Immigration and everything that comes along with it, is one of the biggest hot button topics in the nation now. Everything from workplace raids and family separations, to the building of a Southern border wall and abolishing ICE, has made the news. It’s been on the campaign trail of both Democrats and Republicans since day one. With that in mind, it’s important to look at both parties actions, not rhetoric, on the issue.

Immigration, from Mexico and Central America in particular, is an important campaign issue because votes are at stake. Pew Research projects that Hispanics will be the largest ethnic minority group in the electorate at 13.3%, edging out African Americans for the first time. Thirty-two million Hispanic votes are at stake. Whether by happenstance or design, last election saw the majority of Hispanics vote Democrat. White voters cast their ballots for Donald Trump in the presidential election by a 15% margin. Most certainly Trump’s rhetoric on immigration from chants of “Build the wall” to calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” played a factor in both of those statistics. The 2020 election should play out no different. President Trump has already doubled down on his unrealistic promise of a border wall by suggesting he will pardon those in his administration who break the law to make it happen by election time. 

It’s clear where Trump and the GOP stand on the issue. Trump is going to spew his rhetoric, even as it inspires mass shooters in places like El Paso, the most Mexican big city in the country. That requires attention and change in leadership. I’m more concerned, as a registered Democrat, with where my own party stands. 

I am tired of seeing candidates and elected officials who pander to Chicanos and Latinos each election fail us once they take office or get re-elected with our help.The two-faced legacy of the Democratic Party requires closer scrutiny. What I don’t want to see is another wolf in sheep’s clothing or another Barack Obama. As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” So let’s examine those actions shall we?.

Obama vs. Trump

Trump’s full term is not finished but in 2017, 81, 603 undocumented immigrants were deported and 95,360 deporations occured in 2018. According to the Libertarian Cato Institute, Obama far exceeded Trump in regards to deportations or “removals.” By contrast the Obama Administration’s interior deportations (removing immigrants who had established lives in the US) reached a high of 237, 941 in 2011 and totaled 1,242,486 over Obama’s eight years. The  average rate of removals was 155,311 per year. This is essentially double that of Trump’s most active year so far. 

Defenders of Obama will say that the majority of those deportations were for criminal offenders (crimes other than unauthorized entry). So let’s examine that claim and compare those records. Under Obama only 52.6% of immigrants deported were convicted criminals compared to 57% under Trump. 

The reality is for all of his talk, Trump won’t even come close to Obama’s record of deportations even if he were to get re-elected. 

Bush vs. Clinton

When comparing the earlier generation of W. Bush and Clinton, Bush deported less immigrants from the interior but “returned” more at the border than Obama. However, all of them pale in comparison to Democratic icon President Bill Clinton. Clinton’s administration not only militarized the border, but was responsible for the greatest numbers of combined deportations that include “interior removals” and “returns” or turn backs at the border. According to data from the Department of Homeland Security, President Clinton’s lowest year of deportations was 1,105, 829 in 1992. The highest rate of deportations was in 2000 with 1,864,343. In fact, just watch Clinton’s State of the Union speeches to hear rhetoric (almost word for word) that echoes his good friend Donald Trump. 

What distinguishes Obama from Clinton and earned him the moniker of Deporter-in-Chief was his propensity to go after immigrants who were already established here. Obama’s legacy holds those records. His administration built the ICE machine that Trump now lords over, yet still falls short of Obama’s numbers by far.

Records vs. Rhetoric 

Those numbers speak louder than words. While many Democratic activists are calling for the abolition of ICE, it was created by Republican George W.  Bush’s Administration but it was used extensively by Obama. 

I want to see the Democratic Party pander less for Chicano/Latino votes and do more. Like actually implement immigration reform to fix a broken system. We need a system that doesn’t criminalize the same labor our economy depends on. Economies like that in California’s agricultural and service industries would collapse without the same immigrants being persecuted in speeches and policies. America has seen enough rhetoric, enough hatred and bigotry, enough fear mongering. Most important, we’ve seen enough unnecessary violence. It’s time for action that will move us all forward. We need immigration policy that will be effective and just, not another campaign trail soundbite. Families depend on it. America progressing depends on it. And if it’s going to happen Chicanos and Latinos need to start holding both parties accountable. 

About The Author

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Motecuzoma P. Sanchez is a father, entrepreneur, community advocate, political activist, author, artist, and USMC veteran. Born and raised in Stockton, California he has been part of actions and movements for two decades. Beginning with student led movements to founding a nonprofit and media company and organizing the community around issues essential to social justice, empowerment, and equity. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies with a Concentration in Chicano Studies from Sacramento State where he graduated graduated magna cum laude and a Masters in Public Administration from USC.

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