- (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)
A prominent Hispanic leader says the Labor Department's agreement with Latin American governments to protect migrant workers "no matter how you got here or how long you plan to stay" is a political production that lacks real substance.
Mario Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis' workers rights agreement Monday with Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador ambassadors is simply an arrangement to provide information and referrals.
"It's really something very basic that [the department] tried to maximize while the administration tried to maximize the PR (public relations) value of this to pretend that they're making in-depth reforms when it's not [a reform at all]," Lopez noted.
The labor secretary signed the pledge agreements in the presence of six Latin American ambassadors. Solis, the child of immigrant parents from Nicaragua and Mexico, also delivered a bilingual speech pledging to protect the labor rights of migrant workers.
"We live in a country that has seen times of prosperity and times of hardship and sacrifice. But no matter the challenge of the moment, Americans believe in a set of core values that makes us who we are. We value hard work. We embrace diversity. And we honor the contributions of those who come to this country seeking a better life," Solis proclaimed.
"Today, we renew our promise to everyone who does an honest day's work in America. No matter how you got here or how long you plan to stay, you have rights. You have the right to a safe and healthy workplace and the right to a legal wage."
Despite the patriotic and inclusive tone of the speech, "The reason why they're doing that is the same reason why there's been, finally, a steady drumbeat of attention being paid to Hispanic constituents and that's politics," said Lopez.
A Pew Poll showed that 67 percent of Hispanics voted for Obama in 2008 compared to 43 percent of White voters. Younger Hispanics supported then Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama over Republican opponent John McCain, 76 percent to 19 percent, respectively.
Those voters have been disappointed by the Obama administration, Hispanic leaders say.
"[We had] a Democratic president who had a Democratic majority for his first two years who promised in his first 100 days they would pass immigration reform. We're into the third year of his presidency and there is no immigration reform," the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said to The Christian Post.
On the verge of the 2012 race for the White House, the Obama administration began making policy adjustments in August to accommodate the Hispanic community.
Two weeks ago, White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Munoz announced that the departments of Homeland Security and Justice would partner to re-prioritize cases based on those who have been convicted of serious crimes and/or are national security risks.
Low-priority cases will be kept "out of the deportation pipeline" announced the White House.
Rodriguez applauded the move as "the right American thing to do and it's the right Christian thing to do."
In states where the effects of illegal immigration are felt the most, the news was seen as a betrayal.
"The president is encouraging more illegal immigration at the exact moment we need federal focus on the border security," Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announced in a statement.
The Department of Justice also sued Arizona and Alabama to block their legislative attempts to enforce federal immigration laws through local means. Both lawsuits have yielded beneficial results thus far.
Just this week the administration is boasting its commitment to immigrant and migrant worker rights.
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land said, "We certainly don't want workers abused. That why we need to have comprehensive immigration reform."
The Southern Baptist Convention, of which Land and his organization are members, officially supports the creation of a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants living within America's borders.
However, Land says the Obama administration is "putting the cart and the barn before the horse."
"The way that the Obama administration is going about this is backwards," he said. "It's very awkward to be signing agreements with other countries to protect the rights of their citizens who have entered our country illegally while at the same time you're suing American states that are trying to protect themselves from being overrun with illegal immigrants."
In connection to an Alabama statute potentially inhibiting church clergy from ministering to the Hispanic community, National Association of Evangelicals' Government Affairs Vice President Galen Carey admonished that Christians are called to care for those in need in the bible.
"Strangers, along with widows and orphans are the iconic biblical symbols for those who are poor, weak and in need of help and the biblical mandate to care for those in need is very strong," Carey shared.
Land says the Obama administration is mistakenly abandoning the biblical role of government for the individual's role.
Welcoming the stranger, Land says, "that is the citizen's [role]; the government is supposed to enforce the law."
Despite its best efforts to welcome Hispanics, Lopez says Hispanics are frustrated with the administration. He says if Obama really wants Hispanics to vote for him, "they're going to have to do a lot of work and they're going to have their work cut out for them because there's been a lot of damage done."