CHARLOTTE – The event hosted by the DNC's Hispanic Caucus today was more like a joint campaign strategy session and pep rally than a committee meeting. Speaker after speaker took the podium like members of a tag team. One would celebrate President Obama's domestic policy record, spending more time on economic and health care policy then on the administration's checkered immigration record. The next speaker would show off some fancy charts and graphs that explained the breakdown of the Hispanic vote and how to rally the troops on Election Day. There was little discussion about how President Obama has presided over the deportation of 1.4 million immigrants in his first term and stepped up a Bush era policy that sends undocumented immigrants hundreds of miles from where they illegally crossed the border.
When challenged on Obama's high level of deportations, Democrats either blamed uncooperative Republicans or pointed to Obama's Homeland Security Directive that stopped the deportation of undocumented young people already in the country. Others recited Obama's domestic policy achievements.
"The foundation has been laid, that's what Obama has been doing the last four years," said Illinois State Senator Iris Martinez. "They've been trying to work on immigration reform but they're not getting the other side of the aisle to come to the table and start giving us some real serious suggestions."
Martinez, just offstage at the event, placed much of the blame on Obama's deportations on Republicans who demanded concessions on things like border security and stepped up enforcement.
"I think that the president will be successful because these elections will show to both parties, particularly the Republican Party, that they need to respect these issues. That's how our nation was founded, with a great compromise, and Republicans are not willing to compromise. The art of politics is the art of the compromise," said Jaime Areizaga-Soto, the DNC's Deputy Director for Hispanic Affairs.
"Obama is great on immigration!," Areziaga-Soto said. "Someone that says, 'I want to sign the DREAM Act.' someone that says, 'I understand and respect the community.' Someone that says, 'I want to sit down and address and negotiate with the Congress on comprehensive immigration reform.' That's all the Latino community is asking for."
Others sounded the alarm about a potential Mitt Romney presidency.
"He is the most extreme Republican presidential nominee we've ever had on immigration. His answer is very clear. I am going to veto the DREAM Act, I believe in self-deportation," said DNC Senior Advisor for Hispanic Affairs Juan Sepúlveda.
Sepúlveda blamed the high number of deportations on a larger budget for Homeland Security that was approved before Obama took office. He noted the current administration has made an attempt to be more selective in who it deports. According to the most recent DHS statistics, approximately 43.5% of the 387,242 people deported in 2010 were criminals of varying degrees. Over a quarter of the criminals were listed as having some kind of drug offense.
"The numbers are so large and the work that we are doing is so important that you've got to set priorities," said Sepúlveda. "In the administration before us there weren't priorities. Everyone was equal in terms of deportations. The president was very clear in saying we don't have unlimited resources. So when we think about deportation there's been a shift in the percentages of who's actually been deported. So now the president has said that most important priority are the most violent criminals."