This Friday past, President Barack Obama invited to the White House a carefully selected group of 17 “national leaders” identified as immigration reform activists to deliver a two-part message: I’m deeply moved by the conditions of families ripped apart by my detention/deportation policies and I can’t do much about it but I’ll see.
The activist leadership, with the tight lipped exception of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, declared the meeting a victory of sorts for having happened (see what our pressure delivered?) while ushering in a three month period of watchful waiting as the congressional session expires.
We told him “act now!”, one of the plucky leaders said, while agreeing to the extended period of lip biting.
Conspicuously absent from the two hour event were the more obstreperous reform advocates like the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) whose media work might have helped trigger the meeting in the first place.
Part of the White House orchestration called for the reform "leaders" to pretend to buy the administration’s claim that three months from now congressional politics might be clearer.
Sure. How much clearer than DOA in the House of Representatives can it get?
But three months from now things will be much different in one regard: Thousands more immigrants will be detained and deported and thousands more families broken up as a consequence of presidential inaction as reform “leaders” stand by waiting watchfully which presumably means counting the mounting casualties as the days go by.
Five years ago when Janet Napolitano and her team reviewed border and immigration policy she performed the very review President Obama is seeking from his new man, Jeh Johnson. At that time, President Obama, a constitutional lawyer himself, was informed of exactly what he could do with his newly acquired executive powers and how he could do it. Back then Napolitano, whip smart and steeped in immigration policy intricacies, was staffed by the brilliant immigration attorney Roxie Bacon who delivered the policy goods on demand to her boss and uber boss, the President himself. Back then, of course, with political capital to burn President Obama’s approval rating hovered around 70%.
Now, five years and a trail of broken promises later, not to mention a short seven months from a national election in which the entire House and 1/3 of the Senate will be elected, assurances that decisive action will occur based on another review by newbie Jeh Johnson fuse with magical thinking.
President Obama has stated over and over that his hands are legally tied on the detention/deportation issue. His unqualified, repeated assertions in this regard, a box entirely of his own making, nonetheless are in fact what the President has declared to be factually true. Even a cautious, ameliorative move to curtail detention/deportation abuses will be met with howls of liar, liar pants on fire from multiple quarters. I am not referring only to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin.
The sad part of all this is that the “activist leaders” President Obama was corralling and seeking to horse whisper, carry little water where it counts. Mostly DC based, mostly foundation funded professional spokespeople, their organizations have little reach into competitive districts where the howling is most likely to bite deep and certain.
President Obama is in a box that would freak out Houdini himself.
Frank C. Pierson, Jr.
Frank Pierson retired after forty years of work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) as a professional organizer. He began his career in 1971 in Chicago, moved to Queens, New York City and migrated west to work in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. He resides with his wife, Mary Ellen Kazda, in Oracle, Arizona. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org