at home and abroad—this act seems to prove for many left-leaning people that Obama really is on "our side."
Yet these people are seeing reality as they want it to be, not as it actually is. They are being encouraged—and don't forget that we are in the midst of campaign season—to project their hopes and desires onto a politician and a party that has no commitment to those hopes or desires whatsoever. Obama's basic campaign strategy is to encourage and exploit wishful thinking—i.e. the tendency to form beliefs on the basis of what's pleasing or agreeable rather than what the facts are.
Those people who are excited about Obama's "bold new move" have reason to be excited. The Obama Administration has broken previous records and deported more immigrants than Bush's did in his entire two terms combined. Let me say that again. The Obama Administration has deported more immigrants than Bush did in his entire two terms combined. Moreover, Obama's government has expanded the powers of local police—the "polimigra"—to take a leading role in deporting undocumented people. His government presides over a host of opaque, "secret ICE castles" where undocumented people can be detained and imprisoned indefinitely without rights. This in spite of the fact that latin@s formed a huge part of his electoral support in 2008. Any respite in this cruel onslaught against an oppressed and vulnerable population is to be welcomed.
So my point isn't that we shouldn't bill this as a victory—even if it's only a small and highly qualified one. My point is that we need to put it in context so that we don't allow ourselves to be lulled into giving a free pass to a President that has broken all of the records and deported more undocumented people than anyone in the history of the United States. We need to keep in mind that the organizations charged with breaking up families, raiding homes, harassing and detaining immigrants are not an external force that Obama has stepped in to thwart. Those forces are a part of him and the Federal Government over which he presides. Legally speaking, he's the one giving the OK to every single deportation and raid.
What's happened is a little like a bully telling you that he's only going to beat you up three-days-a-week instead of five. Now, that's something—a victory of sorts—but it doesn't obscure the fact that he's still the bully. The power relations haven't changed and neither have the interests of the parties involved. And who knows: maybe that three-day-a-week promise won't even be kept.
So, I'm with everyone who is excited that this recent shift might mean that we're moving closer toward the goal of full citizenship rights for all. But let's be clear that Obama is no ally in this fight—he's the bully responsible for record-high levels of deportations. And let's not forget that the small victory here was won on the basis of a long, determined (and ongoing) struggle by undocumented people and allies to fight for full amnesty and legalization. That's why those in the movement are making sure to keep critical distance from Obama's (as yet unfulfilled) promise.
Nothing Obama does in public is accidental. Every gesture is calculated and, with an election looming, aimed at securing the funding and votes necessary to beat Romney. If you stand for full legalization and support the slogan that "no human being is illegal", then my advice is to hold fast that commitment and see whether or not Obama and the Democrats actually fight for it. Don't graft your own hopes and desires onto a party that actually opposes them—even though the Dems will do everything in their power to encourage you to make that mistake. There is an alternative to the cul-de-sac of two-party duopoly, and we're seeing it right now in Quebec and Mexico, and we've seen it here with the Occupy movement. We need to build the independent social movements which have laid the basis of every major progressive gain in US history.