Miguel Perez: Time to Say, “No Se Puede”

Abilene Reporter News (Texas), February 2, 2010

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The campaign promise [about immigration reform] he [Barack Obama] made for last year cannot be accomplished this year, either. Comprehensive immigration reform will have to wait. The president needs to be as honest with Latinos as he has been with the rest of the nation.

After all, Latinos played a huge part in getting Obama elected, and if they begin to see him as just another devious Democrat, they are not likely to vote for him again.

When he finally spoke about immigration in his State of the Union address (as the very last topic he listed on his agenda), the 36 words he chose were so vague–so carefully selected to say absolutely nada that could be considered controversial–that the president lost a lot of respect from his pro-immigrant supporters.

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There was no mention of a legalization plan for undocumented immigrants, no timetable for getting legislation through Congress, no stated commitment to stop the many anti-immigrant policies he inherited from the Bush administration.

Fighting words these were not. They were an insult to the intelligence of those who remember his speeches during his campaign for president. Whatever happened to the Obama who vowed that he would “never walk away from the 12 million undocumented immigrants who live, work and contribute to our country every single day” in remarks to the National Council of La Raza in 2007?

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Amazingly, some immigrant rights advocates still are praising Obama’s commitment to immigration reform and relying on him to deliver the many changes he promised. After many of them persuaded Latino voters to support Obama because he was going to fix immigration, now they find it hard to acknowledge that they were wrong.

They need to stop building false hopes and expectations among undocumented immigrants and start confronting the president who has betrayed them.

And if Obama wants to be re-elected in 2012, he needs to be forthright with Latinos, and he needs to speak to them pronto. Perhaps another La Raza speech is necessary.

If Obama acknowledges that his drive to reform health care has slowed progress on everything else, if he accepts responsibility for his inability to lower the unemployment rate, if he explains that he has been busy with other crucial priorities, perhaps he can convince many Latino immigrants that he is still their friend. If he explains that the Democratic Party no longer has a supermajority in the Senate, that many of his fellow Democrats are scared of tackling immigration and that he lacks the votes needed to win an immigration fight this year, perhaps he still can persuade many Latinos and other immigrants to cut him some slack–at least until 2011.

But if he goes on with the recent charade, building false hopes and expectations while continuing to follow Bush’s immigration policies, Latinos will be saying “No Se Puede” to Obama when he runs for re-election in 2012.

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