The politics of immigration

In the immigration debate, it is ironic that the president who has deported the most people during this presidency is being accused of not deporting enough people. The worst part is that he is also being criticized for not deporting more minors.

During Obama’s presidency, the immigration issue has gone from an election promise of reform to a record number of deportations, from frustration with the standstill in the House of Representatives to a humanitarian crisis on the border because of the arrival of tens of thousands of children and teens. For one reason or another, the undocumented are the ones who lose out in most cases. Deferred deportation for children brought to this country many years ago has been the only positive measure that the White House has implemented.

Unfortunately, the children’s crisis has diverted the conversation from the House of Representatives’ inability to approve a reform to how to stop a wave of immigrants. This shift is helping the Republican narrative in the middle of an election. According to it, the president is responsible, whether because he is not protecting the border or is promoting undocumented immigration by not deporting young Dreamers.

It is understandable that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said that he is going to “stem the tide” of immigration on the border. That is a political answer.

There is also a humanitarian response to the crisis, which is to treat the children well, provide for their most urgent needs and process them quickly so they can reunite with their parents.

During other humanitarian situations, like the Mariel refugee crisis, officials did the right thing by welcoming them and giving refuge to those who posed no danger. The children deserve that same consideration; that is the American tradition.

As usual, the leadership of presidents is tested by unforeseen events. Obama has the delicate mission of showing fortitude and humanity—two values that are not contradictory, except in the rhetorical world of legislative politicking, in which negotiating means giving in and a limited legalization with requirements is an amnesty.