Immigrants in the Time of Kobach

This week I was reminded of the old proverb in Spanish: "There's no illness that lasts a full one hundred years and no human being that can withstand it." No hay mal que dure cien años ni cuerpo que lo resista.

The president's proposed 2013 budget includes more ammunition to keep "Secure Communities," the administration's well-oiled machine, running proficiently for the next few years. Not content with deporting 1.5 million during the first three years, the Obama administration appears content to sacrifice a few hundred thousand more. But try as he may, deportation hawks complain undocumented immigration has rebounded since Mr. Obama took office.

Alabama's poultry-processing plants and tomato fields were in dire need of working hands; workers not too frightened to come back to the place many have called home for decades in spite of the Gestapo-like conditions they must now face. Some politicians were quietly working on exceptions to ensure the state's revenues do not tank as a result of their irrational exuberance towards immigrants during their last legislative session.

In the presidential trail, Republican candidates were aiming their cannons at Arizona, one of the nation's most anti-immigrant states, all the while remaining mum about their tough and unintelligible stances on immigration. On the other hand, the Republican's anointed Latino of the month, Marco Rubio, was the GOP's VP of choice, according to a straw poll conducted during the much-elevated CPAC gathering in Washington, D.C. How a Latino son of immigrants could be the beloved child to CPAC is beyond me.

Finally, in Kansas, State Secretary Chris Kobach, a Romney supporter, reared his ugly head to introduce a number of bills that among other things, would criminalize helping an undocumented immigrant, would penalize workers and subject them to a broken and unreliable verification system, and essentially place an immigration cop at every corner to stop anyone suspected of being in the country without authorization.

For undocumented immigrants, there are no best of times. These are definitely the worst of times in a long time.

Lost in hypocrisy-land, the dreams of the American-in-waiting, the immigrant family, mean almost nothing to a political class intent on retaining or gaining power. While millions wail and curse, but also organize, there is good oratory from Democrats, severe xenophobia from Republicans, and a nation that demands responses by imposing the most draconian anti-immigrant measures state by state.

But not all is doom and gloom in 2012. There is a general election season that seems to go on forever.

On November 6, 2012, immigrant and Latino voters have a real opportunity to shift the balance and offer a new narrative about immigrants in America. A TIME magazine article out this week offers a few tips to why and how the GOP and Democrats alike will need to turn their attention to issues that matter to this vibrant and growing electorate, whether that's in Arizona, Florida, California, or Ohio. That is, if they want to occupy the White House in 2013.

But the shift will not take place on its own. The two major parties are far too invested in keeping alive the status quo that they would rather lose more than half the Latino electorate than "pander" to our legitimate needs. In the end, it must be an organized community, a furious contempt for mediocrity, and a true democracy that will push reform forward.

Perhaps the most potent antidote to counteract the likes of Kobach, Bebeu, Baca, Rubio, Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, Obama, Napolitano, et al, is the unswerving, informed, and unambiguous exercise of a most precious right of all: our right to vote.