On Friday, the Obama Administration changed its policy on another hot-button political issue, deportation of illegal immigrants. This of course does not include all illegal immigrants. It focuses on those who entered the United States as children (under the age of 16), are currently under 30, and meet certain requirements such as residing in the US for five years and attending school (or graduated/earned a GED) or serving in the armed forces (or honorably discharged from). In addition, the individual cannot have any felony or significant misdemeanor convictions and must not pose a threat to national security. (Read Napolitano’s memo for specifics). The executive order grants those who qualify a 2 year reprieve from deportation and will allow them to apply for work permits.
So, What is the big deal one might ask. It seems like a reasonable compromise to make for a small population (approximately 800,000) of illegal immigrants who are here due to no fault of their own. In addition, as Napolitano argues, “The change is part of a department effort to target resources at illegal immigrants who pose a greater threat, such as criminals and those trying to enter the country now,…” (15). Actually, it is very similar to provisions outlined in the DREAM Act. The order does not provide amnesty or guarantee citizenship, nor does it provide a permanent or lasting solution.
While I have strong feelings about illegal immigration and the United States’ policies toward it, I am neither hard to the left or right. There are many things that Obama outlined in his vision for immigration reform that I could get behind. Some of the proposals include holding business accountable, establishing E-verify, requiring illegal immigrants to submit to rigorous security checks, deporting felons and convicts, requiring the learning of English and American civics, etc (9). Nevertheless, while I would support the policy outlined in Obama’s executive order, I DO NOT SUPPORT the method, motivation, and timing behind it. As a matter of fact, I am actually quite disenchanted, to put it mildly.
Many of the individuals I know or speak with associate the DREAM Act with President Obama. I know in my case it is mainly because I have not had much political awareness up until the last two years. Nevertheless, The DREAM Act was first introduced in the Senate in 2001 by Dick Durbin and Orin Hatch. This act has had a long history of votes, revisions, and re-introductions. However, it has never passed. One could cite many arguments and reasons. One could choose blame Republicans and/or Democrats. However, the main point is that this act was developed and argued for a good 7 years before Obama stepped into office. It is not a new issue by any stretch of the imagination.
When Obama ran for office in 2008, he made many promises such as tackling immigration reform in his first year in office. He didn’t, and that upset much of the Latino community who had supported him. So, now, here we are facing another election year, and Obama is right out there trying to present himself as the candidate who cares about important issues, at least the ones that are important that week to garner support and fundraise. To me, this executive order is disturbing on several levels. First, It is purely a political tactic used to shore up votes. Second, this act is an overreach of executive power and a clear example of Obama’s inability to work with others as well as his incompetence as a leader.
There are many reasons why I label this act as a political tactic- some of which are just plain common sense. One only has to go as far as Obama’s own words and actions to come to this conclusion. For example, “Prior to this decision, immigrant rights activists had criticised Obama for increasing the number of deportations by 30 per cent since George Bush, the former US president, left office”(6). As a matter of fact, under the Obama administration, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants had been deported in a single year. In addition, the timing of the measure is highly suspect. The following direct quotes support this:
“Obama’s order was the second time in two months that he has reached out to a key Democratic voting constituency. Last month, he said for the first time that he supports legalizing gay marriages, a move that while largely symbolic, won him praise and campaign donations from the gay and lesbian community.Friday’s appeal to Hispanics came at a time when Obama’s popularity has dipped amid new worries of a weakening economy and a deepening European financial crisis that further threatens American jobs.
Obama’s order came a week before he is scheduled to address a meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Florida. Romney also is set to address the group next week.” (4)
“Many Hispanic leaders had been critical of the president for not doing more to address immigration. But on Friday, they said they welcomed his move, whatever his motivation. ‘We know this is political — we like that it’s political,’ said Robert Meza, a Democratic state senator from Phoenix. ‘People are smart enough to know that of course it’s politics, but if their agenda moves forward, they’re happy’ ” (10).
Besides being a political tactic, this move by President Obama is an overreach of executive power and serves to do nothing but further divide politicians and citizens in this country. Although there is a clear law on the books that has been passed, the executive branch has declared that it will not enforce it. In my view that is a passive/aggressive way of asserting one’s own will on those who disagree. I equate it to a 5-year-old saying, “I can’t get my way, so I’m not going to play anymore” or “I don’t like your rules, so I’ll make my own.”
“His moves ‘fit a disturbing pattern of expansion of executive power,’ constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, who usually sides with progressive ideals, tells Politico. ‘This is a President who is now functioning as a super legislator’ who is ‘effectively negating parts of the criminal code because he disagrees with them. That does go beyond the pale’ ” (11).
Obama has repeatedly showed his incompetence as a leader by not being able to work with Congress finding compromises and solutions to problems. He has even set himself up as a hypocrit.
In transcripts from a speech that President Obama gave in El Paso, Texas on May 10, 2011:
“And sometimes when I talk to immigration advocates, they wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how a democracy works. What we really need to do is to keep up the fight to pass genuine, comprehensive reform. That is the ultimate solution to this problem. That’s what I’m committed to doing. (Applause.)……” ( 8)
What astounds me is that the Obama Administration makes no apologies for doing everything it can to circumvent Congress, and the system of checks and balances our constitution sets forth, without actually violating The Constitution. They make it very clear that they have no interest in listening to the voices of anyone who may dissent from their goals, nor do they care to represent all Americans.
” ‘When Congress blocks Obama’s agenda,’ the unnamed spokesman said, ‘we look to pursue other appropriate means of achieving our policy goals. Sometimes this makes for less than ideal policy situations – such as the action we took on immigration – but the President isn’t going to be stonewalled by politics‘ ” (11).
Many will argue that this is just the nature of politics- that all politicians do it. They will cite examples in past administrations (Republican and Democrat). They will argue that Obama had no choice because Congress would not work with him. Honestly, I don’t care about any of these excuses. I am tired of it. What I do care about is the fact that our president seems to be ruthless when it comes to making his policies the law of the land. He has no real regard for the American Constitution unless it suits his needs, and he is clearly ready to do anything he can to show he is in power. My fear is that it won’t end here.
(1) Obama Immigration Decision Boosts Latino Enthusiasm: PollObama’s Immigration Symbolism
(2) Obama’s Immigration Announcement: Another Loss for the Middle Class
(3) Obama’s immigration move wins support in battleground states
(4) Obama spares many illegal immigrants deportation
(5) President Obama made a political decision on immigration. So what?
(6) Obama’s immigration call: A reason to dream?
(7) Fixing the Immigration System for America’s 21st Century Economy
(8) Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform in El Paso, Texas
(9) BUILDING A 21ST CENTURY IMMIGRATION SYSTEM
(10) Obama’s Announcement Seizes Initiative and Puts Pressure on Romney
(11) Obama immigration order: Does ‘audacity of hope’ mean unchecked presidential power?
(12) Live Free or Die Alliance
(13) Obama’s Immigration Announcement: Another Loss for the Middle Class
(14) Analysis: Obama takes a risk on immigration front
(15) Obama administration to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants
(16) Facts on immigration in the United States
(17) President Obama should reconsider, reverse immigration executive order