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