Last week Obama got the proverbial "Chankla" thrown at him from Puerto Rican leaders who saw his 5 Hour "lay over" in Puerto Rico as a far cry from leadership on issues Puerto Rican's care about including relief for the longest standing political prisoner in the hemisphere, meaningful action on decolonization and a real process that honors the island's wishes and autonomy on the status question.
Instead Obama barely got off of Air Force one. He had lunch, rolled a couple of R's and made sure to shake the hands of big campaign support. There is a sad fact that the president seems to be completely in the dark about. His baby step approach to courting Latino votes is not going to pay dividends in 2012.
On immigration issues a major priority in the Latino community Obama was equally unimpressive last week. Last Friday a conference call and then a quiet memo was released by the head of ICE. While the media was busy paying attention to Senator McCain who stopped short of blaming Brown People for Global Warming, Obama was secretly taking another baby step.
Interestingly enough McCain the maniac, sorry maverick, has helped remind us why we need Bold Leadership not baby steps. We are in the middle of a massive anti-immigrant hysteria that has moved racial profiling legislation forward in 4 states, led to a rise in hate crimes across the nation and all the while deportations are at record numbers. A memo? Really?
Latino leaders are no monolith but from the grass roots to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus there has been a steady call for decisive action on issues ranging from a moratorium on the corrupt "Secure Communities" pilot project that has helped the administration claim those record deportations, to calls for a moratorium on deportations of DREAM Act eligible youth by Executive Order.
The latter is the more moderate call to action in the Latino Community. At 67 Sueños and many human rights based migrant justice groups we want to see a moratorium by Executive Order on ALL deportations until humane and just immigration reform is passed. That is what we would call Bold Leadership. That is what it will take after record deportations and inaction on Latino issues for 2 years to regain the Latino vote in 2012 and stand up to the wave of hate that McCain is riding.
But Obama is not even meeting the moderate demands half way. The memo released amounts to a suggestion that maybe it is not necessary to deport DREAM eligible youth - not action, and not an executive order. The administration has consistently batted away criticisms by suggesting they prioritized "criminals" in their deportation dragnet. This memo simply restates the tired talking point that has never convinced any Latino voters with undocumented friends or family.
A memo? Really? A 5 hour visit and lunch? Really? Is this the extent to which the administration is taking the brown vote for granted?