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Obama Memo Deferring Some Deportations Not a Victory For Latinos, Immigrants or Human Rights

June 20, 2012

This article by Bruce Dixon is re-posted from Black Agenda Report.

Last week’s presidential announcement that “prosecutorial discretion” would be exercised to halt deportation proceedings against young undocumented persons with spotless police records and honorably discharged veterans was neither a sign of growing presidential enlightenment, nor was it any kind of major victory for the human rights, Latino or immigrant rights movements.

First of all, it was not an executive order, a thing that federal agencies are bound by law to carry out. It was a presidential announcement accompanied by a low-level memo. Two similar memos have been issued by this administration before, with similar hype from the White House and identical celebrations by immigrant rights activists. Both were disregarded by ICE, the Bureau of Immigration, Customs and Enforcement, which just kept on deporting everyone it could lay hands on.

Secondly, to get your deportation proceedings deferred under the memo you have to come out of the shadows, register as an out-of-status person and wait to see if “prosecutorial discretion” will be applied to your case. It might or might not. There’s no appeal, and once you register they know who and where you are. Good luck with that.

Third, the memo says that to qualify for deferral of your deportation, you can’t have felonies or even “significant misdemeanors” on your record. That’s not just a high standard, it’s a brand new one that lawyers and judges have not yet defined. Many Latino immigrants live in communities where racially selective saturation policing bestows police records upon disproportionate numbers of young males.

Fourth, most of the million-plus already deported by the Obama Administration were never college grads, college students, college-bound or vets. They were ordinary working people and their families. The memo being celebrated by immigrant reform activists does nothing to slow down their deportations. College graduation, in the US has become a kind of class distinction, and the immigration reform movement and Democratic Latino leaders seem to be acting in the interest of one class of immigrants while abandoning the needs of the rest.

Fifth, immigration reform activists and their allies rarely mention that as the DREAM Act as presently written makes joining the military as a road to citizenship a much easier path than college. Page 12 of the Pentagon’s FY 2012 Strategic Plan states that to achieve its manpower goals it needs access to immigrant populations. This may be the real point of the DREAM Act.

Sixth, since the Obama administration itself initiated the most massive wave of deportations in US history, it also could have stopped them six months, a year, two years ago. So calling press conferences, as Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez did, to thank the Obama Administration for maybe stopping deportations just of vets and college-bound youth with spotless records is like expressing sincere gratitude to a brutal assailant who’s beat every square inch of your body the last three years, when he announces he might start going easy on the head and groin shots from now on. If you ask him nicely.

This is not a victory for the human dignity of immigrants. It’s a no-cost cynical ploy by the Obama Administration a few months before the election to shore up his sagging support in the Latino community. In 2008 Obama received more than two thirds of an abnormally large Latino vote, which made the difference in several states.

The White House knows what it needs and is going for that. The Latino and immigrants rights communities ought to do the same. For Black Agenda Radio I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at

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