Immediately following President Barack Obama’s highly anticipated speech in Las Vegas, Nevada last Tuesday featuring his principles for comprehensive immigration reform, the White House took to the television airwaves and the internet. The purpose of these media appearances including an interview on the the Spanish language broadcast network Telemundo and a “Fireside Hangout” was not just to promote the President’s pillars for reform, but also to answer to critics who continue to point out record breaking deportation numbers under his administration.
In an interview with Noticiero Telemundo news anchor José Díaz-Balart the day after his speech, President Obama made “no apologies for enforcing the law as well as the work that we’ve done to strengthen border security.” But he also attempted to shift the blame to Congress for not just the number of deportations but the amount of money being spent on enforcement. Obama said, “My job is to carry out the law. And– so Congress gives us a whole bunch of resources. They give us– an order that we’ve gotta go out there and enforce the laws that are on the books. And we’ve done so. And we’ve done so effectively.”
The alleged “effectiveness” of enforcement is something pro-immigrant advocates, activists, and undocumented immigrants themselves continue to question. Prerna Lal, a queer undocumented activist and soon to be an immigration lawyer pointed out the hypocrisy of the administration’s words compared to it’s actions. She responded to the attempt to shift blame by telling Politic365, “I’m sure President Obama knows that it is his branch of the government that has the responsibility of enforcing laws. And his Administration has pursued senseless deportation policies — 400,000 per year. The more he shies away from admitting that, the more immigrant communities are going to suspect his good-faith efforts to reach out and correct past and present wrongs.”
The “passing of the buck” to Congress was something that the Obama administration did after comprehensive immigration reform failed to manifest during its first term, and after the failure to pass the DREAM Act in 2010.
On Thursday, Cecilia Muñoz, the Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council who has repeatedly come under fire for defending the expansion of programs like Secure Communities, parroted the President’s talking points in a Google hangout moderated by undocumented Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. She said, “The government’s job is to do what Congress tells it do. Under the immigration laws that we have now, Congress requires us to remove people who are removable and gives DHS frankly a whole lotta resources to do that job.”
Erick Huerta, an undocumented immigrant and Member of Dream Team Los Angeles told Politic365, “Both Obama and Muñoz use congress as scapegoats to wash their hands clean for being responsible for the thousands of deportations that continue to increase under their watch. Muñoz herself said that deporting thousands of immigrants is nothing more than collateral damage, so why should things change now? As far as I’m concerned, they’re just trying to please everyone and sell out immigrants that aren’t dreamers, farm workers or have college degrees. Folks like my parents, who never made it past elementary school, are going to continue to be left out of the system.”
Nancy Meza, an East LA immigration blogger recently responded to the President’s announcement bywriting, “We cannot continue living in the past and making the same mistakes and expecting different results. That is the literal definition of insanity. We need to fix our broken immigration system by creating a clear and timely path for citizenship and by placing a moratorium on all deportations.”