US President Barack Obama took his renewed push for immigration reform to the border. But it sounds like the same old promises to people who have been working and waiting patiently for a change in America’s broken immigration policy.
More than two years ago, California Latino leaders praised candidate Obama as the person who would make immigration reform a reality.
Today, for millions of immigrants trying to build a life here, the President’s lack of progress on the issue has turned their American dream into an American pipe-dream.
“I think things are going to get worse,” said Arturo Batrez, a day laborer trying to find work at a Los Angeles hardware store.
“He has the authority to change things,” said Batrez about President Obama. “He has to decide to do it.”
Arturo Batrez is an immigrant from Guatemala.Despite being a legal resident, he still feels the sting of discrimination and does not feel part of America.
He is competing for work alongside undocumented immigrants like “Santos” who is still waiting for his shot at legalization.
“I won’t give up,” said Santos. “I will fight for my family and I will fight for my papers.”
It is not just the risk of deportation that worries Santos. Since the recession, he has seen his pay as a day laborer drop from $600 to $200 a week, making it difficult to support his two children.
Despite campaigning on promises to provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrants – many of whom have lived here since childhood – the Obama Administration has instead bent to pressure from the right by ramping up immigration enforcement.
“In the two years that he’s been president he has deported three times than Bush did in his entire term in office,” said Jim Lafferty, an attorney speaking out about Obama’s broken promises.
The higher rate of deportations is leading many in the Latino community to view the President’s renewed calls for reform as more empty promises to sway the increasingly important Latino vote as 2012 approaches.
“No legalization. No legalization, no re-election,” said Miguel Zavala of the Associated Raza Educators. “That’s a message to the Democratic Party and Obama.A lot of promises were made.”
In a bid to show he is serious about immigration reform, the President recently invited a group of Latino celebrities to what was called a brain storming session.
“Those who do not support immigration reform will hopefully pay for it in those elections,” said actress, Eva Longoria.
Longoria and the White House hope the Republican Party’s opposition to immigration reform will tip the balance of power in Congress.
While the rosy rhetoric of Hollywood celebrities and Washington elites continues to flow, poor workers like Santos have little faith in any real change and continue to rely on themselves.
Immigration activist and community organizer Ron Gochez said Obama continues to promise immigration reform, but has failed to act.
“Our community is tired of the promises,” he said. “I hope this is something he will take seriously.”
“We know that this is political theater,” he added.
Obama needs to adequately address immigration or face losing the Latino vote which carried him in a number of US states in 2008. Without proper plans in place, Obama and the Democrats could face backlash at the polls from Latino voters.
Gochez explained that Latino votes would likely vote for no one or possible a third-party candidate over candidates who are unwilling to address comprehensive immigration reform.
“If he doesn’t do it [immigration reform], we have no reason to support him,” he said. “We’re tired of promises and we want action.”