The Washington Post barely covered the Obama administration’s declaration to go all soft on deportations on Friday. They ran a 320-word Reuters dispatch on A-5 with zero opponents in it, and no suggestion this new policy was a bald-faced political move for Obama to improve his sinking approval ratings among Hispanics.
But in a front-page story Monday, Post reporter Peter Wallsten calmly explained that this is exactly what it was: “While most of Washington was embroiled in the debt-ceiling drama last month, about 160 Hispanic leaders from across the country filed into the White House one day, largely unnoticed. For two days, they enjoyed full access to top presidential advisers, Cabinet members and administration officials from across the government.”
Those leaders – which the Post simply calls “immigration advocates” – wanted the threat of deportation removed from most illegal aliens, which Obama granted. Conservative critics call it a “backdoor amnesty,” and lament that the executive branch is implementing a policy opposed by Congress. None of that critique made Wallsten’s story. But the Post made the politics behind the policy loud and clear:
Key to the strategy is shifting voters' attention beyond the caustic immigration debate with data-driven appeals that show progress in other areas, while arguing that Obama is better on immigration than any of his potential Republican foes.
The tensions - and the administration's aggressive efforts to soothe them - reached a climax of sorts in a flurry of activity last week, with the administration making a surprise announcement Thursday that it was giving officials discretion to suspend certain deportation cases that have drawn fire from critics, such as ones involving young people brought to the country in early childhood.
The White House move came two days after immigrant advocates delivered tens of thousands of petitions to Obama's reelection headquarters and other Democratic Party offices demanding an end to the administration's aggressive deportation policy.
Wallsten noted that the President has a political problem, in that his Gallup approval rating among Hispanics has dropped from 85 percent to 49 percent. He also added the Republican angle that some fear pro-amnesty, pro-DREAM Act Republicans (like Rick Perry?) could make gains in the Hispanic vote.
But he explained the glossy Team Obama packet without any skepticism about its claims, especially the "stimulus" one:
Before the participants left town, they received a glossy 33-page booklet detailing talking points to be shared back home — 1.9 million Hispanics kept out of poverty by the stimulus, $808 million in loans last year to Hispanic small businesses, and an extra $1 billion directed to colleges with large numbers of Hispanic students, to name a few.
The Post also reported that the Secretary of Labor apparently moonlights as a campaign operative:
“I understand the pain that our community is going through,” said Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, who is hosting policy roundtables with Hispanic activists across the country as a top White House liaison to the community. But, she added, “I think it’s amazing how little people know of the good things that this administration has done.”
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