By Elvira Arellano
We are a forgiving people – but we are not fools. We are Christians and we are committed to redemption. But confession and a change of behavior is required for redemption. As of yet, President Obama has not earned our forgiveness. He has not met the requirements of redemption.
We fought for 15 years to win the hearts of the American people and to put political leaders in place that would put into law the gains we had won in the hearts of the people. We brought our stories of families cruelly separated and young lives destroyed to the attention of the public. It was not easy for us because we are a proud people and it was painful to expose our deepest feelings, our most confidential suffering. We met each succeeding wave of hate with witness to our faith and the love that binds our families together. We went to jail. We marched by the millions. We won the hearts of the majority of the people of this nation and we won the promise of support from the representatives and leaders of the Democratic Party – and a few Republicans.
Our growing Latino community united to finally elect a Democratic President and a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The polls showed that over 66 percent, two thirds, of U.S. voters supported an immigration reform which legalized rather than criminalized and deported the 11 million undocumented, which stopped the separation of families with U.S. citizen children and which legalized the young people who were brought here as a young age and know no other country.
Obama abandoned us and abandoned his promise. Under White House direction, not one single hearing was held on the immigration reform bill introduced by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in the House of Representatives. The White House then prevented a bill from being introduced in the Senate. Under pressure in the mid-term elections, Obama threw token support behind a scaled down version of the Dream Act but failed to bring it through the Senate – by 5 Democratic Party votes.
The Obama administration has introduced the most far reaching deportation program in the history of the nation. They devised a series of new programs to seek out and deport over one million people in Obama’s first two years, 1100 people every day. This wave of terror, this assault on Latino families and young people, was not mandated by Congress, it was the initiative of the President.
After this history of betrayal and assault, the President now comes back to us with a new promise – and with a blatant lie. He promises to throw his support behind an effort to pass comprehensive reform in the next two years. No one believes this is possible with the new Republicans control of the House of Representatives. Given what he did not do in his first two years, this is a complete and total hypocrisy.
On top of hypocrisy, Obama has now repeated an absolute lie. He has said that he does not have the power to give relief to the parents and spouses of U.S. citizens and to the dream act eligible young people and their parents. He has actually stood up and repeated this lie over and over again. He does have the power! His own legal advisors have produced a public memorandum documented the power he has to grant parole in place and deferred action to our families and young people.
Obama has betrayed us. Obama has lied to us – and Obama is assaulting our community every single day. His only argument is that the Republicans would be worse. Our response must be very clear. We will give our votes to Obama if and only if he uses his lawful Presidential powers to stop the deportations and separation of families with no criminal convictions.
Given the scandal of his betrayal and his lies, that is a very modest condition for our forgiveness. We should register to vote and put our votes in a “lockbox”. To get our votes, Obama must use the key which we gave him when we elected him President: he must stop the persecution of our families and our youth. If he does not use the key we gave him, then the Latino Vote should Vote Latino – and vote for Luis Gutierrez for President.