Commentary: Obama is not telling the truth on immigration
SAN DIEGO -- When I said recently that President Obama has a habit of not being truthful about his immigration record, an angry Obama supporter demanded that I give specifics.
There are so many examples that it's tough to keep track.
We can add a few more to the list thanks to an interview that Obama recently gave to talk show host Fernando Espuelas of Univision Radio. When Espuelas noted the criticism that the president has received from Latinos for failing to deliver immigration reform, Obama bristled.
"Well look," he said. "I think it is important for everybody to remember that I have been four square behind comprehensive immigration reform from the time I was a U.S. senator to my election as president and today. So, the issue has never been my full-throated support for comprehensive immigration reform."
False. Obama tends to forget that, while in the Senate, he supported -- at the behest of organized labor -- a "poison pill" amendment intended to kill bipartisan attempts at comprehensive immigration reform. And, as president, he failed to make reform a top priority, as he promised Latinos he would.
Obama went on: "The challenge is to get it passed through Congress, which is ultimately who has to pass this law. We have strong support from the majority of Democrats. We have no support from Republicans."
False. Obama may have support from a majority of Democrats in Congress, but it doesn't appear to be "strong" support. For the four years that Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, from January 2007 to January 2011, comprehensive immigration reform was never a priority. Back then, Republicans were driving the agenda.
The president also said: "You've got some of the leading Republican candidates for president saying they would veto the DREAM Act, and members of Congress telling the same line. We couldn't get any Republican votes for the DREAM Act when it came up a couple of years ago."
False. In December 2010, when Congress last took up the legislation that would give undocumented youth legal status if they joined the military or went to college, three Republican senators -- Richard Lugar of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Robert Bennett of Utah -- voted in favor of cloture to move the bill to a full vote. Lugar, in fact, was a co-sponsor of the bill.
Obama said: "My hope is that after this election, partly because of a strong Latino vote, a message will be sent that we need to, once again, be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, that we've got to be respectful of folks who are here, who are doing the right thing, trying to raise their families, often times have kids who were born here in the United States, and they need to be given a chance, a pathway, so that they can have a strong legal status in this country."
False. Obama has nerve talking about being "respectful" to immigrant families given that his administration has divided tens of thousands of them. According to a recent report by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, more than 46,000 parents with U.S.-born children were deported in the first half of 2011.
Finally, the president ended with: "And DREAM Act kids to me should be a no brainer. ... I think for us to give them a path to earn citizenship is the right thing to do. And so, my hope is that after the election, we will have a different assessment on the part of Republicans, and they will understand that not only is it the right thing to do, but it is also in their political interest to get on the right side of this issue."
False. Let's get real. Republicans are never going to conclude it's "in their political interest" to give undocumented students citizenship because it means also giving them the right to vote. And those students would likely exercise this right by voting Republicans out of office for the next 50 years.
Besides, the president never mentions the five Democratic senators who, during the debate over the DREAM Act, voted against cloture and thus helped kill the bill: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Jon Tester and Max Baucus of Montana.
In trying to be both hawkish and humane on immigration, Obama has a problem telling the truth on the subject. And that's no lie.
Ruben Navarrette's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.