Barack Obama plans to raise as much as $1 billion to build his presidential library in Chicago.
I hope he puts in a “deportation wing.” It could be installed on the right side of the structure since, as president, Obama has approached the immigration issue like a right-winger.
In the latest example, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced that the administration is planning, over the next 30 days, a series of raids and a “surge” of arrests that could lead to the deportation of thousands of people from Central America.
These are the desperate souls who streamed across the U.S.-Mexico border and into Texas in the summer of 2014. About 80,000 arrived, mainly women and children. They mostly came from three countries: Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
At the time, many of these people were turned around and sent home – often back into harm’s way. Others were locked up indefinitely in detention facilities, without access to legal counsel or a hearing to assess whether they had a legitimate claim to asylum. And a third group of arrivals were processed by immigration officials and released into the care of family members who lived in the United States, with a notice to appear before an immigration judge and an admonition to await further instructions.
This catch-and-release system was totally chaotic. Immigration officials tried to contact people with their date to appear and the location of the court, but the notices often went to unreliable addresses. People moved around the country, passed from one relative to another. Others were reached by officials and told to appear – in the next few days, before a court hundreds of miles away in another state. Thousands of people were found guilty in absentia of being in the country illegally.
Those are the folks that the Obama administration now intends to round up and send home, with a “deportation force” that would make Donald Trump proud.
They came unannounced, as refugees typically do. But they were invited. Their invitation is engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty, and it’s addressed to “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”
The freedom that this particular group of refugees yearned for was to be free from civil unrest and marauding gangs of violent youth in Central America that raped young girls, terrorized families and murdered teenagers who resisted being recruited into their ranks.
On second thought, calling Obama a right-winger on immigration is unfair to right-wingers. Plenty of conservatives want to give the undocumented legal status. Not because conservatives like illegal immigrants, but because business likes illegal immigrants and they want to please business.
Flip that coin over, and you’ll catch a glimpse of a phenomenon that the media rarely talk about: liberals who favor deporting immigrants, or keeping them out to begin with, because they think foreign labor undercuts American workers.
It’s why labor unions were among the lead opponents of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which legalized more than 3 million people. And its why Bernie Sanders has called open borders a scheme cooked up by far-right business leaders, such as the Koch brothers, to hurt American workers.
Obama lives in this protectionist faction of the Democratic Party. In 2008, during a debate in Los Angeles, against primary opponent Hillary Clinton, the then-senator from Illinois began his answer to a question about immigration by expressing concern that employers might hire immigrants instead of Americans.
The president’s anti-immigrant credentials are well-established. While in office, he broke his promise to make immigration reform a top priority, deported nearly 3 million people, divided hundreds of thousands of families, dumped into foster care tens of thousands of U.S.-born children whose parents got deported, pushed back for three years against immigration reformers who asked that he use executive power to halt deportations, claimed untruthfully that only criminals were being deported, and then tried to cover his tracks by blaming Republicans for the evil that his administration had done.
Now Obama is getting ready to deport a bunch of refugees from Central America, just a year after he made the case to the nation that we should take in refugees from Syria.
Come to think of it. One wing in the library won’t be enough. To do justice to Obama’s immigration legacy, they’ll need an entire Hall of Shame.
Contact Ruben Navarrette at email@example.com.