President Barack Obama addressed the nation yesterday to report that he has asked the Republicans to enable him to complete his third and last great revolutionary promise: immigration reform (the other two being health care reform and financial reform).
With the first two reforms having been approved with great effort and fatigue, the last reform has presented itself as the conclusive battle, the one that will decide how the United States will define itself throughout this century. The request from Obama to the Republicans is not simply a matter of arithmetic — he needs to convince at least a couple of Republican senators to join with the Democrats, when it comes time to vote — it is an issue of national security. There is no economy or nation that can deal with 11 million illegal workers out of federal control, with many at the mercy of criminal organizations.
This massive amount of mostly Mexican immigrants gives rise to a problem similar to one in the days when members of a segregated black minority were treated as second-class citizens, and marginalized and persecuted as criminals by whites when they tried to rebel. Only the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his peaceful resistance actively managed to put together an unarmed army for war, which overcame the white resistance and eventually gained recognition of their civil rights (Obama himself, as the first Black president in history, is living proof).
However, Hispanics do not have a Dr. King to follow. The Hispanic community in the United States, which has nearly 50 million members and is larger than the black population, has only President Obama to be their last hope in the recognition of the rights of a huge mass of illegal workers, and above all, to go against the counterrevolution driven by the extreme right, which turns anyone with Latino ethnic attributes into suspected criminals.
Therefore, the United States is gambling its future on applying realpolitik, with those who favor paying the price to legalize millions of illegal immigrants in exchange for an increase in border control, or with those who bet on the "hunt," pure and simple, of the Latino, as is the intention of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, of her party colleague, the "presidential" Sarah Palin and of supremacist organizations, such as the very active Tea Party or the ultra-right channel Fox.
In his message yesterday, there was no announcement that the federal government would file a lawsuit against Arizona, for being openly racist and overstepping the state’s boundaries over Washington’s authority. Perhaps Obama does not intend on exacerbating the feelings of the toughest sectors of the Republican Party; perhaps he is looking for a quick agreement with moderate Republicans, before they are engulfed by the most intransigent of the Old Party.
In any case, the message was blunt and leaves no doubt: America is a country of immigrants and its immigration system must reflect this reality. To deny it would be suicidal, not only for the supposed desire for Obama's re-election, but also for the very stability and social peace of a country that is increasingly divided over the issue of immigration.
The third revolutionary wave, immigration reform, is already underway. Obama cannot disappoint those to whom, in his campaign, he promised to resolve this important issue: to those millions of Hispanics who have placed in him the hope of a United States with more justice.