The surprise announcement last week from President Barack Obama that he intends to change his administration’s policy on deportations in order to be more “humane” is an illustration of the manner in which the battle over immigration reform has narrowed after being in deadlock in Congress for months.
Immigrant rights activists, together with a large coalition of religious, labor and business groups, have been spending all of their energy trying to convince Congress to pass a sweeping immigration reform bill to allow the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States to gain citizenship, but the fight has now narrowed to a focus on simply trying to prevent more deportations. The change is not because activists no longer want undocumented immigrants to be able to get on a path to US citizenship, but because immigrant communities are becoming increasingly desperate in the face of continued deportations, even as Obama and many in Congress claim to be against such actions.
The change also represents a possible fracturing of the diverse coalition that has been supporting immigration reform, with the more confrontational and aggressive tactics being employed risking a backlash from the public.
Many expected immigration reform to be passed by Congress in 2013, but when the bill that was passed by the Senate back in June died a death in the House of Representatives, the momentum stalled and in conjunction with the ever-increasing amount of deportations under Obama’s administration, activists and immigrants alike are starting to lose patience with Washington.