President Obama's August 2011 enforcement statement and policy were misleading because he couched this major policy change as a response to "limited resources". This was not true, but that did not keep it from being repeated. For example, in December 2011 a DHS spokesperson was quoted as saying that his agency "has implemented immigration enforcement priorities that focus limited resources on convicted criminals, repeat immigration law violators, fugitives, and recent entrants." (emphasis added)
Unfortunately for the president's credibility on this point, his domestic policy chief and his chief domestic advisor on immigration, Cecilia Munoz, revealed the more accurate truth. In response to a question from an illegal alien who asked how "the president felt about deporting 1.5 million illegal immigrants since taking office", she replied:
The government's job is to do what Congress tells it to do. Congress, under the immigration laws that we've got now, Congress requires us to remove people who are removable and gives DHS, frankly, a whole lot of resources to do that job. DHS's job is to make sure they make the best possible decisions on how they use those resources.
So, like counting those caught at the border and returned as part of the administration's immigration version of the Vietnam era's infamous body counts, this rationale, too, was true only to a limited degree, but on balance misleading — and intentionally so.
Still, all the efforts that the president had made to signal to this much-needed reelection constituency had not been successful. The president was feeling the pressure because, as the New York Times directly put it, "Latinos and Democrats Press Obama to Curb Deportations". Their concerns were primarily political; "Democrats are leaning on the White House as they look to the elections next year, when Latino voters could play pivotal roles in several crucial states."
The president had tried.
He had touted his administration's record on enforcement to gain Republican support for an immigration bill, but had undercut that initiative by creative and misleading accounting and the unilateral use of administrative discretion to narrow enforcement efforts.
He had tried outreach to Spanish-speaking-background groups, but they believed the president's narrative of his being tough on enforcement, rather than his reassurances that the statistics were "a little deceptive".
Hispanic activists demanded action in return for their election support. Democrats agreed. Obama's presidency and his historical standing were on the line.
The president needed to do something big and dramatic.
And thus was born the president's Big Bang Theory of Hispanic Reelection Support.
NEXT: President Obama's Big Bang Theory of Hispanic Reelection Support: Part 1