Last week there were a lot of gasps from people who couldn’t believe that President Obama was being compared to Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Not only was Obama compared to the Sheriff who is facing a federal lawsuit for refusing to allow oversight of his department over accusations of racial profiling against Latinos and general poor management, Obama was called worse when it came to immigration.
Democrats and Obama supporters are quick to point out that the accusation is coming from a conservative strategist, Alfonso Aguilar, in an effort to gain votes for Republicans in key swing states like Nevada, especially since assumed GOP presidential candidate Romney is trailing in polls among Latino voters.
But is the accusation so off base? Obama’s detention and deportation policies have been built on the legacies of presidents before him. Secure Communities has been expanded and made mandatory under Obama’swatch and responsible in large part to record deportation numbers topping over a million. Comprehensive immigration reform, a promise made to Latino voters during Obama’s 2008 campaign, has failed to make an appearance. Weak willed face saving actions like pushing the DREAM Act and announcing prosecutorial discretion haven’t lived up to expectations nor the demands of immigration advocates and the Latino electorate.
Maricopa Country Cheriff Joe Arpaio’s power has been bolstered by federal immigration policies that lack real oversight on the state level. The soon to be faded out 287(g), allowed Arpaio to turn his police force into defacto immigration enforcement agents. Secure Communities bolsters this. So it’s not a matter of if Obama is worse than Sheriff Joe, it’s a matter of what polices allowed Sheriff Joe to become who he is. The role of state laws like SB1070 cannot be ignored, which is why the Feds are trying to shut parts of that law down, not on the basis of how they violate the rights of immigrants, especially immigrant Latinos (and non-immigrant Latinos as well) but on the basis of how those laws step on federal immigration enforcement toes.
Obama is in a bad position. He has an immigration record that can be scrutinized while Romney is all talk. And while Romney’s talk sure ain’t pretty, it’s not surprising. It follows the same hard-line anti-immigrant, enforcement first agenda that was set back during McCain’s presidential run. If Romney really wants to win the Latino vote in Nevada or any other state he’s gonna need to do better and chances are he won’t and no brown face, not Marco Rubio’s or Alfonso Aguilar’s, is going to help just by pointing out what Latinos already know. Yes, the Obama administration has failed massively and miserably when it comes to immigration reform. What is the GOP offering that is any better?
Let’s see some real policy proposals and less party pointing.