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Two Little Words That Can End Suffering and Restore a Little Sanity to the System in 2014

NOTE: This article is also published at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-pai/two-little-words_b_4966023.html

The sound of the circular firing squad is getting louder as two different strategies are creating a rift in the pro immigration reform movement. There’s a victory in the battle to demolish the deportation machine but some of our guns are aimed in the wrong direction and somewhere, anti-reformers like Rep. Steve Kingand Phyllis Schlafly must be laughing their heads off.

Both factions fighting for immigration agree that the deportation system is cruel, illogical and needs to changed.

On one side we have groups like La Raza firing away at President Obama: Calling him the Deporter in Chief and trying to put pressure on him to do what he can’t do. On the other side, there’s a fight we can win, with grassroots groups likeTNTweeters and Univision’s Fernando Espeulas calling for the use of a discharge petition to push a floor vote in the House.

The groups taking potshots at Obama may possibly have their hearts in the right place but they are fighting a futile battle and diverting attention and resources from the real war in Congress. They’re losing sight of the big picture ofComprehensive Immigration Reform and focusing on deportations but the irony is they will not be able to win in this way.

Attacking President Obama and claiming he can use executive orders to stop deportations is worse than counterproductive. It’s misdirection from the real issue that is powering the deportation machine: the costly and draconian Congressional Bed Mandate. That mandate — which is not an option, but a mandatory budget spend using appropriation tools generally reserved for entitlements such as Veteran’s benefits and retirement pay — requires the government maintain 34,000 beds for immigrant detainees at all times at a cost of five million dollars a day.

Fixing the Bed Mandate takes two little words and Congress. The words are “up to.” Right now the law says “not less than” 34,000 people need to be incarcerated every day. By changing this to “up to 34,000” ICE and President Obama will have the flexibility they need make real change.

It won’t happen without Congress but there’s good news there: Virtually every politician in the House is up for re-election this year. That means that pressure can be brought to bear. With so many in reform movement turning up the heat on President Obama, they ignore the political reality that he is never going to be up for election again.

Ironically, by focusing on the President, groups like La Raza actually risk turning up pressure coming from the Tea Party wing that’s obstructing reform.

The Tea Party is already going ballistic over the use of executive orders. Pushing Obama for an executive order plays into their worst fears and will lead to more ignorant rhetoric about Obama pushing for amnesty and harsher calls for enforcement. The Tea Party knows there’s an election coming up, too.

What’s needed now is focus. Put down the Deporter In Chief signs. Push for the discharge petition and then keep going. Let everyone running for the House know that a united immigration reform movement is watching and will hold them accountable.