Do We Need to Reassess Our Immigration Reform Strategy?

Do We Need to Reassess Our Immigration Reform Strategy?

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ISIS beheadings. The Putining of the Ukraine. The Ebola pandemic. The police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The 2014 midterm elections. And then there is immigration reform.

The immediate big question is whether President Obama will be taking decisive executive actions to stop and slow deportations before the midterm elections. A politically cautious move would be to keep promising to do so, but actually doing it sometime after November. This would make the most jittery members of his party running for reelection less jittery while continuing to make promises to Latino and other immigration advocates who otherwise have no place else to go. Or, who knows, the President might make a bold move by implementing long-overdue executive actions to keep his promises to the Latino community, with the only political benefit to him being using this to promote more unpopular impeachment talk by the Republicans. Then there is a possibility that he will come up with some weak middle ground that nobody will be happy with, except the America with Obama political triangulators.

By postponing any action on deportations until after the midterms, the President then moves the issue within the dynamics of the 2016 Presidential race. This would put more pressure on the Republicans to compromise on some form of comprehensive immigration reform. It would then increase the possibility of the President coming up with some sort of legislative solution to this problem. But will the dynamics change radically in Washington if the Democrats lose control of the Senate? No one really knows.

Within this context, there are still Latino and other immigration advocates who are holding on to the hope (some say foolishly) of comprehensive immigration reform passing the Congress in this session while at the same time pushing for unilateral action on this issue by the President. The Congressional inaction on proposals to address the issue of the unaccompanied border kids should be a clear tip-off that the future of comprehensive immigration reform through the Congress anytime soon is, pardon the pun, the stuff of dreamers.

All indications are that any Congressionally created immigration reform will be largely punitive against Latinos and other poor immigrants. The Senate bill, which was widely lauded when proposed last year, creates a bureaucratic nightmare, more of an obstacle course than a path to citizenship. And it would add to an already overly-militarized border, at a time when the Michael Brown case has raised the nation's consciousness about the negative and often deadly effects of militarizing our police. And this was the best that the Congress could produce; with even more disastrous versions emerging after it failed to get support.

Which raises the question: Does the Latino community need fundamentally to reassess our strategy for immigration reform, both from a political and policy perspective? The move to focus on what the President can accomplish unilaterally through executive action is a good first step. But the political winds in the next few years promise to be tortuous for Latinos and the country as a whole. How we navigate them as a community may require the need to get back creatively to basics.

Angelo Falcón is president of the National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP). He can be reached at afalcon@latinopolicy.org.