Tag: amnesty

Summing Up Our Favorite Topic

It’s the end of the year. So let’s address immigration one last time.

Listen, if you don’t know by now that most Americans support a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, well, I can’t help you.

But I will point out that President Obama’s recent executive decision doesn’t offer an actual route to citizenship. I know, I know. You heard that this was amnesty and the end of America and all that. But the people who are telling you this lie don’t know the difference between amnesty and Amway.

Basically, the administration is deferring the deportation of undocumented immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens or legal residents. The order also expands protection to more children who entered the country illegally with their parents (that’s right — the Dreamers). The president’s decision could mean that up to 5 million undocumented people will be allowed to stay in the country, without threat of deportation.

More than half of the undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America are now eligible to remain in America. But again, they would not be eligible for citizenship.

It’s not surprising that Latinos overwhelmingly agree with Obama’s approach. One poll shows that 90% of Hispanics support the president’s plan. Wow, you can’t even get 90% of us to agree that Shakira is hot (she is, by the way).

shakira 99
Now, undocumented immigrants themselves almost universally desire a way to legalize their situation. But many of the immigrants who are eligible for citizenship aren’t taking advantage of the offer. In fact, less than 10% of the 8.5 million immigrants who are eligible for naturalization have applied so far.

Why is this? Well, some still struggle with English, and they don’t feel confident they could pass the English-proficiency language exam. Others can’t afford the naturalization process, which usually costs $680 and is often multiplied by several family members.

Some still intend to return to their homelands, even if they have been in America for years. And yet others are afraid that it’s all a scam, and that some notario will fleece them. Remember, con artists love to take advantage of hopeful, desperate people who are reluctant to report fraud.

OK, so immigrants — Hispanic or otherwise — aren’t necessarily in a big rush to become citizens. But having the option is more than a nicety. You see, undocumented people who live in constant fear of being deported exist in a perpetual hell. And if you don’t care about that, perhaps you will care about the chain reaction of misery that cascades down upon actual citizens.

For example, many Latinos — born and raised in America — haven’t signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, because they worry that doing so could cause family members to be deported. They’re concerned that giving detailed info online will cause the INS to come knocking on their door. That’s not true, of course, but it’s understandable. And that has a very real effect on the ACA’s effectiveness and our health care system in general.

Oh wait, if you hate the president’s executive order, you probably hate Obamacare too.

Well, that explains a few things.



By now, you’ve heard about President Obama’s executive action on immigration. The plan could help as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants avoid deportation. It marks a major development in the ongoing debate over immigration, and millions of Latino families could see their entire lives changed because of the decision.

Republicans, of course, are apocalyptic. It’s amnesty, or an impeachable offense, or the downfall of America, or some combination of all those things.

No, they really don’t like it.


Already, we’ve heard the GOP say how Hispanics are now going to overrun America and start ethnic cleansing. I’m not exaggerating. This GOP guy thinks it’s a possibility.

Now, I’ve addressed the countless myths, untruths, and slurs that have been hurled at undocumented people over the years. So I’m not going to get into it all over again.

Suffice to say, nobody really knows what effect this decision will have. But it is, as the kids say, a game changer. And it will have very real effects on myriad Latino households.

Of course, if we do start ethnic cleansing, just say that you’re a regular reader of mine. I’ll put in a good word for you.


Quick Takes

As threatened, new fatherhood has sapped my time and energy to the point that I am barely able to rant and rave effectively. I have no doubt that this will change as my son gains maturity and I gain perspective, but for now my updates will be succinct (which is a nice way of saying that they’ll be really short).

First, as I’m sure you know, President Obama is at long last finished with attempting to compromise with conservatives who would gladly push him into a wood chipper if they could get away with it. The president is moving forward on immigration reform, joined by a few Republicans who insist that they never ever referred to a pathway to citizenship as “amnesty.” Of course, we could have had all this progress years ago, but as I’ve written before, some people always need to scream and fight and threaten to overthrow the government before we just go ahead and adopt the progressive idea. I have no idea why this is the route to reform, but it just is.

Second, I noticed that my infant son is part of yet another growing trend. Apparently, the state he was born in (California) now has more Latinos than white people for the first time since statehood. This was a surprise to some.

This news came out just about the time my son was born. Is it coincidence, or was he the tipping point?

What do you think?


I Like the Part About Tequila

It’s an inevitable fact of American life that any successful endeavor will be met with a thousand rip-offs. That’s why we have eight hundred upcoming movies about vampires. It’s why there are dozens of television shows about the intricacies of decorating cakes. And it explains why Pearl Jam is at least partly to blame for Creed.

So it should surprise no one that the apparent success of the Tea Party has inspired other political groups to follow its playbook. But I was dismayed to find out that one of the potential copycats is a coalition of Latino leaders who are “floating the idea of breaking traditional ties with the Democratic Party and creating a grass-roots independent movement tentatively called the Tequila Party.”

I half-suspect that this strange idea is an Onion article that I somehow missed reading. But in the chance that it’s not, let me make a few observations.

Now, as I’ve written before, I’m not u-rah-rah supporter of the Democratic Party. How the organization continues to flounder — despite the fact that countless polls show Americans actually agree with its platform — is a mesmerizing monument to its incompetence.

However, I have to ask if the best strategy to deal with this disappointment is to emulate the tactics of a bunch of rage-filled rednecks. On principle, Latinos should say no to this approach. And in practicality, it’s not a good idea to take lessons from people who can’t spell basic words in their native language.

Yes, the Tea Party has been successful in the short term. However, it has alienated as many Americans as it invigorated.

Some of its most hardcore proponents — such as noted nutjob Sharron Angle – went down in flames. It will be interesting to see if the Tea Party has any kind of sustained influence. Personally, I doubt it.

More likely, it will be one of those huge pop-culture moments that people believe will land in history books, but will actually fall somewhere between disco and the OJ trial as lasting cultural markers.

In addition, the Tequila Party’s founders should keep in mind that one reason for the Tea Party’s success was the inherent power of its members. As I’ve written before, these were primarily older, white, financially secure members of the establishment. Any complaint, no matter how absurd or self-serving, was guaranteed media coverage (often of the fawning type).

Yes, Latinos are (and I haven’t made this point in days now) the fastest-growing demographic in America. But it’s unlikely that Hispanics can assemble the throngs that the Tea Party put together, just because we don’t have the numbers (yet). And even if we could, I find it hard to believe that any gathering of that many Hispanics would be met with anything other than tear gas.

Finally, let me point out the folly of this whole crusade, which is to pressure the Democratic Party to address Latino issues. It should be obvious to everybody by now that one cannot pressure Democrats to do anything or to take action — unless that action consists of folding under the slightest pressure. They’re pretty good at that. But forcing them to actually accomplish something on their agenda… well, that’s trickier.

In sum, I’m dubious about this Tequila Party idea. Perhaps our time would better be spent reaching out to moderate citizens (if any are left) to convince them of our good intentions, rather then shouting at an impotent political organization.

On the other hand, it might be nice to attend a rally where the signs are bilingual — and spelled correctly.

Two for Two

I’m going to take a break from obsessing about myself (see my earlier posts) to look at the outside world. Two recent developments have proven that the Obama administration is serious about Latino issues. I never doubted the president’s sincerity or commitment, but I had gone on record as saying that Hispanic concerns would take a backseat in the early days of his administration.

I may – and this is as disturbing for me to write as it is for you to read – have been wrong. Furthermore, the president’s recent decisions have implications far beyond the interests of the Hispanic community. They potentially reveal the man for who he is and give some insight into what kind of leader he will be.

First, there is the news that Obama will press for immigration reform this year, which would fulfill a promise he made while campaigning for (and overwhelmingly winning) Hispanic votes. The president’s plan is vague at this point, and it reportedly involves the usual goals of increasing border security and convincing Mexico to hold on to their own people. The big-ticket item, of course, is the proposal to give the 12 million immigrants who already live in America some pathway to citizenship.

Yes, it’s the return of the dreaded “amnesty” provision.

I have, along with every other Latino writer, discussed this topic before, so I won’t rehash the arguments in depth. Suffice to say that conservatives believe that legalizing these workers is a slap in the face of law and order, and a surefire path to economic collapse.

The fairness issue can be debated, although let’s be blunt in pointing out that many of the people screaming about justice are actually just pissed that they had to endure overhearing Spanish in the grocery store. There’s nothing principled about their fear or hatred.

As for economic issues, I have a hard time understanding how more American jobs are going to be lost to people who supposedly have already stolen them. In fact, as columnist Ruben Navarrette has stated, a case could be made that “to help U.S. workers, we need to get the illegal immigrants legal and force employers to pay all workers higher wages and stop playing one group of workers off another.”

In any case, GOP members are hardly the people to lecture anyone on what’s good for the economy… I will refrain from additional cheap shots.

The second announcement from the Obama administration that got my attention was about Cuba. The president intends to make it easier for Cuban Americans to travel to the island and to send remittances. This decision – announced during what was apparently the first bilingual White House press conference – is a welcome first step in ending the arbitrary and counterproductive policy we’ve long held toward that country.

As usual, right-wingers are screaming about going soft on communism, as if our approach had done anything to bring democracy to Cuba. After all, it’s been a half-century or so; when can we expect to see results?

In addition, it wasn’t like the travel restrictions made any sense. Under the guise of getting tough on Castro, immigrants who live in Florida could rarely, if ever, visit their families. But over the years, multiple delegations of governors, members of Congress, and businesspeople were routinely allowed to land on the island. They would talk about trade issues with Cuban officials, all while saying, “We don’t officially recognize you, now please pass some of that kick-ass rum you guys make.” Basically, as long as the potential to make money was involved, we put a hold on our principled stand against oppression.

Obama’s decision will, in all likelihood, make it easier for immigrants to see their families, and perhaps it will be a catalyst for much-needed change. After all, a massive 71 percent of Americans support normalizing relations with Cuba. It’s difficult to get that many Americans to agree about anything, except maybe that Scrubs is long past being funny.

Perhaps the change is due to a lot of younger Americans wondering why we have normal relations with Vietnam, where 50,000 of our soldiers died, while we continue some absurd policy toward a tiny island run by a faded revolutionary on the verge of death. Maybe we’re finally ready to drop all the Cold War posturing.

Regardless of how these two proposals turn out, it is reassuring that Obama hasn’t forgotten how millions of Latinos set high expectations for his administration. Furthermore, it’s now clear that he didn’t just toss around promises like confetti in the hopes of garnering votes. The president is tackling controversial issues when he has more than enough drama to occupy him.

Few would criticize Obama if he took a temporary pass on hot-button social problems to focus on minor inconveniences (such as a faltering economy or a couple of wars). Indeed, many commentators expected him to do just that, and Republicans are delighted to lambast him for “trying to do too much,” especially when his decisions supposedly affect a small percentage of Americans.

But this is the crucial point. Obama can apparently see how disparate problems – such as immigration reform – tie into larger issues, like how our economy functions. It’s promising that he understands that concepts interlock and feed off one another, and necessitate a big-picture approach. He is thus far removed from someone who skips the analysis and goes with his gut (a “decider,” if you will). A person like that usually obsesses on a few basic agenda items, then becomes flummoxed when myriad “unforeseen” disasters occur and snowball. With hope, that will not happen to Obama.

In addition, and perhaps more important, these recent developments indicate that Obama is willing to fight, even when it would be politically easier to skip the tough battles. If that’s true, these decisions are not about kissing up to a key constituency. They are about improving a tattered nation.

And that, of course, is good news for the entire country.

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