How many more immigration meetings will White House convene before it gets serious?

LatinaLista — The press release issued by the White House today that the President was convening yet another assembly of “stakeholders” in immigration reform at first puzzled me. Then, it angered me and finally disappointed me as I scanned the list of invitees for this latest attempt to show the greater Latino community that immigration reform remains in the forefront of this administration’s thoughts.
5666226036_e9126653f6_o.jpgI wasn’t alone.

President Obama meets with Latino celebrities, journalists and voter advocacy workers at the White House for immigration meeting.

I shared the names of the attendees with readers on my Facebook and Twitter pages. The resulting comments — over 40 — echoed my sentiments: “It’s gotta be a joke,” “You’re kidding me,” “Infuriating,” Ridiculous.”

To begin with, the President invited people he deemed “influential Latinos” to “discuss how we can work together to foster a constructive national conversation on this important issue as we work to build a bipartisan consensus in Congress.”

His collaborators for this important mission included Jose Diaz-Balart, Cuban-American television journalist for Telemundo; Barbara Bermudo, Puerto Rican-born/Cuban descent entertainer and hostess who worked at Univision; Rosario Dawson, Puerto Rican descent, NY-born actress and co-founder of Voto Latino; Emilio Estefan, Cuban-American song producer; Lily Estefan, Cuban-American daytime Univision TV host; America Ferrera, Honduran American actress; Don Francisco, Chilean-born Univision TV game/talk show host; Vanessa Hauc, Colombian-born Telemundo news anchor; Maria Teresa Kumar, Executive Director/Co-founder of Voto Latino and MSNBC analyst; Eva Longoria, Mexican-American actress; Maria Elena Salinas, Mexican American news anchor at Univision and Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo, Mexican-born national radio host.

While a handful could speak about this issue in a relevant way — Piolin was instrumental in getting immigration marches organized back in 2006; the various news journalists from Telemundo and Univision since they report on the impact of immigration reform on their broadcasts; and the two founders of Voto Latino who have worked directly within the Latino community to register voters — the rest may only be able to bring their star power to elevate the issue, if they even talked about it. But to foster a constructive conversation about the issue?

Vanessa Hauc tweeted after the meeting, “Despues del meeting en la casa Blanca con el Presidente queda claro que hay que cambiar la percepcion sobre los hispanos en USA!” (After the meeting at the White House with the President, it remains clear that there has to be a change of perception about Hispanics in the USA.)

I wonder if she was talking about the White House as well.

The odd mix of “influentials” clearly shows that the White House has no idea who has been involved with this issue, works with the people and/or organizations and can represent them at the White House while cluing in administration officials about what is happening on the ground in these communities.

Or then again, that could have been his intention all along.

From additional tweets by Maria Elena Salinas, the President was clear that the participants take back the message that there’s nothing he can do without bipartisan support.

To voice this to a group, of whom the majority don’t even work on this issue or know anything in-depth, his message wouldn’t be challenged. They would most probably agree with him but for those who are in contact with DREAMers and work with immigrant advocacy groups, there would be enough of a challenge to his statements that would probably had angered him as much as the birther issue.

In other words, he chose some safe “influentials.” He clearly doesn’t want to get into a debate as to how much he can or cannot do for undocumented immigrants but he and the White House are missing the point entirely.

Convening these last two immigration discussions, first with business CEOs and now with Latino celebrities and Spanish network journalists, the White House is “perceived” to not take this issue seriously. It appears to be skirting around it by deliberately not inviting people who can report, yes, with passion, about the daily occurrences in these besieged communities.

If the White House really wanted a constructive conversation, he should invite these very people he’s dreading to sit at the table with and hear the stories they bring, and then provide the leadership to move that conversation ahead to what can be done, what must be done as partners in this issue.

In this case, it’s very important that the Latino community, who may not be Spanish-speaking but who are voters, be included in this conversation because they are part of the solution.

Right now, the impression is that the White House does not want to work with the Latino community to address this issue, otherwise it would work together with the segment of the community that knows the most about the issue, and which ironically his campaign is trying to tap into to resurrect 2008 levels of political support — the grassroots organizations.

Unfortunately for him, these two groups are one and the same.

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