President Obama’s mixed record on immigration includes deporting nearly three million people while seeking protections for some categories of undocumented immigrants, a move just obstructed by federal courts, writes Dennis J Bernstein.
By Dennis J Bernstein
The recent U.S. Supreme Court’s 4-4 split decision on whether President Obama has the power to implement immigration changes through executive action leaves in place a lower court’s injunction against those policies and leaves tens of thousands of so-called Dreamers and their families in a legal limbo.
The Supreme Court’s June 23 decision put an indefinite hold on the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program known as (DACA) as well as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA).
In June 2012, Obama announced DACA, which declared that that certain children who arrived in the U.S. prior to turning 16 years of age would no longer be a priority for deportation. Obama announced DAPA in November 2014, allowing certain parents to be granted deferred action for a period of three years and to be eligible for work authorization papers.
Though Obama’s initiatives were welcomed by many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants – and much of the blame for the absence of more permanent reforms rests with Congress – the President has come in for sharp criticism for deporting nearly three million people.
Flashpoints radio host Dennis J Bernstein interviewed Jesus Guzman, program director at the Graton Day Labor Center in Northern California’s wine country, to get a human perspective on the political and legal machinations in Washington.
The Graton Center is among the first of its kind in the country, working to represent day laborers and domestic workers and seeking to guarantee them $15-an-hour minimum wage.
Guzman is also a state representative of the Dreamers and is undocumented. Guzman went to Washington in 2012 to be with Obama in the White House when DACA was announced, and was also at Stanford last week to protest Obama’s deportation actions, which have earned Obama the title of Deporter-in-Chief.
DB: Jesus Guzman, you were at Stanford recently to greet Barack Obama there. Why were you at Stanford and what happened there?
JG: It was a joint action with the Graton Day Labor Center and the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON), and the Immigrant Youth Coalition, and was a response to the woefully inadequate reaction of the President to the Supreme Court’s decision on DAPA and DACA. His response was to weakly lament that the decision was made, then he doubled-down on the enforcement of the deportation policies which we are calling (on him) to end – the Priority Enforcement Program [PEP]. We are saying that if the Supreme Court is not going to stand up and defend our families and extend DOPA and DAPA to stop the deportations, the President has the power to do that.
Instead he is pushing the PEP program, which turns sheriffs into de facto deportation agents. He has six months to end that – he has the power. He can’t just say it’s too bad about the Supreme Court decision and continue with the deportation policies. We are calling for him to end them. At Stanford, we were calling to his attention that our communities and others in this country hold him accountable and he cannot just pass the buck to the Supreme Court.
DB: It was a very vocal protest, with attempts to interrupt the President. Why did you think it was important to do this in the face of the President?
JG: He was attending an entrepreneur summit at Stanford. We were there as immigrant youth and day laborers, speaking out. The youth were taking the lead, initially with civil disobedience, then the distraction to be sure that our presence was felt – to be sure they hear what is going on in our community. The President can go around the country and do his last goodbye tour and count up the accolades for the accomplishments he likes to claim he’s had in presidency, but we need to remind him that he has the power to change the deportation policy. It’s getting close to three million deportations during his presidency. That is no kind of legacy he should be proud of as part of his presidency. He still has time to turn this around and use his power wisely to protect those in our communities who are the most vulnerable. It was important for us to speak out so he hears from us about what he can do at the end of his presidency.
DB: You are undocumented. This policy has caused great suffering. Can you put a human face on it? How does the President’s weak-kneed reaction to the Supreme Court decision impact you and some of the dreamers you are working with?
JG: We estimate six million undocumented folks would benefit from this program. That would include my mom and dad who have both been here over 20 years. They did everything possible to give me a better opportunity in life. The privilege I have now of a work permit is through the original DACA. I can think of folks who deserve the same benefit as much as my parents. Many of the folks I work with are day laborers, domestic workers and folks who have been labeled by the President as criminals and gang bangers and other derogatory terms that are not true. Folks are coming and trying to provide for their families back home and to have a chance for a better life here. It is criminal to call us criminals when there are all these instances of wage theft, unsafe working conditions, and retaliation against workers trying to provide a better life.
It has a tremendous impact on our families to have a work permit to work legally, but it goes beyond that. My mom talks about wanting to see her mom, my grandmother, who she hasn’t seen in many, many years and who has been very ill for the last few years. It would mean the world to her to see her mother. The millions of folks affected all have an individual story of how these programs would benefit them. We know it’s the right thing to do, and the President knows it’s the right thing to do. We are calling on him to do the right thing and to use his power wisely during these last six months of office.
DB: Remind us of what DACA and DOPA meant. What are the remedies?
JG: The original DACA is the federal program that would extend the work permit. It meant we are not a priority for deportation so we can have work permits and social security cards. It includes the opportunity under a provision of the program called advance to visit a home country or leave the U.S. under certain specific circumstances. It was meant for youth who came here at a young age like myself – I was one-year old and have been here ever since. DAPA was meant for parents who have U.S. citizen born children or who are legally here. It was meant for parents – taking the premise of DACA and expanding it for parents of U.S.-born children. Even if DACA or DAPA were extended, it still wouldn’t cover everybody. We are still looking to push for protection for all undocumented families, but it would have been a huge benefit, a huge step forward for so many of our families who are at risk.
It is even more worrisome when the President says he is continuing with these enforcement policies, not only for the folks undocumented here for a number of years, but also the Central American families and refugees who have been coming to the U.S. for safety. This administration is not looking at the humanity of so many of our brothers and sisters who are coming to the U.S. and need our protection, and instead are turning them away. We are calling upon the President to extend the temporary protection status to the Central American brother and sister refugees who are coming and need a hand.
DB: This stepped-up deportation policy is in the hands of Homeland Security, so it’s put in the context of national security risk. They act as if it’s not a humanitarian situation, but one dealing with terrorists. What is your response to it being described as terrorism and not human rights?
JG: It’s not unlike what we saw recently with the Congressional Democrats conducting a sit-in in the House. At first blush, no fly/no buy sounds good. Who would want guns in the hand of terrorists? But people need to look deeper into it. There is a “terror watch list” of people who can’t fly, but the list is very xenophobic and unfairly targets Muslims. It’s a list that doesn’t have much oversight and is born out of a very nationalistic, xenophobic perception of our Muslim brothers and sisters who are unfairly targeted.
Some of these policies that the Department of Homeland Security are pushing are similar to what’s happening in England and other parts of the world, where the far-right very nationalistic, xenophobic reaction to immigrants is ugly. We are seeing them implemented in these policies. Central American refugees are refugees who need to be seen through a humanitarian lens, not through some ”terror” lens. It’s missing the needs of these folks that we need to protect and help. It’s a reflection of a far-right nationalism and xenophobia that is on the rise and that we need to be combating.
DB: Do you think that Trump and his anti-immigrant policies have made it worse than Hillary Clinton’s policies as the Secretary of State, like supporting or sustaining of dictatorships in Honduras and elsewhere? How do you see that on the policy level?
JG: It would be easy to point to Trump and say he’s the bogeyman. Trump has had an effect of localizing some of this far-right extremism. But we can’t look past Democrats who have also been contributing to this. It’s both sides of the aisle. With Hillary Clinton, we only need to look at when she was asked about her stance on the plight of refugees coming from Central America – she was in support of sending many families back to Central America.
DB: She also lectured parents about jeopardizing their children’s safety by allowing them to immigrate, because it’s so dangerous. Of course, it’s dangerous to stay as well.
JG: The last thing we need is to be lectured about our own fight in our community. What we need for our brothers and sisters is some sorts of asylum, protection – not have people incarcerated for leaving the horrific conditions in Central America. There is plenty of blame to go around for both parties.
DB: You were at the White House, with the President when the Dreamer DOCA was just announced. If you could have a sit down with the President now, what would you tell him?
JG: I don’t think I’d do it. I’d have my mom sit down and talk with him about what this would mean to her and my dad and why it’s important. I’ve said my piece. We are doing this work with day laborers and immigrant youth. I have some privilege from my work permit now. He needs to hear from those most affected by these policies. Even though what happens to my mom and dad affects me, it’s best that he hear from them.
Dennis J Bernstein is a host of Flashpoints on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.
So Obama deports illegal residents in the US by the millions, but Trump says the same thing and that makes him a fascist. Amazing propaganda.
There are illegal immigrants coming from everywhere. If this continues, the U.S will be overpopulated just like 3rd world countries. Our country is already having problems with finding jobs for their citizens . My thoughts on immigration are as follow : 1. come here legally ( no American is against legal immigration) 2. be financial secure
( no welfare, food stamps, & free education), 3. pay taxes ( stop taking what’s not yours- this is Our U.S. taxpaying money that’s supporting you). 4. fine companies that hire illegal immigrants, (5) fine countries that will not help stop illegals coming from their country, and (6) assimilate (English Only) ,(7) cut off federal funding to countries that will not take back their illegals.
1. come here legally ( no American is against legal immigration) agreed
2. be financial secure
( no welfare, food stamps, & free education), I’d call this one silly, but it could be made the law
3. pay taxes ( stop taking what’s not yours- this is Our U.S. taxpaying money that’s supporting you).
If they become citizens, it’s now theirs too.
4. fine companies that hire illegal immigrants, Fine the companies, and put their upper executives in prison if it happens again
(5) fine countries that will not help stop illegals coming from their country, this one strikes me as nonsense
and (6) assimilate (English Only) , total nonsense
(7) cut off federal funding to countries that will not take back their illegals. Hardly anybody except Israel is getting anything – unless you count the nations where the US is throwing money at while fighting some kind of war on their soil and calling it “aid”
I would say, Joe L., that you fallaciously ignore my valid argument that the Latino illegals are brought in by American business to take the jobs poor Americans need. To suggest that all the Latino illegals are here because of American crimes and therefore poor Americans owe them “a welcome” is asinine and idiotic. These Latino illegals are here for money, period. The Latinos are both extremist racists and the apotheosis of arrogance. Poor Americans need casual labor to survive, maybe Joe L you have never been hungry and need to get the slam the door, “All full senor” treatment to understand. Get rid of the illegals and pay Americans more. No Aztlan. No sanctuary. No nothing. Period. Joe L., if you can’t defend America’s poor against exploitation by American business and abuse by Latino illegals then we don’t need YOU either Joe L.
Well David Smith, I would say that you dismiss my very VALID point about US aggression towards Latin America which has led to much of its suffering. If someone broke into your house and broke a bunch of stuff, I am sure that you would whole heartedly believe that person should pay for the destruction they have wrought. When the US continues, to this day, to overthrow governments, even going as far as to train dictators, death squads etc. all for US interests then surely the US should pay for the destruction it creates. It is ignorance, and possibly bigotry, to not want to take responsibility for what the US Government does – the people of Latin America didn’t elect the American politicians that overthrew their governments. I am guessing that taking in some immigrants probably pales in comparison to the cost that has been inflicted on countless countries, such as Iraq, which is basically a failed state with its’ infrastructure destroyed (how many countries could we add together – Vietnam onwards?).
So I stick by my point, if the US STOPS creating wars, coups, and every other indecent action that it partakes in – then by all means only allow LEGAL immigration – otherwise the US should take responsibility for its’ actions.
The US Propertied Class controls the government and orders the aggression, so let them take the Latino illegals into their homes and feed them. Nearly all Latino illegals are fleeing nothing, they come here for money, and make it by taking the jobs of America’s poor. The Latino illegals are owed nothing.
David Smith… Maybe you should watch award winning journalist, and contributor to this site, John Pilgers “War on Democracy” – https://vimeo.com/16724719. This might give you some historical reference to why the region is the way it is today and why the people remain poor in their resource rich countries.
Deport the Latino illegals, prison time for American business people who hire them. By the way Joe L., I agree with you regarding the horror the US has perpetuated in Latin Am and I am impressed with the consistency of your argumentation.
David Smith… should we start talking about the US backed coup in Guatemala in 1954 and work our way forward from there? We can talk about death squads, “disappeared”, mass graves, the School of the America’s, the CIA, the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID etc. But of course, the people of Latin America have nothing to complain about – why would anyone ever want to flee this wonderland of corruption and death for the benefit of American corporations? How silly, huh?
No. We will start and end by talking about Latino illegals taking the jobs of America’s poor aided and abetted by American business. Deportation for illegals, prison time for business people who hire them, problem solved.
David Smith… that is not problem solved. STOP messing around in Latin America and likely the US will solve many of the problems that obviously you have with “illegals”. I would be willing to bet that if the US had to pay for all of the countries that it helped destroy through war then paying for a bunch of “illegals” would pale in comparison. When will the US take responsibility for its’ actions? Oh, and I am glad that you are “impressed”, I guess I just don’t like bigotry.
“Bigotry” is a slur, unacceptable on informal logic. I am an American patriot, as Mexicans should be Mexican patriots. I understand your argument, which uses a sound premise(US meddling in Cent Am) to reach an invalid conclusion(US poor must pay by giving up their jobs to Latino illegals). Since you do not acknowledge understanding of my argument, your arrogance and condescension is absurd, more absurd is your failure to acknowledge that American poor lose their jobs to Latino illegals at the will of American business., most absurd is your lack of compassion for poor Americans.
David Smith… I am sorry but calling “bigotry” a slur is ridiculous on its’ face since I believe that it is usually bigots (or racists) that use slurs about all different races or people – such as Latino’s (that is what i see here). I just find it unbelievable that someone could identify with US imperialism in Central and South America, Latin America in general, and yet not be able to make a connection, let alone take responsibility for what the US Government has done for well over a half century, to the conditions found in Latin America today and why people want to flee their countries. Now again not all illegal immigrants come from war-torn countries but certainly the US has shaped the region into what it is today – that there is no question. If you hate illegals so much then maybe you should push to stop US wars and coups along with drastically cutting the US’ military budget to instead invest in infrastructure which would create good paying jobs for “poor Americans”.
Again, what would Latin America look like today if the US had not installed dictators who used death squads and removed democracies all for US interests? The US itself has stolen countless riches from the people of Latin America which kept them poor yet you have the audacity to complain about Latino’s coming illegally to the US… unbelievable and I certainly do believe that it boils down to bigotry (if not downright ignorance).
Watch your mouth Joe L. If you were to meet me face to face I guarantee that you would not dare to use such snark. Your initial argumentation was invalid, so you lose. By resorting to ad hominem fallacy, you lose permanently.
David Smith… thanks for the tough talk. But what about the US taking responsibility for what it does in the world or you don’t believe that it should? If I am to gauge your response clearly you recognize what the US has done to Latin America but do not believe that the US has any responsibility to rectify what it has done. What a world we live in, huh? Maybe none of us should take responsibility for what we destroy. Run into someone’s car – forget about it. Break someone’s window – forget about it. Steal someone’s car – forget about it. A world of no accountability, great values and if that is patriotism then I surely don’t want to be a patriot… Maybe if you are against paying for illegals then maybe the US should pay restitution to Latin America for the damage that it has caused and maybe there would be no need for illegals.
David Smith… on the subject of restitution how much do you think Latin America should be owed with over a half century of imperialism by the United States – what do you think, billions, trillions (I mean we would have to think about interest right)? If the US paid Latin America for its’ imperialism, and that money was invested into creating jobs within Latin America, then there would not be a huge influx of “illegals” and patriots like yourself wouldn’t have to worry about that anymore. I mean the US ruled that Iran has to pay $2 Billion for the families of 241 people killed – so what would that work out to for Latin America?
David Smith… Here is just one instance and actually an article by Robert Parry in 2005 talking about death squads in Guatemala after the US backed coup in 1954. Now that is just one country and if we applied the same monetary just for the dead (not even including the fact of the suffering of an entire country which went from a “democracy” to a dictatorship – which I am sure has it’s own monetary value). So let’s do the math, Iran had to pay $2 Billion for 241 people OR
2,000,000,000 ÷ 241 = $8,298,755.19 per person
Now here is a little snippet from Democracy NOW!
The 8 years Reagan was in office represented one of the most bloody eras in the history of the Western hemisphere, as Washington funneled money, weapons and other supplies to right wing death squads. And the death toll was staggering–more than 70,000 political killings in El Salvador, more than 100,000 in Guatemala, 30,000 killed in the contra war in Nicaragua. In Washington, the forces carrying out the violence were called “freedom fighters.” This is how Ronald Reagan described the Contras in Nicaragua: “They are our brothers, these freedom fighters and we owe them our help. They are the moral equal of our founding fathers.”
So Democracy NOW! says more than 100,000 people killed in Guatemala. Now let’s take our number per person that the US imposed on Iran and put that number towards the people of Guatemala who were put under dictators and death squads for US interests:
100,000 x $8,298,755.19 per person = $829,875,519,000 (almost $830 Billion dollars and that does not even include restitution for overthrowing the countries democracy let alone only being one country out of many that have suffered due to US actions).
David Smith… sorry I did not put the article from Robert Parry but instead used Democracy Now! but here is Robert Parry’s article on Guatemalan Death Squads – https://consortiumnews.com/2005/011005.html
If the US ever had to pay for what it has done in the world, much like the $2 Billion that Iran will likely have to pay for the deaths of 241 people, the US would be completely bankrupt.
You ARE a bigot. I have seen you say 75% of criminals are blacks and Latinos – utter garbage. I have seen you write anti-Semitic comments. Below you write that you are an American patriot – loaded language. You repulse me. Your anti-immigrant rhetoric is worse than Trump’s – at least Trump is not categorizing all members of an ethnic group as criminals, even though he is stating that about most immigrants from Mexico (and doesn’t mention immigrants from other Latin American countries).
“most absurd is your lack of compassion for poor Americans.”
That is a strawman argument. He never said he doesn’t care about the poor. Stop spreading hatred.
Let’s be clear, Trump “anti-immigrant” policies are against illegal immigrants. I’ve never heard any anti-immigrant comments from him about the U.S. legal immigration policies that accept about 1 million immigrants each year. If we think the U.S. needs to increase that number, fine expand the legal immigration quota. But don’t spread the propaganda that those that violate U.S. law and enter the U.S. illegally are the victims.
Chet Roman… Really? I just read an article yesterday which actually talks about Hillary Clinton’s role in the coup in Honduras who now suffer under the new government in Honduras. The article, in Salon, says that over 300 people have been killed by the coup government from 2009-2012. The article also goes on to say “As many as 83 people the U.S. sent back to Central America from January 2014 to October 2015 were killed”. So I think some of the “illegals” that are fleeing to the US should be the responsibility of the US especially when the US has overthrown countless governments across Latin America which have contributed to the conditions that people suffer under today.
Salon: “Hillary Clinton is lying about the criminal U.S.-backed coup in Honduras. It should be as scandalous as Libya” (April 15, 2016):
Zelaya, a left-wing leader who challenged the interests of Western corporations, was never reinstated. In 2013, current President Juan Orlando Hernández kicked off his reign with the slogan “Honduras is open for business.”
Today, Honduras has a violent, repressive and incredibly corrupt government. Renowned activists like environmentalist Berta Cáceres are murdered in cold blood, and with complete impunity. Just before her assassination, in fact, Cáceres singled out Hillary Clinton for her role the coup.
From the 2009 coup until 2012, the U.S.-backed Honduran regime killed more than 300 people.
Honduras soon earned a dubious honor: From 2012 to 2014, it was the murder capital of the world.
Joe L. …..really? So poor Americans who need casual/day labor to survive are shoved aside and illegal Latinos take their jobs? Poor Americans pay for the crimes of Latin American and US governments? So all the illegal Latinos are fleeing violence? Are you sure? The poor of America know that American business brings in the illegals to stick it to Americans and that’s why they are here, no sympathy owed or given. The Latinos are racist extremists and they are arrogant, and no they won’t be getting “Aztlan”.
David Smith… Really?
The Guardian: “The School of Latin America’s Dictators” (November 19, 2010):
When the elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was dragged from his bed and flown out of the country in his pyjamas last year, it was no surprise to find that this classic coup was led by a graduate of the School of Americas, the notorious army training school in Fort Benning, Georgia. But General Vasquez was simply following a well-trodden path for autocrats in Honduras – after all, two of the country’s most hated past dictators, Juan Melgar Castro and Policarpo Paz Garcia, had also attended the school.
More than 60,000 Latin American soldiers have been trained at the School of the Americas – among them, the some of the region’s most notorious human rights abusers, such as Salvadoran death-squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson. In all, 11 dictators have attended its courses: men such as Argentine junta leader, Leopoldo Galtieri, infamously responsible for the “disappeared” and Guatemala’s Efraín Ríos Montt, whose scorched earth campaign against indigenous villages, was classified as “genocide” by a UN-sponsored commission.
Founded in the Panama Canal Zone in 1948, it was originally named the Army Caribbean School. It was renamed the School of Americas in 1963, and a new curriculum was introduced, offering courses in counter-insurgency, military intelligence and psychological warfare. The school was moved to Fort Benning in 1984 and, in 2001, in an attempt to improve its image, its name was changed again to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Cooperation (WHINSEC).
I would say, David Smith, that when the United States STOPS invading other countries and pulling off coups even against democracies then by all means make sure that all or most of your immigration is LEGAL. But as long as the US wants to dictate to the world, and largely Latin America, about how it has to be under America’s thumb meanwhile supporting dictators, death squads, and downright evil regimes for American interests – then most certainly the US should welcome the people fleeing the oppression that the US helped create.
Absolutely irrelevant argumentation. See my reply to your gibberish below.
David Smith… absolutely nothing is gibberish or do I need to type slower so you will understand. When the US destroys other countries through coups or wars then the US should, for once, take responsibility. What a concept, people taking responsibility for their actions – I know totally crazy, right. Unbelievable…
David Smith… Here is another thought for you, maybe if the US Government dramatically reduced its’ military spending (along with invasions and coups) and instead spent on creating jobs by updating America’s aging infrastructure (and actual democracy was left to flourish in Latin America without US interference) then there would not be a huge influx of illegal immigrants and I am guessing that it would satiate the “poor” of America as well.
Joe L… I think your idea of reparations for US war crimes committed at the hands of Hillary Clinton is a valid and viable idea.
But David Smith is right that reparations extracted at the expense of US workers is unjust and unacceptable.
Nearly all are fleeing nothing. They come here for money, they get it by taking the jobs of America’s poor. They have arrogant contempt for America and Americans(I know I grew up in Texas). No Aztlan. No sanctuary. They will be ejected, by force if necessary. Latin America is a morbid place that is the author of all it’s problems. Spain+Aztecs=a land of arrogant torture freaks.
David Smith… Did you ever think that maybe after more than a half a century of US interference in country after country that it would have consequences? What would Latin America look like today if Latin Americas democracies were left alone and they controlled their own resources? It seems to me that Latin American countries wanted profits, or a percentage of the profits from their own resources, reinvested back into their own economies which would have lifted their own people out of poverty. Instead the US didn’t want Latin America to control their own resources and opted to overthrow their countries instead meanwhile installing dictators with death squads friendly to US interests. Now while not every immigrant comes from Honduras, I still believe that the whole region in general would be much more prosperous today, where people would have no need to immigrate, if it were not for the greedy aspirations of the United States in the region.
Deport the illegal Latinos, pay Americans more.
The only people who want “Aztlan” are a few Chicanos in the United States and possibly people in northern Mexico, not anyone south of there. And I see no reason to think most Chicanos or north Mexicans want it.