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Raids and Ambassador's Remarks Undermine Obama's Immigration Message

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On the same day that President Obama was holding a series of meetings with lawmakers and community leaders about moving immigration reform legislation forward, his administration was sending a very different signal.  Just up the road in Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties in Maryland, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers were conducting immigration raids on two restaurants and rounding up immigrants at their homes.

The Baltimore Sun reported Friday:

Twenty-nine people were taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in simultaneous raids Thursday morning in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties at two restaurants, several residences and an office.

One of the raids focused on the Timbuktu Restaurant…and several nearby homes where restaurant workers were housed, according to Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold. Eighteen Anne Arundel County police officers assisted federal agents.

Was it just bad timing for an administration trying to show a different face on immigration?  This wouldn’t be the first time the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing on immigration since Obama took office.  Some think it might be worse and that cowboys in ICE are undermining the President’s overture on immigration or are sending a signal before the big March For America on the National Mall on March 21.

In response to a scathing press conference this week outlining how enforcement of immigration laws has escalated under the Obama administration, community-based advocates were meeting with the President to explain the impact these policies are having on local communities.  Almost 400,000 people have been deported since the President took office, they said, sewing fear in immigrant families and neighborhoods.

The Obama administration argues they are targeting serious criminals and security threats with their enforcement resources.  But as County Executive Leopold indicates above, this raid – like so many other enforcement actions – seems to have targeted plain old hourly wage workers to send a signal that anyone at anytime can be deported.  It is not the kind of targeted enforcement against criminals the President claims to support or which could actually make American communities safer.

Then, late Thursday, El Universal and other news outlets in Mexico City reported that the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual, told Mexican senators that he was ruling out chances of immigration reform in the United States in the short term because of the climate of political confrontation in the U.S. in advance of the November elections.

He may be right.  He may even be speaking more honestly and bluntly than the President, but he is decidedly “off message.”

On Thursday, the President told the press in a statement:

I told both the senators and the community leaders that my commitment to comprehensive immigration reform is unwavering, and that I will continue to be their partner in this important effort.

The President was clearly trying to indicate his intention to do more on immigration and the support of lawmakers in both parties was on display this week, which is encouraging.  But if armed federal officers and local police are going into people’s homes to arrest restaurant workers for being here illegally and your Ambassador to the country that is the largest source of immigrants to the U.S. is saying it ain’t gonna happen, then maybe we need more than “unwavering support” from the President to get this done.