On my show, Open Source, I recently interviewed Dolores Huerta, perhaps the most important Latina woman of the 20th century. Near the end of the interview, I wanted to get her take on President Obama’s controversial deportation policy. Huerta, I found out, does not mince words.
“Obama miscalculated,” she told me flatly.
She went on to explain how the president adopted a punitive approach toward deportation intended to convince the Republican Party of his toughness on immigration enforcement. The hope was to bring the opposition on board for a comprehensive overhaul of the country’s immigration system. Instead, he got nothing in return.
Even after Obama set a record pace for deportations, Republicans still said he “couldn’t be trusted” on the issue. As a result of this “miscalculation,” the president now faces an unexpected and complex challenge with the Hispanic community. Obama is under increasing pressure from Latino groups to act on his own to cut back the number of deportations, especially of people who have families in the U.S.
Yes, the same man who in 2008 promised change while borrowing Cesar Chavez’s (and Dolores Huerta’s) famous line, “Yes, we can,” has now been dubbed the “deporter-in-chief.”
It can seem an unfair turn of events, but Obama has earned it. After five years of brutally effective implementation, the president’s well-oiled deportation machine has now managed to remove and expel close to 2 million people. Numbers of that magnitude allow few subtleties.
Even less so when it comes to public perception; nuances are few and far between these days. For the last five years, Hispanics in America have heard basically two story lines:
a) The Republican-controlled House of Representatives has failed to support any sort of comprehensive immigration reform, and
b) Barack Obama is deporting Hispanics.
With some hindsight, the White House surely could have predicted that the latter narrative would prevail. A story that involves the persistent suffering of human beings will always prove more interesting (and thus, more politically damaging) than a story that follows boring political procedure.
So, be it by a stroke of luck or some sort of Machiavellian scheme, the Republicans — who are the real opponents of immigration reform — have receded to the background. Advocacy groups concentrate on denouncing Obama’s deportation policy rather than on keeping the pressure on the House GOP.
Truth be told, we Hispanic journalists have followed the same pattern. For the last few months, we have focused almost solely on the “deporter-in-chief” narrative, effectively granting the Republican Party a thoroughly undeserved respite. This is both morally understandable and journalistically justifiable. But, truth be told, it might not be completely fair. Or — dare I say it — balanced.
The fact is, the administration’s deportation machine has been improving its methods and acting with an increasing sense of discretion. As we all know, at the beginning of the Obama presidency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies executed the administration’s policy indiscriminately. Obama’s political gamble resulted in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants who had no prior criminal record.
In other words, the American government kicked thousands of people out of the country whose only formal sin had been coming here without papers. These were fathers and mothers, and young kids, of course, who had been brought to this country at a very early age (the now famous dreamers).
This massive deportation system has caused, without any doubt, an unnecessary and shameful humanitarian crisis. No one in their right mind could cast doubt over whether this is a somber chapter in Barack Obama’s presidency.
But journalism demands rigor. And recent numbers show that this indiscriminate deportation policy has shifted toward a much more careful approach. In 2013, the total number of undocumented people with no criminal record and no prior immigration violations who were deported after being detained in the country’s interior was drastically reduced. In 2009, the number was close to 150,000; by 2013, the number became 10,336.
That’s why the question stands: Have we been unfair to Obama? The answer is, mostly yes. Deporting 2 million people — most of whom don’t pose a danger to their communities — is a costly mistake. But it’s also true that any recent critique of the administration’s policy on deportation should allow for much needed nuances, especially in the light of recent developments.
There really is no point in denouncing a crisis without the capacity to identify progress when it becomes evident.
Leon Krauze is a journalist and the host of Fusion TV’s Open Source, a news and commentary program.
This article is published with permission from Fusion, a TV and digital network that champions a smart, diverse, and inclusive America. Fusion is a partner of National Journal and The Next America.
What We're Following See More »
The New Yorker has endorsed Hillary Clinton, saying that "barring some astonishment," she will become the next president. Calling Clinton "distinctly capable," the magazine excoriates Donald Trump as a candidate who "favors conspiracy theory and fantasy, deriving his knowledge from the darker recesses of the Internet and 'the shows.'" Additionally, the historical nature of the possibility of "send[ing] a woman to the White House" is not lost on the editors, who note the possibility more than once in the endorsement.
AT&T agreed to a deal on Saturday to buy Time Warner Inc. for a reported $85.4 billion, a merger that would turn AT&T into a media giant. The two companies announced that they hope to have the deal closed by the end of 2017. However, the completion of the deal will likely not be smooth sailing, as the deal faces potential backlash from antitrust workers, as well as lawmakers. Following the merger's announcement, multiple lawmakers raised skepticism and said they plan to scrutinize the deal further, with Minn. Sen. Amy Klobuchar calling for a hearing.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal, owned by casino magnate and GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, became the first major city newspaper to endorse Donald Trump over the weekend.“Mr. Trump represents neither the danger his critics claim nor the magic elixir many of his supporters crave,” the editorial read, acknowledging concerns about Trump’s temperament. “But neither candidate will ever be called to the dais to accept an award for moral probity and character,” the paper said. “And we are already distressingly familiar with the Clinton way, which involves turning public service into an orgy of influence peddling and entitlement designed to line their own pockets — precisely what a disgruntled electorate now rises up to protest.”
Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 12 percentage points among likely voters, 50 to 38 percent, in a new ABC News tracking poll, "her highest support and his lowest to date in ABC News and ABC News/Washington Post polls. Gary Johnson has 5 percent support, Jill Stein 2 percent. Clinton led by only four points in the last ABC/Post poll on Oct. 13.
President Obama "will make a late splash into races for state senate and assembly over the next week, endorsing roughly 150 candidates across 20 states. He’ll also back a candidate for the North Carolina Supreme Court. The endorsements — which will come along with a variety of robocalls, social media posts, mailers, photos of Obama with the candidates taken as he’s been traveling to campaign in recent weeks, and even a few radio ads — are Obama’s biggest investment in state races ever by far."