overseen the deportation of over 1.4 million undocumented immigrants as of last summer—a pace even greater than his predecessor George W. Bush, who failed in his own bid to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.
Put a face and a story to those numbers. The face and the story of Erika Andiola, a young immigrant rights activist whose own mother was detained in Arizona recently under the Obama Administration’s Secure Communities program which supposedly targets dangerous criminals but very often sweeps up people who have committed only innocuous offenses (if they’ve broken any laws at all).
Luckily in Erika’s case, news of the arrest blared far and wide through YouTube and social media, accompanied by immediate political pressure on the White House, and her mother was released just as she was about to be deported to Mexico.
And then there are the untold stories across the country of families traumatically separated. Children returning from school to find parents missing. Husbands and wives separated. Young adults raised entirely in the U.S. suddenly deported to a country they barely know.
The Obama Administration has essentially paid for immigration reform with a terrible social cost. Some call it real politik. More like a Faustian bargain.