Urgent message to President Obama: When it comes to deportation, making up the monster is not enough.
This we say with total emphasis, at a moment when immigrant families are waiting anxiously, although without much hope, for the results of the review ordered by Obama of his policy of massive expulsions. And we say it because the White House should realize clearly that a few cosmetic measures are not going to beautify the monster in the eyes of the hundreds of thousands who suffer because of him.
The solution is not to hide his face under a kinder mask. The solution is to do away with the monster.
The truth is that we Latinos — so often deceived — don’t have great expectations about whatever is announced by Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security, who’s in charge of the review. After all, the review is not made for the purpose of suspending the deportations, which would be the proper thing to do, but to find ways to make them “more humane.”
“I would say that we have to be careful not to pre-empt Congress in certain areas,” Johnson said last Thursday in answer to a question about the possibility of expanding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival). It was the typical tepid and pusillanimous answer to which we’ve become accustomed by a wishy-washy administration.
But with Congress in a state of terminal paralysis, any measure that Johnson may announce will inevitably pre-empt the legislative body. If “being careful” is the criterion by which Johnson will be guided, he’ll achieve little or nothing.
To expand DACA and eliminate Secure Communities are two priorities of the Latino community.
DACA is the program created by Obama in June 2012 that allows undocumented students to remain and work legally in the country for two renewable years. About 550,000 youths have already benefited from it.
The petition to broaden it so that it covers the parents of these youths and other undocumented immigrants with strong ties to their communities rises from an irrefutable logic. If two years ago the President had the power to create DACA without worrying about “pre-empting Congress,” despite its repeated refusals, he can now do the same to protect an even greater sector of the undocumented population.
As to Secure Communities, this is a program that delivers to the federal authorities any immigrant arrested for a local crime. It has been responsible for the unjustified deportation of hundreds of thousands of people.
At a meeting in Washington two weeks ago, Lorella Praeli and other members of United We Dream, the nation’s largest group of young immigrants, urged Johnson to broaden DACA and eliminate the Secure Communities program, about which Johnson said that it needed “a fresh look.”
“Our community cannot bear the burden of our broken system of immigration for much longer,” Praeli pointed out. “We need for Secure Communities to end […] This kind of program does not need a new beginning; what it needs is to be shut down altogether.”
Johnson’s answer is yet to be heard, but there is no doubt that the deportations have punished the Latinos with a viciousness very similar to discrimination.
A recent report from MALDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) reveals that nearly 97 percent — I repeat, ninety-seven percent — of all deportees in 2013 were Latinos, even though we Latinos constitute only 75 percent of the 11.7 million undocumented immigrants believed to live in the U.S.
“When the administration reaches the 2-million-deportations mark — probably this year — the number of Latinos deported will equal the combined population of Wyoming, Vermont and North Dakota,” the report says, putting the magnitude of the tragedy in perspective.
Every day, 1,100 people — mothers, fathers, children, friends, lovers, neighbors — are expelled from this country, a reality that has earned Obama the grim title of Deporter in Chief. It is a reality that the president can change by a stroke of the pen, without so many reviews or half measures.
It is time to end so much cruelty.