By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
The debate over comprehensive immigration reform has continued to heat up throughout this summer ever since the governor of Arizona signed the Ill-conceived SB 1070 into law. The law allows for racial and ethnic profiling as a way to arrest, detain, and deport undocumented immigrants in Arizona. The controversial law has several lawsuits pending against the State of Arizona, including the United States Department of Justice preparing to file suit against Arizona as well.
The proponents of immigration reform have pressured the President and top White House advisors to move forward with a progressive plan to fix our broken immigration system of laws. There have been marches and rallies in D.C., fasts in New York City, Chicago, and other cities, civil disobedience in Denver and countless cities across the USA, and thousands of petitions and letters demanding that President Obama push the agenda of comprehensive immigration reform forward.
The opponents of immigration reform have rallied around SB 1070, threatening to introduce similar laws in the legislative sessions in at least 12 other states. The hate, panic, and fear continue to spread as rumors and lies about undocumented immigrants are fed by the Internet groups bent on creating an atmosphere of hate and fear.
To counter the ridiculous claims of the governor of Arizona that most undocumented immigrants crossing the border are "drug mules," just shows how important it is to press for the truth and not the lies of the hate mongers and those who spew out evil venom of hate, panic, and lies.
There is no end in sight of the hate mongers and racists who continue to spread their lies and false rumors. In his speech the President admitted the lack of political will to push for immigration reform. "So the politics of who is and who is not allowed to enter this country, and on what terms, has always been contentious. And that remains true today. And it's made worse by a failure of those of us in Washington to fix a broken immigration system."
When word leaked out of the White House that the President was going to give a "major speech" on immigration reform, hopes were raised, and there were new expectations of a fresh strategic legislative effort to push both parties into coming together to resolve this national disgrace of a broken immigration system.
The stage was set at American University in D.C. for the President to finally address the nation and call for a new legislative agenda to implement a new system of immigration laws that would do away with a system of grave injustice, family separations, ICE raids, and a confusing array of law enforcement MOU's like 287 (g) that have only allowed local cops to use racial profiling as a means of stopping and detaining undocumented immigrants.
The primary reason police can stop Latino looking individuals are joint law enforcement programs like 287 (g) which allow racial profiling. Police have used broken tail lights, suspicious looking drivers or passengers, and driving while breathing "brown" to pull over Latinos on our nation's highways.
While the President has tried to shame the Republicans into supporting immigration reform, the reality is that there are perhaps as many Democrats who are afraid to push for immigration reform in a mid-term election environment filled with rumors, lies, and hate messages about undocumented immigrants.
The President said, "In sum, the system is broken. And everybody knows it. Unfortunately, reform has been held hostage to political posturing and special-interest wrangling -- and to the pervasive sentiment in Washington that tackling such a thorny and emotional issue is inherently bad politics."
Presente.org - a national pro-immigrant civil rights organization pushing for comprehensive immigration reform criticized the President by saying, "We need more than speeches."
That seemed to be the general consensus from other Latino civil rights organizations across the country. What good is another Presidential speech that does nothing but cast blame on the Republicans and whose own Democratic members continue to waffle on getting out front of this debate and who blatantly refuse to support the President's own legislative agenda on immigration reform?
Polls seem to indicate that most Americans want the President and Congress to do something about fixing our dysfunctional immigration laws that do more harm than good. If one believes that more than a majority of Americans want something done, then where are the courageous leaders and advocates for justice and righteousness?
Until the President is able to put together a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders who are willing to work together to draw up a comprehensive immigration plan that addresses the immediate needs of over 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country, nothing will get done.
Much has been said and debated over the "pathway to citizenship" for the undocumented immigrants who seek citizenship. But on the other hand, not all undocumented immigrants want citizenship, but rather a work visa that allows them to cross the border when there is work to be done and then be able to return home. This visa needs to provide the undocumented or visa permitted workers the right to make a fair wage, expect worker protections, and have the ability to organize if necessary in order to protect their rights as temporary workers in the USA.
Some critics of the past worker programs have claimed that the border has been left open just enough to allow cheap labor to cross the border. The days of cheap labor are over, along with abusive employers who have taken advantage of undocumented immigrant workers in the past.
But the sad part of the Presidential speech is that he was essentially speaking to the choir. Everyone knows we need comprehensive immigration reform. We know the present system is broken and must be fixed.
The President laid out the challenge facing Congress. "Our task then is to make our national laws actually work -- to shape a system that reflects our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. And that means being honest about the problem, and getting past the false debates that divide the country rather than bring it together."
While the President calls for a more secure border, he insisted the border is the most secure than anytime in the past twenty years. Yet the President admitted that, "Our borders will not be secure as long as our limited resources are devoted to not only stopping gangs and potential terrorists, but also the hundreds of thousands who attempt to cross each year simply to find work."
Unfortunately we know ICE and the Obama Administration are detaining and deporting more innocent undocumented immigrants than the Bush Administration, and the President has failed to live up to his stated goals of prioritizing criminals and stopping gangs and potential terrorists.
The drug cartels and the large shipments of drugs over the border must have a higher priority than the family that is simply looking for work in the USA.
So the President gave a speech, more likely to appease his supporters. Some pundits have claimed the President hoped the speech would motivate and challenge the Latino voter to get out and support candidates that support his policies. It was an attempt to try and make up for his failure to prioritize immigration reform in his first year and to fire up his supporters to get out and vote.
The President gave a campaign speech, with more promises on why immigration reform is important. In fact, it is more important today than ever before. Instead of giving a Presidential speech with an action plan, he said nothing about ending the ICE raids, and putting a stop to the 287 (g) local enforcement programs abused by local cops that allows racial profiling and ethnic enforcement.
We don't need anymore speeches on why immigration reform is needed now more than ever. It is time the President acted like the President and put a stop to the grave injustice and unrighteousness undocumented families face every day in this country.
Yes, Mr. President, we are a land of immigrants. Together our forefathers built this country and the infrastructure that created jobs and a better life for all who sought a job and an opportunity. Yet, along the way we have had to fight the bigots, the racists, the haters, and those whose only intent was to spew out racial hatred and push immigrants down.
Mr. President, we hoped you would have stood up to those ugly voices of fear, panic and hate. We wished you would have used your Executive Power to put an end to misdirected immigration enforcement programs that are only separating families and deporting good hard working men and women.
If you really want to put an end to the drug cartels, the shipments of drugs and millions of dollars across the border, an end to the weapons we are selling to the drug cartels, then you should have declared war to end the drug cartels that continue to meet the drug demands of those Americans who live not only in the barrios, but the high priced skyscraper apartments of every city in the USA.
Mr. President, we don't need any more speeches. We need a bipartisan plan of attack against the drug and human traffickers. We need you to quiet the voices of hate and panic and move this debate from the gutter to the halls of Congress. Mr. President, be Presidential and do what you can do to end the injustice these families must endure every day.
No one said the job of being President would be easy, but it will take a President with hope and a vision to develop an agenda that both Republicans and Democrats can accept and work together to fix our broken immigration system.
Mr. President, thank you for recommitting your administration to fighting for immigration reform, but that is not good enough. Now it is time to move beyond just words, and take bold action to fix this problem which Lady Liberty reminds the world as a national disgrace.
If you can take a courageous and bold effort to lead the battle to repair the broken immigration system, be assured that many Americans will be behind you fighting the injustice and national disgrace of an immigration system that has spiraled out of control.
Lead and we will follow your leadership. Exemplify your courage to bring down the haters and end the venom of fear, and we will stand with you.
As Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the Latino evangelical National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference proclaimed as he and others left the White House after meeting with the President, "The president reaffirmed his commitment to immigration reform. We reaffirmed our commitment to supporting him, pushing back the Republican wall that has opposed immigration reform. The president is clearly on our side. He is our senior ally."
You gave an inspirational speech at American University, now it is time for bold and courageous leadership. Can you make your speech a national priority and prove that you are indeed our senior ally?
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H. S. Power and Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.