President Obama’s Legacy On Immigration

President Obama announces executive action on immigration from the East Room of the White House on Nov. 20, 2014.

By Felicia J. Persaud

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. Dec. 21, 2016:  In less than a month, President Obama, the first black President of the United States, will be President no more. But even die-hard supporters of the President will concede that he failed disastrously to live up to his campaign promises on immigration over the eight years of his Presidency. As such, his legacy on the hot button issue will forever be tainted.

So here are the facts:

In 2009, when President Obama came to power with the Democratic Party in control of both Houses of Congress, he could have quickly passed comprehensive immigration reform that would have benefited millions of immigrants across the country.

Yet he did not!

Instead, the Obama administration, in a right wing move, decided to focus more on deporting immigrants. In the eight years Obama has been President, almost 680,000 federal immigration charges have been filed against immigrants in the country illegally, David Burnham, co-founder of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, has found.

That is more than under the previous two White House administrations combined. It was up from about 287,000 under President George W. Bush and definitely much more than the less than 100,000 under President Bill Clinton, according to figures compiled by Burnham and the university research center that tracks federal law enforcement.

It is this aggressive stance that earned Obama the nickname “Deporter-In-Chief” by some immigration advocates, a description that will forever be recorded in the annals of history when it comes to his Presidency.

The Obama administration has been so tough on immigrants, that as recent as September 22, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security announced they had detained some 41,000 immigrants, including 4,400 Haitians, in immigration detention facilities across the country. They also quietly removed over 200 Haitian non-criminal nationals and announced plans to significantly expand removal operations, despite criticism from several black lawmakers.

Obama’s only redeeming grace on immigration was his politically savvy move to help young immigrants brought into the country by their undocumented immigrants.

Ahead of his re-election bid in 2012 and with an eye on retaining the immigrant and Latino voters who had helped hand him the 2008 win, Obama announced DACA or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The executive order allowed DREAMers or undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before their 16th birthday and before June 2007, who were in school, a high school graduate or were honorably discharged from the military and under age 31, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and be eligible for a work permit.

In 2014, after being unable to convince the hard line GOP congress to pass immigration reform, Obama then expanded DACA to include undocumented immigrants who entered the country before 2010, eliminated the requirement that applicants be younger than 31 years old, and lengthened the renewable deferral period to two years. But a court ruling has blocked that order leaving in place only the initial 2012 DACA and DACA renewals.

Now those nearly 750,000 immigrants who benefited from Obama’s only positive action on immigration are in jeopardy with the election of Donald Trump.

Trump during his campaign insisted he will roll back Obama’s executive order on immigration, a move that could effectively guarantee the deportation of those now covered under DACA.

Of course, since his election, Trump has turned into somewhat of a flip-flopper on the hot button issue. Now, according to Time Magazine, he says: “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud.”

But with weeks until the transition, President Obama still has time to save his legacy on immigration yet. He could be bold as he has never before and take the advice of some Democrats and immigration advocates and really protect DREAMers before Trump takes the White House.

He can use his executive power to grant presidential pardons to these undocumented immigrants now so neither Trump nor the Republican Congress could undo it.

I venture to say Obama could be even bolder still and really solidify his legacy as first Black President by extending that pardon to all non-criminal undocumented immigrants who have been in the US 10 years or more. That would really give the Donald and his GOP cohorts a heart attack. After all, you are President of the most powerful nation of the world right?

But as we have seen in the past 8 years, Obama is too status quo to do that. His White House has already backed away from such a suggestion, claiming: “[T]he clemency power could not give legal status to any undocumented individual. As we have repeatedly said for years, only Congress can create legal status for undocumented individuals.”

Ok! But what other options can you come up with to save your legacy on immigration dear Mr. President? Remember, as Illinois Democrat Luis Gutiérrez, (D-IL), said this past week, pardons have been used in the past including by President Jimmy Carter to forgive offenses committed by large groups, so why not by you?

Try to remember this Holiday, as your sit down at Christmas dinner with your family that your legacy is at stake here and right now it’s barely worth a foot note when it comes to the ‘Yes we Can’ immigration promises you made more than eight years ago.

felicia-j-persaud-newsamericasnowThe writer is CMO at Hard Beat Communications, Inc.