Blog & Updates
Protesting Napolitano: “One event that we didn’t want to have”
July 30, 2009 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
The Washington Times notes with a certain amount of glee that immigrants and advocates for immigration reform are growing impatient with the Obama administration and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s extension of Bush-era immigration enforcement policies. The flagship conservative newspaper representing the wing of the GOP that opposes legal immigration and legal status for immigrants here illegally – and opposes the President and his administration on almost everything – described what one pro-immigrant advocate said is “the sense of betrayal creeping up” with regard to Secretary Napolitano and the President’s handling of immigration.
Activists marched in Los Angeles and picketed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's appearance in New York, angered over the administration's recent embrace of an electronic verification system for employers and a program that allows local police to enforce immigration laws.
The protests highlight the tough political spot Mr. Obama faces: He enjoyed strong support from Hispanics in last year's election, but activists say he's now risking their support in the future.
"I see the sense of betrayal creeping up," said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, which organized the protest against Ms. Napolitano.
The coalition said the administration is using the right words on immigrant rights but taking the wrong actions to boost enforcement.
"A lot of people see the actions of Secretary Napolitano going in the opposite direction of the reform President Obama promised," she said.
It is an odd day indeed when Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Minority Member of the House Judiciary Committee and President Obama’s leading opponent on immigration reform, is defending the Obama administration on the issue. The same article in the Washington Times reports that Rep. Smith supports a recent effort by the Obama administration to refuse to create accountability and oversight in immigration detention by establishing basic Homeland Security detention guidelines. (See related ImmPolitic post here)
There is a growing drumbeat of concern that escalating enforcement of the current system – which everyone knows must change – is the wrong priority for Secretary Napolitano who has been charged by the President with leading the comprehensive immigration reform legislative effort. Among advocates, there is a great deal of optimism that real progress towards reform continues on Capitol Hill and behind the scenes in the Obama administration. Legislation in the Senate is expected in September with a full scale debate to follow.
But thousands of immigrants will be deported in the meantime, families will be split apart, businesses will shut down, and people’s lives will be forever harmed.
Chung-Wha Hong of the New York Immigration Coalition continues in the Washington Times article:
Ms. Hong said the Obama administration is using all the right words about backing a broad immigration bill but is taking "massive enforcement actions."
She also said stepping up enforcement of "dysfunctional and unenforceable" laws is not a solution, and said the activists hope to push Mr. Obama away from enforcement and back toward his campaign promises.
"Today was the one event that we didn't want to have," she said. "We didn't want to be protesting President Obama's immigration policy and Napolitano's policy, it really pains us to be picketing."