Critics on Both Sides Dismiss White House Immigration Conference

Is Congress up for a debate on immigration reform this year?

Is Congress up for a debate on immigration reform this year? (Photo: Elliot P.)

The White House touted Tuesday’s conference on immigration reform as President Obama showing how much he cares about fixing the nation’s “broken” system. But on the list of invitees one person was conspicuously missing: Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the unwavering proponent of immigration reform on Capitol Hill.

Gutierrez may have annoyed the White House guest-list makers on Saturday when he told a large crowd he wouldn’t support Obama in 2012 if the administration doesn’t change its deportation policies and make passing immigration reform and the DREAM Act a priority. The Associated Press reported:

“I have nothing but the greatest desire to vote for Barack Obama. I have nothing but the greatest desire to be helpful, and to join arms with him, and march across this country toward his re-election,” Gutierrez said. “But I cannot do that. We cannot do that, until we resolve the current conflict that exists between this administration and its Immigration policy.”

Latina Lista blogger Marisa Treviño writes that the guest list – which included power brokers like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rev. Al Sharpton and influential business figures like the COO of Facebook and the CEO of Cargill – not only left out Gutierrez, but also advocates who work on the ground daily with immigrant communities. She writes that “the time for talk has long passed” and that Latino voters want to see concrete actions like halting the Secure Communities program. Treviño and Gutierrez have both posed the question surely nagging at Obama’s 2012 campaign team–will Latinos who were lured by Obama’s promise of immigration reform vote for him again even though their dream has not been realized? From Latina Lista:

Unfortunately for the White House, we have all traveled down this road together before. If there is a real desire to address this issue and hear the real stories of what this broken immigration system is doing to real people, why don’t they do what the GOP did a couple of years ago — set up small town hall meetings, this time bipartisan, with invited guests in various parts of the country and ask how these communities are being impacted.

The administration and politicians, thinking they know it all, will be blown away by what they don’t know. Most of these problems can be addressed immediately, and there’s no reason why they’re not now except there’s no political will to enforce policies that are humanitarian in scope but politically volatile.

The time has come to stop saying “Si se puede” and start saying “No más palabras.” (No more words.)

Meanwhile, during the immigration conference, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) who chairs the House Judiciary Committee told the Washington Post that any immigration reform that includes legalization of undocumented workers will fail to win sufficient bipartisan support to pass in this Congress.



AboutSarah Kate Kramer
Sarah Kate Kramer first got hooked on collecting stories as a StoryCorps facilitator, then traveled the world with a microphone for a few years before settling down in her hometown of New York City. From 2010-2012 she was the editor of Feet in 2 Worlds and a freelance reporter for WNYC Radio, where she created “Niche Market,” a weekly segment that profiled specialty stores in New York. Sarah is now a producer at Radio Diaries, a non-profit that produces documentaries for NPR and other public radio outlets.