Opinion: Amid deportation raids, Obama still thinks he’s a champion of immigration

A Honduran detainee boards a deportation flight on February 28, 2013 in Mesa, Arizona.

A Honduran detainee boards a deportation flight on February 28, 2013 in Mesa, Arizona.  (2013 Getty Images)

Back in 2008 Barack Obama ran a campaign of hope, full of promises of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. It’s been eight years since then and his position somewhat changed. Recently, he ordered the deportation of over 7,000 immigrant children and there have already been 32,117 apprehensions of family members at the Mexico-U.S. border during the first six months of fiscal 2016. He has rightfully earned the title of “Deporter in Chief.”

We want immigration reform just as much as the president claims he does, if not more, but we want it done the right way — we’ve been waiting long enough.

- Josh Rivera

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson confirmed back in January that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began raids of undocumented immigrant families, and quickly apprehended over 100 adults and children. Now, more than 300 young people have been apprehended this year, with more to come as part of a nationwide operation. 

In a move that should raise concern, Johnson confirmed that instead of giving priority to the deportation of criminal aliens – in line with the president’s previous statements – the priority would now be on recent arrivals.

In response to the growing concern and fear among our community, Vice President Joe Biden affirmed that “deportations are being done in the most humane way possible.” But how “humane” is it to place a priority on deporting the very people escaping violence and – in some cases – death threats and famine? 

It’s a sad moment in our nation’s history when we cannot guarantee the safety of innocent families and children escaping violence. Advocates for immigrants are being told not to take it personally, saying the administration needs to meet its 400,000 deportation target.

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The president likes to call himself a champion of immigration — yet his actions confirm the opposite. 

For years now, immigration advocates have been asking for one thing: immigration reform. What did the “champion” do? He pushed reform of immigration to the back burner when his party had control of Congress because he decided Obamacare, pushing a green energy revolution, and passing the largest budget in American history were more important. 

Even when confronted by a military veteran whose mother faces deportation, during a town hall at Florida International University, the president couldn’t provide a definitive answer. His limited actions are nothing short of pandering to a community in need of real, long-lasting results. Today we’re seeing the consequences.

Before issuing the executive order that created the DAPA program, President Obama said many times that he lacked the legal authority to make these changes, unless Congress acted first.

Groups like The LIBRE Initiative warned against relying on executive orders and called for bipartisan outreach in Congress. Instead he offered our community a half measure that could easily be struck down by a court — which was exactly what happened in Texas. And although the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case between the The United States v. The State of Texas, no one should be surprised if they affirm the decision of the lower court — leaving immigrants with nothing. 

We’re seeing, once again, the Hispanic community fall victim to the lack of leadership from President Obama.

Families are being torn apart. Children’s futures are uncertain. Deportees are being sent to their deaths. And still, we see no effort from the president to bring consensus. Deporting over two million people – a record rate among U.S. presidents – and establishing programs like the Criminal Alien Removal Initiative (CARI) in New Orleans is not the work of a “champion” of immigration. 

It’s clear that President Obama will not put any effort the rest of his term to push for a real fix on immigration but rather double down on his orders and blame either Congress or the Supreme Court for not supporting his dubious plan — all the while our community suffers. 

We can’t accept his approach or anyone who claims to follow a similar tactic, like Hillary Clinton has affirmed. If this is what we have to show for from the “champion,” I worry for what we’ll get from the “friend” of the immigrant community as she calls herself.

Regardless of the outcome in the upcoming hearings of United States v. Texas, we must advocate for permanent, sensible and market-based reform that will keep families together, strengthen our economy, and keep Americans safe needs to continue no matter who’s in office. 

We want immigration reform just as much as the president claims he does, if not more, but we want it done the right way — we’ve been waiting long enough.

Josh Rivera is the press secretary for The LIBRE Initiative.

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