published Monday, July 9th, 2012

Latinos criticize Obama, Congress over immigration

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    Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to journalists during an editorial board meeting at the Chattanooga Times Free Press recently.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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Less than four months before the presidential election, many in the Latino community believe neither President Barack Obama nor Congress has delivered on the promise of comprehensive immigration reform.

"We believe that Latinos have been carefully watching the actions of the president and of our nation's elected representatives and are not seeing a solution emerge," said Roselyn Gold, a senior director with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney addressed the association's members in June.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., criticized Obama's accomplishments on immigration during a recent editorial board meeting at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"There has been no attempt by this administration to address immigration. None," he said.

But a political science professor at Dalton State College called the criticism "disingenuous."

The comprehensive immigration reform the Obama administration and Democrats are interested in "is one that has zero chances of passing," professor Ken Ellinger said. "Any attempt is a waste of time because it would involve some sort of amnesty, and that's a complete nonstarter with Republicans."

A bill that would provide a path to citizenship to youth brought illegally into the country by their parents, the DREAM Act, has been introduced multiple times over the last decade. It passed the House 18 months ago with support from Democrats, but failed by five votes in the Senate.

Last month, Obama said his administration will grant relief on a case-by-case basis to stop deportations of young people who would have been covered by the DREAM Act. The move could affect 800,000 to more than 1 million noncitizens, according to various estimates.

The administration has said it will focus on deporting illegal immigrants who have criminal backgrounds or previous deportation orders.

Many Hispanics approve those moves but are only cautiously optimistic.

"President Obama has not fulfilled his promises of fixing our nation's flawed immigration policies," Miguel Carpizo, East Tennessee organizer for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said in an email.

"During his administration, thousands of families have been torn apart under programs like Secure Communities and 287(g) [a program that allows local law enforcement to check immigration status of people who are arrested.] These programs create mistrust between law enforcement and immigrant communities," he wrote.

Maria de la Rosa, an illegal immigrant who moved to Dalton, Ga., eight years ago and is being deported, said Obama could have done a lot more for the Hispanic community.

"He arrived at the presidency with the Hispanic vote," said the Mexico native.

Hispanics voted for Obama over Republican nominee John McCain by more than 2-to-1 in 2008, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

One of de la Rosa's daughters meets requirements to stay in the country under Obama's initiative. The other came to the United States when she was 16, missing the cutoff date of 15 or younger.

Corker said deferring action against youths brought here by their parents causes people to lose faith in the federal government.

"These laws are on the books but [saying] 'We are not going to enforce them,' that's a pretty big head-scratcher," he said.

When he made the announcement, Obama said the plan was not amnesty or immunity.

"This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix," he said in a news conference. "Precisely because this is temporary, Congress needs to act."

President George W. Bush tried for comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 but failed. The legislation would have set up a way for illegal immigrants already in the country to get legal and become citizens.

"What blew up the '07 negotiations was the pathway to citizenship," Corker said. Instead, the focus should be on ways for people to come here legally to work, he said.

"We have lines and lines of people who want to come into our country legally and they've been waiting decades in some cases," he said. "We do need to figure out some ways to cause our system to function in a much better way, and just ignoring the laws we have in our books tears down Americans' faith in our system."

But he doesn't think immigration reform will be dealt with before the November elections.

Ellinger said the only way to achieve immigration reform is for one party to control Congress and the presidency.

"I don't see both parties compromising," he said.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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