Obama's pretty words on immigration ring hollow

Latinos rally in front of the White House last year, urging Obama to deliver comprehensive immigration reform.

Story highlights

  • Ruben Navarrette: In second inaugurations we receive promises more cautiously
  • He says Obama says life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, opportunity should be for all Americans
  • He says he has deported more undocumented immigrants than any president, broken up families
  • Navarrette: He has not done well by Latinos. Where are new Latino Cabinet members?

Second inaugurals are rarely as fresh and exciting and full of promise as the first.

When a person is sworn in as president and addresses the world for the first time, there is always the chance that he will keep his promises, uphold the principles he espouses, and fulfill his policy objectives. But in a sequel, we have the advantage -- or is it the disadvantage? -- of having already seen this individual in action.

So we don't just hear the words, however pretty they may be. We balance them against what we know about the person's flaws and limitations.

Ruben Navarrette Jr.

Obama embraces key social justice movements in inaugural address

President Obama said this during his speech: "That is our generation's task -- to make these words, these rights, these values -- of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -- real for every American."

And this: "And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice -- not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice."

And this: "Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country."

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Right about there, I realized that Obama is perhaps one of the least self-aware presidents we've ever had. He lives in his own world, of lofty ideals and soaring rhetoric. But, as he prepares for his second term, he can't escape his reality of his first term.

Here is a president who claims to be seeking a new kind of justice for illegal immigrants and their families, and yet he's deported more than 1.5 million of them and divided thousands of families.

Here is a president who won 71% of the Latino vote, and yet now -- with the departures of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis -- presides over a Cabinet with no Latinos serving on it.

The nominations for the top four Cabinet jobs have already gone out, and three of them went to white males. It's nice to see that group get ahead. They never get anything.

Mr. President, in your speech, you talked about the rights and privileges of Americans. You do know that many illegal immigrants refer to themselves as undocumented Americans. As they see it, they are Americans in every way but legal status -- Americans whose lives you're ruining and who you're depriving of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They are, indeed, to use your words, "marginalized" and your heavy-handed enforcement policies and record number of deportations helped put them on the margins.

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You have not done right by this group of people, or the U.S.-born Latino community that claims to support them -- at least in nonelection years. Nor have you advanced -- through your immigration policies -- the principles of "tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice."

After all, just who do you think has "expelled" so many of these "striving, hopeful" immigrants from our country? That's right, Mr. President, you're the one.