Less Talk, More Action on Immigration Reform

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Editors of La Opinión write that Obama’s speech on immigration this week had little effect, and pale in comparison to the record number of deportations by his administration.

President Obama has reiterated to Latinos that he favors immigration reform, saying he needs their help pressuring Congress to get this reform approved. Is this a serious effort to change the immigration system?

Obama’s current push began with meetings at the White House. The first one was with a wide range of political and business leaders who support the need for reform. Then, he met with celebrities from the Spanish-speaking world. The next step was the launch of the "Blueprint for Building a 21st Century Immigration System" accompanied by a speech in Texas, which was at times condescending. Finally, there was a prayer breakfast with Hispanic religious leaders.

That’s all well and good. But there is a problem: We do not think the chances of having a reform approved will increase just by talking to people who favor it. Therefore, the president’s strategy looks more like an attempt to convince Latino voters of his political will to support reform rather than a serious effort to achieve it. This is more campaign strategy than presidential action. The speech and the atmosphere in Texas were more about campaigning—including mocking the Republicans—than seriously attempting to change government policy.

There is no doubt the president believes in justice and the benefits of immigration reform. However, it seems like the White House believes the issue is too risky for the president’s re-election to be promoted generally. In reality, this strategy poses another risk: not winning over Latinos who are disappointed with the president.

Obama’s words have little effect. They pale in comparison to his administration setting a record with its number of deportations. Some may keep repeating that a majority of those deported are dangerous criminals until they are blue in the face. However, reality shows otherwise.

The president can change the way the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement operate. The executive also has authority to use deferred actions more aggressively to stop deportations. The U.S. Supreme Court has said that federal agencies have "absolute discretion" to act. An example is that for years, the priorities for immigration law enforcement have been established through internal regulations.

Actions of this type, which stop or decrease the current number of families being separated and individuals without criminal backgrounds being deported, would have more impact on earning the trust of Latino voters than political campaigning.

Latinos want to see action from the president they voted for, rather than seeing the candidate that has good intentions.