The Obama Administration recently announced that it is no longer going to seek the deportation of young illegal immigrants. Instead, the administration is going to allow them to apply for permits to work. The announcement has major implications for the re-election of President Barack Obama, as additional Hispanic votes can impact a variety of swing states.
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The Department of Homeland Security is going to implement the announcement immediately, which says that illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children will be free from threats of deportation or detainment.
Certainly conditions apply, but the move is expected to impact 800,000 illegal immigrants.
I applaud the president’s bold stand in support of immigrants’ rights. Those who were brought to the United States as children have made America their home, both physically and psychologically. Deportation would be both traumatic and unethical.
This is one of many strong policy stands pushed by President Obama over the past few months. He recently announced his support for gay marriage, which pleased those in favor of marital rights for same-sex partners, as well as legislation for women’s groups. Again, I applauded these decisions myself.
My question for the Obama Administration, which has been courageous on every front when it comes to women, the gay community, and immigrants, is, what about Black America?
African Americans represent the demographic that is most supportive of President Obama, yet they are the most devastated by the effects of mass incarceration, economic racial disparities, and unequal educational systems. The War on Drugs has destroyed millions of our families, with parents of our children being given several life sentences for non-violent crimes, even when they have no criminal record.
Examples are the case of Mario Lloyd in Chicago, whose children have grown up without a father after seeing their dad receive 14 life sentences for a non-violent crime, and Clarence Aaron, who has spent 20 years in prison after simply witnessing a drug deal. While the president has the power of the pardon, Obama has not cared to use it. To date, he has been arguably the least-forgiving president in recent American history, allowing thousands of fathers, mothers and siblings to rot away in prison, as if their lives mean nothing to him or his cronies in the White House.
With his announcement on illegal immigration, Obama has effectively granted immunity to nearly 800,000 illegal immigrants who clearly broke the law. All the while, he is unwilling to seek the release of thousands of men and women who were sentenced under drug laws that even the president knows to be clearly unjust. He made campaign promises to black Americans that he would fight diligently on their behalf to end the war on drugs, but has shown the courage of a toothless pussy cat who’s had his claws removed.
The time for patience with the Obama Administration should be over, and African Americans who’ve deluded themselves into believing that their first Black president loves them need to take a step back and look at reality. I dare anyone to present any decision made at any point by this president that has received the same cheers in the street from black Americans as the policies he has thrust onto groups more readily accepted within the liberal establishment. But it is mostly the fault of the Black community that nothing is getting done, since we only seek to swoon to Al Green songs and fall prey to the pressure of self-serving political overseers.
In a recent campaign ad, African Americans were told that they should “have the president’s back.” Unlike other groups whose support is requested, we were given our marching orders along with a large dose of ebonics, backed up by smooth R&B music. A better question is whether or not the president has your back. If your dad has been in prison for the last 10 years on a drug possession charge or your mother can’t pay the rent because Black unemployment has been double that of White Americans, the idea that Obama has your back is as misguided as believing that your boyfriend cares about you when he doesn’t return your calls.
Saddest is that those who disagree with what I’m saying here don’t have much ammunition to work with. The liberal voices on MSNBC can only talk about liberal policies that just coincidentally help Black Americans (i.e., “Gay black people are helped by gay marriage”), but that same watered down argument would never work for Hispanics. There are those who believe that Obama doesn’t have time for the Black community, even though we were expected to make time to get him into office.
There are also those who argue that the Republicans are going to be even worse, but that argument is weakened by the fact that Black unemployment was not nearly this high during either Bush presidencies, and mass incarceration continues to exist under Obama.
We must see our president for what he is, not what we want to believe him to be. Actions speak louder than Al Green.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.