Under cover of the weekend President Obama announced another delay of the expansion of prosecutorial discretion initiatives that would afford undocumented immigrants badly needed relief from deportation in the absence of Congressional action. The impetus of the delay is a political calculation to insulate red State Democrats from unilateral action by the president that Republicans erroneously maintain is an unconstitutional exercise of executive authority.
The most powerful way to send a message to Washington is not for the Hispanic electorate to sit this one out, but rather to vote en masse for third-party candidates acting as a destructive force in as many elections as possible.
- Matthew Kolken
This calculation has enraged immigration reform activists who have expressed indignation over what is widely perceived as a wholesale lack of leadership from the president. Many are going so far as calling the delay an outright betrayal.
American Immigration Lawyers Association President Leslie Holman was among the first to issue a stinging rebuke stating that "the president has bowed to political pressure to the detriment of many: the businesses that are struggling, idea-generating immigrant entrepreneurs, families waiting to be reunited, and those whose lives his deportation machine is destroying each day. All of them, all of us, were waiting for him to lead.”
Outspoken immigration reform proponent Rep. Luis Gutierrez remarked that the president is “walking away from our values and our principles,” and that “Playing it safe might win an election … but it almost never leads to fairness, to justice and to good public policy that you can be proud of.”
Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, didn’t pull punches either, calling the move “political malpractice,” referencing “the string of broken promises from this president to the Latino community on immigration.”
Left-leaning commentators appeared similarly perplexed by the move. Ezra Klein wrote that “leaks and indecision around the size and timing of Obama’s executive action in immigration do not inspire confidence,” while noting that there “is something odd about accusing Republicans of politicizing action on immigration reform while you're delaying it because of the electoral calendar.”
Dr. Cordero-Guzman, Chair of the Black and Hispanic Studies Department at the City University of New York, agrees, observing that “there hasn't even been an attempt to defend the delay based on principle. It's a blatantly cynical political move.” He explained that “the administration can't increase expectations, proceed to destroy them and then expect loyalty and love.”
He further noted that the president’s political calculation is to raise expectations, do nothing, and then blame Republicans, falling back on the fact that there just is no other option to vote for.
But is that necessarily the case? Are immigration reform advocates really left with no choice this November? There have been many that are now openly calling for a Hispanic boycott of Democratic candidates this fall. They argue that voting for Democrats is an affirmation of Obama's decision to delay deportation relief that will result in another 70,000+ deportations before the first vote is counted, and that Latinos should stay home.
Democrats counter that losing the Senate is simply too big of a price to pay merely to punish the president for his betrayal. I don’t agree, as on the immigration front the cost is minimal. There is virtually no chance that immigration reform will advance through the Republican controlled House in the next two years, and the irony is that the only way Congressional action may be taken is if the Republicans take the Senate. If they are successful, there is the very real possibility of a reboot of reform that – although not comprehensive and enforcement-centric – may offer meaningful fixes to essential parts of the current law. This will not only provide deportation relief in the form of amelioration of existing bars to a Green Card, but the expansion of legal immigration to prevent another surge of undocumented immigrants in the future. Moreover, even if the Senate is lost to the Republicans, it will likely revert back to the Democrats in 2016.
I contend that the most powerful way to send a message to Washington is not for the Hispanic electorate to sit this one out, but rather to vote en masse for third-party candidates acting as a destructive force in as many elections as possible. Let the pollsters sift through the data to show that, absent Latino support, candidates of all party affiliation can not win office. This is the only way for the lesson to be learned that if you betray the largest growing electorate in this country there will be a price to be paid come Election Day.
So make your voices heard: Vote Third Party.
Matthew L. Kolken is an immigration attorney and a national immigration reform advocate. You may follow him on Twitter at @mkolken.