In March 2014, more than two years after President Barack Obama sailed to reelection in a historic sweep of the Latino vote, a powerful ally was about to call him out.
The president had been flying high on the success of his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, a legacy-defining executive action that opened up broad horizons for thousands of young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as young children. But there was a major wrinkle in his record that the president could not outrun.
At a gala that March, Janet Murguía, president of the National Council on La Raza (NCLR), stood before a room full of immigrant advocates and said what many had long been thinking in the back of their minds: Though congressional Republicans were on the hook for blockading comprehensive immigration reform, Obama was not blameless in their community’s visceral disappointment.
“For us, this president has been the deporter-in-chief,” Murguía said.
It was a shocking condemnation coming from one of the largest Latino advocacy groups in the country. NCLR had served as a pipeline of influential leaders who were elevated as advisers in the Obama White House.
Yet Murguía’s keynote address highlighted the vise squeezing around Obama: From one side, growing public outrage was bubbling in blaming the president for not doing enough to combat illegal immigration; on the other, a burgeoning Latino voting bloc with newly realized political clout was fast becoming disillusioned by the rising toll of deportations.
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When Obama’s eight years in office come to a close, he will be leaving behind a mixed legacy on immigration that is tinged by political impasse and half-fulfilled promises.
Congress did not pass comprehensive immigration during Obama’s administration; a bipartisan Senate plan stalled in the House.
By AMANDA SAKUMA for NBC NEWS
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