This crisis at the border has hit a nerve in the Latino community. When watching the evening news, you can hear a pin drop and feel the blood boil in the living rooms of millions of Latino homes across America. The current situation on the border in which thousands of unaccompanied Latino children are being held in detention centers is a humanitarian crisis of major proportions; and it is exposing the true colors of our political parties.
Anger and frustration are building in Latino communities. We see Latino children used as political pawns, attacked, used as props, and mocked in national media. The only thing our political leaders seem able to agree on in this crisis is on plans to deport these children by the thousands and to further militarize our border. It’s shameful, and it exposes a growing disregard for Latino lives, even the lives of small children.
Is it any surprise that recently in Murrieta, California the scene looked eerily reminiscent of those 1960’s post Brown vs. Board of Education protests-- with angry white adults yelling and screaming at small children of color, telling them to ‘go home?’
The hatred that has emerged from Republican ranks against unaccompanied children is in one way refreshing. The charade is over: their opposition to immigration reform is not about distrust of President Obama or about securing the border. This opposition is about xenophobia and complete disregard for Latino lives from Tea Party-aligned Republican leaders and rank and file party members.
This is a party that has lost its compass, unwilling to challenge the most racist of its ranks. The Republican party of today is unable to support the type of immigration reform that our country, economy and society demand.
But Latino anger is not limited to the Republicans.
On the other side of the coin you have President Obama, who in spite of efforts to impeach and sue him, continues to stall as he tries to find ‘middle ground’ on this issue with the far-right.
As the unaccompanied minors crisis continues to grow and the calls for executive leadership escalate, it’s shameful that the president has not ceded to the calls for him to visit the border and see the living conditions of these children. He needs to meet with the children we are sending to Latin America to their likely death. According to Latino Decisions, a major Latino polling firm, mass deportations are leading to a hemorrhage of support from the Democrats, particularly among young Latino voters. And according to a recent gallup poll, no other community has lost more faith in Obama than Latinos in the last year.
For many Latino leaders, Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) admission to Obama a few days ago that immigration reform stood no chance of passing the House this year is long overdue, but it allows us to finally focus all our energy on the only possible solution: administrative action.
Obama still has a major opportunity to do right by Latinos. The president must use his executive authority on immigration to stop the deportations by both dismantling the enforcement dragnet raging in our communities and by issuing administrative relief that protects the millions of undocumented immigrants contributing to our society every day.
Latino leaders will not forget this moment in American history. If Obama deports thousands of innocent children, the true depths of the value he places on Latino lives will finally be out for all to see. And if even our children are not worthy of his consideration, our movement will only grow in it’s anger, it’s sense of purpose, and it’s righteousness in the fight to restore the value we place on all American lives. Neither Republicans nor Democrats can sit this fight out.
Carmona is executive director of Presente.org, an advocacy organization for Latinos in America.