Republicans are stumbling all over themselves to denounce President Barack Obama's executive action today to block the deportation of students who would benefit from the proposed DREAM Act. And in doing so, they're bumbling right into the trap the White House has laid for them.
Obama's move, initially announced with the release of a memo this morning by U.S. Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano, extends the DHS' "prosecutorial discretion" to an estimated 800,000 individuals brought to this country illegally by their parents before the age of 16.
The stopgap measure does not provide a long-range solution to the problem, but for those age 30 and under who pass a background check, have a clean criminal record, and are going to school and/or have scored a high school diploma, it will allow them to remain in the country and apply for work authorization.
It is, as Obama said in remarks today that drew heckles from a wingnut reporter, "the right thing to do." Of course, it would have been the right thing to do four years ago. But now it's not only morally correct, it's politically advantageous.
Why? Well, not so much because it rewards Obama's Latino constituency, as many Republi-can'ts are claiming. Obama already had them in his pocket, to the tune of 2-1 over his GOP rival Mitt Romney.
But today's declaration does two important things for Obama as he heads into November's general election: It shores up his base, energizing supporters to work for an Obama win, and it effectively forces GOPers into the same role played today by that carping hater of a heckling newshound.
After all, we're not talking about criminals here. These are children and young adults who had no real choice in coming to this country, and they are overwhelmingly straight arrows -- good students and model wannabe-citizens.
Only the most intransigent, mean-spirited, and uncharitable among us (read: Tea Party idgits) would want to deny them the right to avoid deportation to countries where they did not grow up.
Polls consistently show that a majority of Americans support the concept behind the DREAM Act. Even here in Sand Land, where anti-Hispanic bigotry is rampant, three in four voters back some kind of DREAM Act proposal.
In fact, the measure is so popular that Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, has been working on a watered-down GOP version of the DREAM Act, in an obvious attempt to woo some Hispanics into casting a ballot for Romney.
Which is why any GOP backlash to today's announcement is doomed to backlash on the backlashers.
Those angered by Obama's executive decision will be relegated to the same right-wing-kook bin as those who oppose Obama's stated support for gay marriage.
And, falling right into this trap, Republicans already are pitching a fit, painting themselves into a proverbial corner from which they cannot emerge by November.
You have Republican congressmen promising to challenge the president's order in court, and you have dyspeptic dullards, like our own Governor Jan Brewer calling the new policy "backdoor amnesty" and a "preemptive strike" against the U.S. Supreme Court's upcoming decision on Arizona Senate Bill 1070.
(The second point, BTW, may be correct. But so what? That fact does not rob Obama's play of its efficacy any more than a butterfly can stop a bullet.)
Such knee-jerk responses will have deadly consequences for Republicans in November. Already, many in the GOP, including U.S. Senator John McCain, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and even conservative stalwarts, like former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, have expressed doubts about Romney's hard line on immigration, which features the asinine advocacy of "self-deportation."
Without cutting into Obama's hold on the Latino electorate, Republicans know they will lose the presidential election. That's a reality that may not penetrate the thick skulls of political hacks like Brewer, or others who are part of the nativist base of the GOP.
But the more these clueless haters denounce a wise, humane move by Obama, the weaker the GOP's chances of taking the White House become.
With today's action, Obama has effectively created a winning wedge issue for the Democrats. He's also nullified expressions of dissatisfaction by Latino and human-rights advocates over his administration's record-high deportation numbers.
For those committed to immigration reform and to the humane treatment of the undocumented and their families, today's victory is proof that their cause is just and they should push on.
As if to embody this ideal, Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition and one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world, was in Los Angeles today with other demonstrators trying to block deportation buses from leaving immigration detention centers.
"It's only a step toward the right direction," she told me via phone of Obama's decision. "We need to continue working to get a permanent solution and to pass legislation like the DREAM Act."
She also offered a crucial caveat:
"If it's implemented, it will help DREAMers who haven't come out of the shadows. But if another administration gets in and doesn't like the policy, it can be easily removed."
Which will make Latinos and liberals ever more motivated to re-elect Obama. An outcome Obama's move today helped ensure.
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