Obama Is Our “Frenemy” – an Open Letter to Latinos

Local media is abuzz with news of President Obama's visit to San Francisco. Unfortunately for immigration policy and for the noble cause of immigrant rights, the media coverage reflects the editorial filters built up by the multimillion-dollar media apparatus set up by Obama's immigrant rights allies in Washington, DC, who are still seen by the press as the official voice of immigrants in the United States.

Consciously or not, these DC groups, their leaders, and their – until very recently – ominous silence about Obama's radical immigration policies have so conditioned the ears of journalists and editors to the faux-applause and the JumboTron sound of support, to the sickly “Sí Se Puede” legalization of it all, that anyone talking about Obama's repressive and devastating immigration policies sounds and looks like what SF Weekly wrote about activist Prerna Lal, who is currently in deportation proceedings: marginal and out of the mainstream.

Dangerous stuff. I've been traveling around the country a lot lately and am sickened of stories like what's happening to Prerna, countless cases of immigrant children forced to watch in terror as their parents are treated like criminals and taken away forever by ICE – the agency Obama has the power to tell, “Stop it, stop it immediately.”

Failure to bring the Obama administration to some reasonable, concrete relief for DREAMers, or around cooperation agreements between local police and federal immigration authorities, like 287(g) and Secure Communities, will bring the bar of immigrant and Latino respect to even more dangerous lows. Democratic and Republican politicians and their allies will see that they can get away with continued repression without paying a political price. Such perception will, I fear, result in even more unprecedented terror and devastation of a community perceived to know no lower limits to its self-disrespect when its says “Sí Se Puede” in support of the administration that is breaking records as the most violent and repressive in the history of the immigrant United States.

Fortunately, we – not they – are the ones we have been waiting for.

I know many of you who will not allow Obama to glide through Latino communities as if he has not been the commander in chief of the war on immigrants. If things don't change soon, any and all Obama Latino events should be subject to non-violent actions that defend both immigrants and our self-respect and dignity. Even his closest allies have communicated the need to take action on urgent matters like the deportation of DREAMers and the 287(g) and Secure Communities programs. If he doesn't heed them, then he is clearly committed to moving beyond being a “frenemy” of immigrants, one deserving of having his electoral campaign aspirations dropped and devastated in Latino communities with the same zeal with which he and his administration prosecute the war on immigrants in Latino communities.

We cannot allow people to humiliate, attack and terrorize Latinos and still have Latinos singing their praises. Without relief for immigrants, we should make support for Obama's re-election – and for the election of violent Republicans – synonymous with being what we used to call “vendidos” or “sellouts” in a previous political era. The moral reality is there to do so as is the urgent necessity.

Thankfully, I think the will and courage are there too. I am very proud of those who are teaching Obama and his allies what living hope and heart-driven change look like. Please enlist me in your heroic effort as I find great edification and inspiration in your actions.

For his own dignity and for ours, I hope President Obama does the right thing and stops the terror and devastation against immigrants.