Here’s something that could turn into a real problem for the White House: After months of hammering away at Republicans to act on immigration reform, the Latino media is increasingly shifting its focus to President Obama, urging him to unilaterally slow deportations.
“There has been a shift within the Hispanic media,” Jorge Ramos, the influential Univision anchor who has been called the “Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media,” told me. “If you read the editorial pages in the most important Spanish language newspapers, you notice immediately how the conversation has changed from attacking Republicans to attacking Obama.”
Ramos said Latino media are increasingly calling on Obama to defer deportations of other categories of the 11 million — which he did for the DREAMers — as this editorial in La Opinion did the other day. Some top Dems and immigration groups have began demanding this more vociferously, prodding along this media shift.
It’s a real change. Last summer, Dems saw Latino media pressure on Republicans as potentially helpful to immigration reform’s hopes. But now Ramos says many in the Latino media have decided Republicans will never act, leaving them little choice but to focus on Obama.
“They’ve already given up on Republicans,” Ramos said, characterizing Latino media viewpoints. “Immigration reform is not going to happen now. The only one who can do something is President Obama. On a personal basis, what is more harmful: Republicans who are not moving on immigration, or a president who is removing your father, your mother, your brother, your co-worker, and your friends from this country?”
The legal nuances are murky. Experts say Obama certainly can’t “stop all deportations” or legalize anyone unilaterally. He only deferred deportation for DREAMers. But there’s even some question about how many categories he could defer deportation for, because that means pushing more people to the bottom of the list, making it harder to justify with prosecutorial discretion.
Ramos insisted there are some categories — parents and siblings of DREAMers, and parents of Latinos born here — that could legally benefit from presidential action. But whatever the legality of this, Latino media are increasingly convinced Obama can do this. “We are seeing more and more reporting in Spanish language media that Obama has the power to stop deportations,” Ramos said.
Shifting to Obama also has a strategic downside: It removes the pressure from John Boehner and Republicans. Latino radio host Fernando Espuelas argues that focusing on the “magic realism power that Obama supposedly possesses” to stop all deportations removes attention from the “real problem,” which is the GOP’s “serial deception in regard to blocking immigration reform.”
Asked to respond, Ramos agreed this was a risk, but said a balance could be struck. “Pressing Obama and forgetting about Republicans is wrong,” he said. “We have to put pressure on Obama to stop deportations while keeping pressure specifically on Boehner and Republicans. You can do both.”
Fair or not, what all of this indicates is that, as it becomes clearer Republicans will do nothing, the pressure on Obama to act unilaterally — or to signal more clearly he’s genuinely exploring options — will likely build. Of course, if that happens, it will further persuade Republicans they can escape blame from Latinos for not acting, and lead to more chatter about #OBUMMER TYRANNY, which Republicans will seize on as a further excuse for inaction.
UPDATE: It’s also worth noting that this is reportedly something the White House has been worried about for some time.