Feathered Bastard

White House Delays Immigration Powwow (Again), and Why U.S. Hispanics Need to Raise Some Hell

So I've just thumbed through a passel of recent White House statements and releases, looking for something about that big immigration meetup that President Barack Obama was supposed to have with Congressional leaders Wednesday, June 17. You know, the one originally scheduled for June 8, which I mentioned at the tail end of my June 5 blog, "White House Staffer Disappoints Phoenix Latino Leaders in Meeting at El Portal."

That blog post had to do with a White House functionary by the name of Carlos Odio who parachuted into town a couple of weeks back, attended meetings at county Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox's El Portal restaurant with nearly all of the city's Hispanic leaders, and delivered the bad news: Obama won't even begin "talking" about immigration reform until the end of the year. As for suspending Arpaio's 287(g) agreement -- something that could be done administratively and with little fallout for the White House -- no promises were made.

Anyway, after that blog post went up, a White House spokesperson called me to explain that there was an immigration powwow upcoming between the administration and members of Congress from both parties. Initially, it was on the calendar for June 8. Then it was rescheduled for June 17.

Not seeing anything about it on any news sites, I took a gander at the White House Web site, studying a slew of statements on the President's recent activities. There was one on appointments to the President's commission on White House fellowships. One on regulatory reform. One calling on all Americans to commit to meaningful volunteer service in their daily lives. Another one on regulatory reform. The official announcement of the Presidential delegation to Mongolia...

But nada on an immigration summit.

I checked with my sources and discovered that once again, the big immigration meeting had been delayed, maybe for June 25. Or maybe not, depending on what the White House has going on that day. After all, something might come up. You know, like a photo op for the delegation to Uzbekistan. Or perhaps the announcement of an envoy to the Federated States of Micronesia.

I then came across a statement made by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs towards the end of yesterday's press briefing

Q Robert, on immigration, what's the reason that the meeting has been delayed week after week? Some Hispanic organizations are saying that's because the President is losing ground in the support in the House and in the Senate on immigration reform discussion.

MR. GIBBS: Unfortunately, the schedule here is, as always, a work in progress. And for those reasons, the meeting has been I think rescheduled to the -- I think it's the 25th, if I have it off the top of my head. But the President remains committed to working with Congress to seek changes in our immigration law. But that doesn't -- but that's not shifted because a meeting got pushed back on the schedule.

Sensing that my Latino comrades were getting the runaround, I gave Phoenix civil rights leader Salvador Reza a ring to ask him what he thought of this latest disappointment from the Obama administration.

"They want to take away any expectations we have," Reza explained. "They're sending the message to us that they're not ready to move on immigration, and to the right-wing that they're listening to their concerns. In the meantime, the repression continues, and they don't want to deal with it."

They sure don't. And while the Obama administration looks the other way, miscreant politicians such as Sheriff Joe Arpaio wreak havoc on the innocent. One need only watch the video I posted recently from activist Dennis Gilman, where a tearful nine-year-old girl pleads for help from the President after losing both parents in one of Arpaio's immigration raids. Multiply this by many thousands, from all those victimized by 287(g)-empowered raids across the nation, and you get an inkling of the human misery involved.

"They're just procrastinating and postponing," said Reza. "Obama may want to do something [about the 287(g) program], but his advisors are telling him not to commit."

Indeed, I'm struck by how much more the Obama White House is concerned about the struggle for freedom and civil liberties in Iran, than it seems to be about the human rights struggle here in Arizona, and really, across this nation, when it comes to the treatment of the undocumented.

I don't know about the rest of the country, but here in Phoenix, Hispanics and everyone concerned with their plight need to participate in unending acts nonviolent resistance, of such a type that the national press and the Obama administration cannot ignore.

Because if what's going on in Iran right now tells us anything it's that the squeaky wheel always gets the attention it wants from the White House, even from a world away.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons