Immigration, U.S.A.


Some politicians come from another world. They have, let’s say, a morality that is more flexible than the rest of humanity.

When you promise something, you generally believe you can do it. Or that you will do everything possible to do it. But when some politicians make a promise, it’s very possible they know they will not be able to do it. But they promise because at that point it is convenient, they need to, they believe it, or they are accustomed to lying.

The Democratic Party has a credibility problem with Hispanics in the United States. They have promised so many times to pass an immigration reform and legalize about 11 million undocumented migrants that we don’t really know what they are talking about. It’s like the story of the boy who cried wolf, except the wolf – the reforms – never arrive.

When Joe Biden won the presidency and the Democrats won control of both chambers of Congress, there was renewed hope for undocumented migrants. They are entire families who do the work no one else wants, pay taxes and performed essential tasks during the pandemic. Most Americans favor legalizing their status – 74 percent in a Pew Research Center poll.

So what’s the problem? To start with, Republicans have a mantra of opposing any legalization process that does not include secure borders. And that’s never going to happen. The border between Mexico and the United States is porous by nature. In a continent so unequal, the poor will always seek refuge on the colossus to the north. Rather than pretend that the flow of migrants can be stopped, it must be managed.

Putting aside the Republicans, that leaves the Democrats. And they never agree among themselves. During the Biden administration they have pushed for a lot of issues – from a giant infrastructure project to protecting voting rights – but immigration does not show among their priorities.

Aside from that, there’s a problem with numbers. With just 50 senators, the Democrats do not have the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. And everything seems to get stuck there.

In short, Democrats are good at promising, but not at carrying out their promises. They make beautiful promises even though they have no idea how to achieve them. Biden, for example, promised during the campaign that he would put an immigration reform proposal before congress, and he did it on his first day in the presidency. But he did not have the needed votes in the Senate. That is an empty promise.

So we went quickly from Plan A – the Biden proposal to legalize millions – to Plan B – permanent residence for some – and later an even less savory Plan C – a promise to halt deportations. In the end, none of those plans were approved by the full Congress. And we got the same. Nothing.

Democrats have a credibility problem. Biden, who has seen it all, knows it. “They want us to deliver,” he acknowledged late last year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposed that Biden use the slogan “Democrats Deliver” in the next congressional elections, according to the New York Times. The problem is not the slogan, but delivering.

With so many unmet promises, it is not strange that many Hispanic voters are considering leaving the Democratic Party and voting for Republicans. The majority, it’s true, voted for Biden in 2020. But Hispanics could split down the middle in the 2022 mid-term elections, according to a Wall Street Journal poll.

“Increasingly, Latinos are swing voters,” political analyst Maria Cardona wrote recently in The Hill. “Democrats must understand this or they will risk continuing to lose voter share from the largest and fast-growing ethnic minority in the country.” Maria is right.

Many Hispanic community leaders meanwhile feel a sense of frustration and disappointment with what’s happening. Nothing is moving. Any proposal that benefits Latin American migrants seems to get bogged down.

“I am a chillona (complainer) but lately I have forced myself to withstand my tears,” tweeted Angelica Salas, director of CHIRLA, one of the most influential Hispanic organizations in the country. “ They are deriving from anger at the political abandonment of our people and conformity to keep us as a subservient class. Politicians chant ‘sí se puede” (yes we can) to get elected then say “no se puede” once in office.”

Hispanics have had a long and complicated relationship with U.S. politicians. When the Latino wave was surging in the 70s and 80s, it was enough for a candidate to say a few little words in Spanish to vote for him. Then came George W. Bush, who believed he spoke Spanish and tried to communicate in the language, and won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. Then came the time of the promises. Barack Obama promised to propose an immigration reform during his first year in office, but did not do it even though the Democrats had a super-majority in the Senate, 60 votes. And now Biden made the same promise, but did not know how it could be done.

That strategy is already very old. Starting now, we cannot believe anything from anyone. If they promise us something during an electoral campaign, our first question must be, “And how do you plan to get it done?”

Shouting “yes we can!” is not enough any more.

By Jorge Ramos Ávalos

Photo by MIKE STOLL on Unsplash

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Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”