While House members were grandstanding on the floor over health care reform Sunday, and the news networks largely focused on tea party anti-healthcare protests, tens of thousands of immigrants and allies flooded the Washington Mall, chanting “Si Se Puede” — “Yes We Can.”
Immigration is shaping up to be one of the next big fights, and it has the potential to be far, far messier—and more violent—than the health care battle. While health care scare tactics revolved around some nebulous idea of “socialism,” immigration hits the xenophobic streak in the tea party movement right in the gut.
But the current system, as those vibrant activists on the Mall pointed out, cannot hold. Millions of undocumented workers struggle to pay their bills in a system that often exploits them, and families are splintered by deportations. All of them live in fear of a system that allows people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio to abuse their power and use racial profiling to target entire communities.
Obama reaffirmed his pledge to the protesters in a videotaped message, but avoided specific commitments. We saw how well that worked out with the health care bill that passed late Sunday night—women’s right to choose and those very same immigrants were thrown under the bus to court the votes of conservative Democrats.
To really fix our broken immigration system, we’re going to need more than vague declarations from the White House. We’ll need real leadership, and the stomach to take on viciousness from protesters the likes of which we haven’t seen before.
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Support us by signing up for our podcast, and follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.