There he goes again. President Obama has once more decided to rewrite our laws, all by himself.
As expected, Mr. Obama announced his intention Thursday night to unilaterally change how we enforce our immigration laws. In choosing to sidestep Congress, Mr. Obama is setting a dangerous precedent.
The country understands that. In a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 48% of the nation disapproves of the president’s approach, while only 38% favor the move.
President Obama doesn’t care.
The reasons for acting alone are as bogus as they are cynical. There is no emergency here. In fact, there are people who the president should be allowing to vault our immigration barriers – for instance, those in Iraq and Afghanistan who aided our troops, acting as interpreters or guides, who are being hunted down and murdered by ISIS and others who hate America. These people are trapped in the immigration queue, and are paying for our creaky processes with their lives.
Why isn’t President Obama helping them?
Mr. Obama is not responding to an emergency in the Hispanic community. He’s responding to an emergency at the voting booth – for Democrats. Polling shows that Hispanic support for Democrats is slipping, and was a factor in the midterm GOP landslide. (In Georgia, for instance, David Perdue won an unexpected 42% of the Hispanic vote, helping him to trounce Michelle Nunn.)
Mr. Obama is hoping that his announced move to grant almost 5 million people temporary protection from deportation will reclaim Hispanic allegiance, much as his mini Dream Act – the DACA – did in 2012.
But, his measures solve few concerns for immigrants living in this country illegally. The president is offering those millions only temporary sanctuary from deportation – protection that can be overturned at the whim of the next occupant of the Oval Office.
Just as the response to the DACA offer fell short of expectations, presumably because those eligible feared revealing themselves for only temporary sanctuary, this measure too may receive a cool reception from the Hispanic community.
Further, Obama is denying illegals coverage under ObamaCare, ensuring their continued second-class status. Given that Hispanics rate health care one of their top concerns, how many will risk stepping out of the shadows if benefits are not available?
Instead of working with Congress to enact lasting, meaningful and satisfactory fixes, we have the prospect of more half-measures that will further muddy our enforcement waters.
Meanwhile, Obama’s justifications for issuing so-called “presidential memos” outlining his program are not credible. His righteous “impatience” with the lack of progress on immigration reform is a fable. He had two years with a Democrat majority in Congress to “fix” our immigration system. He looked the other way. He also deferred action until after the midterm elections, so as not to add to Democrat woes; wasn’t he impatient then, as well?
Mr. Obama, in his remarks to the nation, promised to beef up border security. He took credit for the fact that illegal crossings have declined, but the country understands that the downturn has stemmed from our recession, and the lack of available jobs in the U.S. The border has been, and remains porous.
Just as his DACA initiative in 2012 led to tens of thousands of young people massed at our border this past summer, it is likely this new softening of our rules will encourage another wave of people hoping to take part. Chances are, just like the young people from Central America, they will not have read the fine print.
Mr. Obama’s DACA resulted in the only border crisis in recent times, and also hardened the nation’s attitudes about immigration.
Gallup reports that in June 2012, days before the president announced his DACA plan, 63% of Americans thought that immigration in the U.S. should be kept at current levels or increased.
Earlier this year, that figure had tumbled to only 55%, with a growing number thinking the number of immigrants in our country should decline.
Similarly, the portion responding that immigration is a “good” thing, has dropped. Chances are the ruckus about this new unpopular move will cause even greater resistance to immigration.
That’s a shame.
It is clear to most that our immigration system is dysfunctional and often works against our national interest. However, we are, as President Obama said in his remarks, “a nation of laws."
As much as the nation would like our immigration rules put right, it is also clear that most people want Mr. Obama to work with the newly-elected Republican Congress to enact legislation, as is outlined in our constitution.
Americans understand the danger of an imperial president. Democrats in particular should see the risks as well.
Imagine three years from now, if a Republican president decides not to enforce the Clean Air Act. Democrats would howl, and rightly so.
Our country has, and needs, checks and balances between the legislative branch and the White House. The president takes an oath of office, pledging to uphold the laws of the country. That is his job.
This move by President Obama is not a sign of righteous impatience; it is proof that he has failed at that most basic of tasks – working with Congress.
At this point in his presidency, Mr. Obama appears concerned with only one thing – his legacy. He does not seem concerned about his party, or the country.
He is obsessed with how history will view his time in office. He should be worried; at the moment his most notable achievements include a widely despised health care bill that may well be dismantled piece by piece for the good of the country and arguably greater racial and class divisions than ever before in our history. Thursday night’s action will not help.