Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Deportation and immigration policies in 2016: What Obama will do and what it means for Democratic candidates

The Obama administration plans renewed efforts to deport Central American families (from vox.com).

What the Obama administration is actually planning to do, in less than 200 words

Since the beginning of 2014, about 100,000 families (mostly mothers with children) have arrived in the US from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Most of them have tried to get asylum in the US — these are among the most violent countries in the world, and many of them are being targeted by gangs.

While some of these families have been granted asylum, many have not — either because they've made their case in immigration court and lost, or because they simply didn't show up for their scheduled hearing before a judge. Some families (as many as 15,000) have stayed in the country after being ordered to leave.

The Obama administration plans to launch a big effort to deport those families starting in January 2016. And it's planning to raid residential neighborhoods to find and arrest the familiesa tactic that a lot of immigrants and immigration advocates have traumatic associations with.

That's not good news for either those families or for Democrats in the coming election year.

This is very bad news for Hillary Clinton

If the Obama administration's plan succeeds at deporting the Central American families it's targeting, it's going to be a political success only insofar as it keeps border security off the table in the 2016 election — exactly what the administration failed to do in 2014. But it's very difficult to predict how things will shake out: not just how the policy itself will work, but how it'll be seen by the public. And since we don't yet know who will receive the nomination of at least one major party in 2016, you almost certainly shouldn't trust anyone who makes claims about the administration's plan being good for Democrats or for Republicans in the general election — though there are definitely particular variables to watch for. Attention and outrage to the raids in Latino and Spanish-language media, for example, could be a warning sign that the raids could depress Latinos from turning out for Democrats in the general election.


So far, Clinton's campaign has issued a statement saying she has "concerns" about the Obama administration's plan. It's not clear if advocates will find that acceptable (it is pretty likely many will not). O'Malley and Sanders have both come out strongly against the plan, and both of them — particularly O'Malley — are likely to start criticizing Clinton for not denouncing it outright.

Hillary Clinton demonstrated at the most recent Democratic debate that she's already looking toward the general election, and no longer focused on running against opponents in a Democratic primary. But the immigration raids are exactly the sort of issue that could feed resentment of Clinton among one segment of the progressive base, at exactly the time when she wants Democrats to start rallying around her — and make Latino voters bitter about the general election right when she needs them to start getting excited.

It's not clear whether that segment of the base matters enough to the Clinton campaign for them to take a stronger position against the Obama administration — but it's a situation the campaign almost certainly didn't want to be in to begin with.

Whatever else I can say about the implications would not be sufficient. You do need to read this one.

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