By David Bacon
The Nation, web edition, November 26, 2008
Since 2001 the Bush administration has deported more than a million people–including 349,041 individuals in the fiscal year ending just prior to the election. It has resurrected the discredited community sweeps and factory raids of earlier eras, and started sending waves of migrants to privately run jails for crimes like inventing a Social Security number to get a job. Every day in Tucson 70 young people, including many teenagers, are brought before a federal judge in heavy chains and sentenced to prison because they walked across the border.
It’s no wonder that Latinos, Asians and other communities with large immigrant populations voted for Barack Obama by huge margins. People want and expect a change. Ending the administration’s failed program of raids, jail time and deportations is at the top of the list. National demonstrations have called for a moratorium on raids since the summer, and one big reason why Los Angeles turned out so heavily for Obama was the anti-raid encampment and hunger strike in the Placita Olvera, which electrified the city.
But the raids program has been rejected by more than immigrants alone. The election took place as millions of people were losing their jobs and homes. Yet while Lou Dobbs and the talk show hysteria-mongers tried to scapegoat immigrants for this crisis (“What about illegal don’t you understand?”), most voters did not drink the Kool-Aid. In fact, every poll shows that a big majority reject raids and want basic rights and fair treatment for everyone, immigrants included. The political coalition that put Obama into office–African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, women and union families, expects change.