Felipe Matos

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White House Response to Immigration Protests: Short on Facts, Long on Desperation

By: Felipe Matos Thursday August 18, 2011 6:56 am

On Tuesday, Latinos and their allies in cities across the United States participated in actions demanding an immediate end to the controversial SCOMM program, a major driver of the Obama Administration’s record-breaking 1 million deportations. These actions, led by Presente.org and local partner groups, were fueled by our urgent concern that the overwhelming majority of the people deported under SCOMM are not hardened criminals, who the program is designed to target, but low-level offenders and even people who have committed no crime whatsoever. Rather than respond in a serious manner to the petitions that we delivered to the Obama campaign, the Administration decided to obfuscate the truth in a blog post by Cecilia Munoz, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Administration’s primary Latina spokesperson on immigration.

In the post, audaciously titled “In the Debate Over Immigration and Deportations, the Facts Matter,” Munoz made a number of spurious claims, including that ‘Today more than half of all removals are people with criminal records.” This “fact” is misleading on multiple levels. First, Munoz is talking about all deportations, not those produced through SCOMM, which was the explicit focus of our actions, and which DHS records show deported far more non-criminals or low-level offenders (79 percent) than serious criminals. Second, not all criminal records are the same; Munoz is lumping together anyone who has ever been convicted of a crime, including small-time traffic offenders. People who have raped or committed murder are a lot different than people booked for driving without a license, and to insinuate otherwise is shameful.

Sadly, Munoz’ post is just one example of the Administrations’ fuzzy math on immigration and its growing desperation not to lose Latino votes. But there is something even more disingenuous in her words, which is the assertion that the president’s hands are tied on immigration policy. As Munoz writes “…the only way to do what’s necessary is for Congress to act and pass bipartisan legislation the President can sign into law.”

This is simply untrue. As the head of the executive branch, the president has broad discretion in the enforcement of immigration laws. He can place a moratorium on the deportation of DREAM Act students, he can end SCOMM, and he can drastically reduce the thousands of family separations that are the inevitable result of his current approach. His unwillingness to do these things, which have been repeatedly called for by Presente.org and numerous other groups, has nothing to do with Congress and everything to do with burnishing his enforcement credentials for the 2012 election.

This is the single most important fact about current American immigration policy, and it is one that Presente.org and our allies will continue to raise awareness about until it changes. Munoz’ statements don’t just harm immigrants and Latino communities. They also endanger the chances that her boss, President Obama, will be re-elected.

Every pollster in America will tell you that for the president to win re-election, he must garner a significant percentage of Latino votes. SCOMM, the, massive and controversial deportations program that President Obama is championing , is one sure way for him to lose the election.

Other posts in this series: On Immigration and Detention, the Facts Matter Indeed, 8/17/2011


On Immigration and Detention, the Facts Matter Indeed

By: Felipe Matos Wednesday August 17, 2011 9:46 am

From the voices of Latinos facing the injustice:
by Felipe Matos, Presente.org

In 2008, I was one of the many who hit the streets, knocked at doors and stood under the hot Florida sun to help President Obama get elected. After two and a half years, what did I get from my hard work? 1 million deportations and a total devastation of my community! President Obama is the president that has deported more people in our nation’s history –with the grand majority posing no threat to society at all.

When I turn on the TV or read the paper about Secure Communities (S-COMM), a controversial program that forces local police to share information about the immigration status of people they detain (before conviction), I cannot react any other way but to fight back. Today, Presente.org and several local organizations helped to organize a day of action against S-COMM in 6 cities across the United States (Chicago, Miami, Charlotte, Houston, Boston and Atlanta) and we delivered 35,000 signatures that were collected in just 5 days to the Obama for America’s campaign offices.

In Miami, I met Reyna, the mother of four children, whose husband was deported for driving without a license in Homestead, FL. Now, she is raising her children by herself and feeling hopeless to the fact that she can also be stopped and deported because she doesn’t have a license. Her tears are a reminder of the sense of betrayal that Latinos who voted for Obama have been feeling.

President Obama’s deportations and program such as the controversial S-COMM have alienated the support from the Latino community. 56% of the 1.2 million Latinos that voted in 2008 for Obama in Florida (a key swing state), did so because they believed in his promise for change. June polling by impreMedia/Latino Decisions found that a majority of Latino voters (53%) said they know someone who is undocumented, while 25% said they know a person or have a family member who is facing deportation or who has been deported. President Obama has only terrorized our community and separated our families through the expansion of S-COMM and deportations. He is losing our community’s support!

Cecilia Munoz, an official from the White House has said, “The President continues to work every day to fix what’s broken about our immigration system…” Yet, I still remember unmistakably, the President’s own words at this year’s NCLR conference, telling Latino communities: “We [the administration] are working everyday to make sure we are enforcing flawed laws in the most humane and best possible way.” Tell that to Reyna’s children left fatherless, or to the millions of families separated by his immigration policies. The response of the crowd at the conference and our community nationwide has been clear: “Yes, you can!” He has the power to stop our suffering through the end of S-Comm and deportations, but he chooses to push us even more into the margins. The President is the only person with the power in this country to immediately stop the enforcement of flawed laws –in fact; courageous and deliberate action in the face of injustice is the only thing that has ever given this country the real hope of change and progress.

Our families are mixed status and every year another 500,000 US citizen Latinos turn 18 in this country, becoming eligible to vote. Our commitment to continue denouncing his plot to deport our mothers, fathers and peers will not end with today’s action. This is only the beginning and I hope he understands that we are jumping off his bus unless he stops putting us on Immigration Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) buses.