It is clear that President Obama, and perhaps the Democrats more broadly–are starting to see Latinos as a political football to be tossed around when it suits their political needs.
For months, President Obama promised that he—and the rest of the nation—were done with Republican obstructionism on immigration reform. In June–President Obama told us—told the world—that by the end of the summer he would announce how he would use the power of his office to end the threat of deportation for more immigrant families.
In calling out Republican efforts to block reform, the President attempted to paint Democrats as Latinos’ only option for relief. He painted himself, and the Democrats, as our beacon of hope–all while four Senate Democrats plotted behind the scenes to undercut us for political gain.
Senators Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor and Jeanne Shaheen joined the charge led by Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz to derail the only pathway that can provide relief for immigrant families–and President Obama caved to their political demands.
President Obama put the politics of their re-election before the lives of countless immigrant families currently under siege.
Frederick Douglass once said, “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted.”
The President, and the Democrats, have been testing Latinos–they have been slowly increasing the injustices committed against our communities to see what our breaking point is. And they have finally found the point of resistance.
If we do not resist–we may never see the President take action to stop deportations, despite the fact that he has the power to do so. We also may never see relief for our communities, for it is clear that relief is not coming from Democrats of their own volition.
The President’s sheepish move put politics over the safety and well-being of immigrant families and communities—all but guaranteeing that many more families will be torn apart, and that thousands more of our undocumented friends, relatives, colleagues, classmates and neighbors will face the horrors of midnight ICE raids and mass deportations.
The Democratic Party is telling us that they no longer have the well-being of Latinos and other immigrant communities at heart–but will we listen?
The national Democratic political apparatus acts to appease us when they fear political cost because they understand that as Latinos become a larger portion of the American electorate, we are crucial to their political power.
But so long as Latinos identify with the Democratic Party when they treat us as political pawns instead of a key constituency they should be wooing, we should not expect better treatment.
To borrow an old, sexist, trope: Why should they buy the cow when they get the milk for free?
Power concedes nothing without a demand. This historical moment demands a new approach: a strategy for changing the nation’s terroristic immigration policy that recognizes that the Democratic Party is not our friend simply because so many members of the Republican Party have shown themselves, in no uncertain terms, to be our enemy.
Latino political power must begin and end with the independence of the Latino vote. It’s time to drop Democratic Party affiliations, and ask the Democrats to work for our votes.
We can’t afford to continue buying into the false choice presented to us by the two dominant parties. That’s why Presente Action has chosen to encourage Latino voters and our allies to turn out in force for the November elections but not vote for the Dirty Four Senators who betrayed our community so publicly and so shamefully: Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor and Jeanne Shaheen.
Confronted with broken promises, if Democrats want our votes, they should damn well have to work for them.
Arturo Carmona is Executive Director of Presente Action and Presente.org, the nation’s largest online Latino organizing group.