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President Obama is no Dobbs or Arpaio…

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

On the issue of immigration, President Obama is no Arizona Sheriff Joe
Arpaio – the face of racial profiling. Neither is he CNN’s resident
xenophobe, Lou Dobbs, whose mission in life seems to be to lead the
nation into an ethnic cleansing frenzy.

Yet up to this point, President Obama’s immigration policies simply
appear to be enhanced versions of President Bush’s anti-immigrant

Ironically, despite the hype regarding Sen. John McCain being a friend
to migrants and to Mexicans/Latinos – most peoples from these
communities overwhelmingly supported President Obama – precisely
because of the president’s humane stance on immigration.

Most everyone understands that the president is not a magician, nor is
he a dictator, but he has been more than disappointing in his failure
to provide decisive leadership on this issue. Only the mass dragnet
immigration raids have stopped… if one doesn’t count Arpaio.

Arpaio is to Mexicans/Latinos what Sheriff Bull Conner was to the
1960s civil rights movement. Arpaio has taken it upon himself – first
with the blessing of Bush, and now Obama, to conduct massive raids
that indiscriminately target Mexicans/Latinos. He is able to do this
via the government’s 287(g) agreements with local law enforcement
agencies that enable local police officers to carry out immigration
duties. Obama has taken a very bad idea and has greatly expanded it
nationwide. This is sheer politics. He and his advisers figure that to
pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, he needs to “act tough”
and cozy up to those who think of migrants as little better than
criminals and vermin.

The president could cancel this program outright, but chances are less
than slight that anything on this front will happen until he and
Congress get around to passing the much promised reform bill in 2010 –
after he has fixed both health care and the economy. This means that
migrants will continue to be criminalized and families forcibly
separated. It also means they will continue to die in the desert as a
result of policies designed by immigration officials, precisely with
the intent of steering migrants into the most remote and inhospitable
mountains and deserts (Tucson’s Derechos Humanos’ Arizona Recovered
Bodies Project actually reports that of the more than 5,000 bodies
found dead in the desert this past decade, many of these migrants have
suffered blunt trauma to the head, i.e, killed).

Yet even if this reform bill passes, judging by the way he has acted
during the health care debate, the human rights community is not
reassured that it will be fair and humane. His inability to stand up
to conservatives and extremists on any issue does not give anyone hope
that he will go to bat for one of the communities that believed in his
message of hope and change. He might as well let Dobbs write the bill
– who would simply call for a 2,000-mile militarized wall all along
the Southern border, plus the draconian apparatus to search and
conduct massive searches, arrests and deportations of some 12 million
undocumented migrants (20 million, according to extremists). At best,
there might include a provision that would remand some of these
migrants to a state of permanent subservience, with little or no human
rights (read Bracero program).

Perhaps the president needs a reminder regarding who voted for him in
the previous election; it was certainly not the conservatives and
extremists who hate everything about him. Those are the people – along
with their views and their values – that were overwhelmingly
repudiated in that election. And yet, it is they, similar to the
health care debate, who drive and dictate the terms of the immigration

A real solution will not be forthcoming if it is based on fear, hate
and propaganda. Creating a workable solution – as opposed to a
band-aid – necessitates viewing the issue not as a criminal matter,
but rather, as a labor and human rights issue. Part of this includes
understanding the destructive effect of NAFTA – the 1994 free trade
agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico that has
devastated the Mexican countryside. It is this agreement that has
flooded cheap corn into Mexico, making it impossible for Mexican small
farmers to compete fairly against this U.S. subsidized product.

This agreement has had the exact opposite effect of the promises of
NAFTA. Millions continue to migrate northbound. Until this issue is
addressed – and it is highly unlikely that President Obama understands
this – the U.S. will continue to fill its privatized prisons and
detention centers with people guilty of simply trying to survive.

Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be
reached at:

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
Column of the Americas
PO BOX 85476
Tucson, AZ 85754


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