Obama's Executive Action on Immigration Reduces the GOP to a Blubbering Mass of Bigoted Whiners

Obama: turning the tables on dimwitted GOPers with his immigration gambit.
Obama: turning the tables on dimwitted GOPers with his immigration gambit.
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President Barack Obama's pre-Thanksgiving executive action granting a temporary reprieve from deportation for up to 5 million undocumented individuals was a brilliant example of asymmetric warfare.

Just two weeks after a major Republican midterm victory, with GOPers gaining control of the U.S. Senate, increasing their numbers in the U.S. House, and promising to undo Obama's signature achievement in office, the Affordable Care Act, Obama outflanked his massive, lumbering opposition and sent it scattering.

Depending on which bigoted blubberers from the right you want to cite, the tuskers are ready to retaliate with a lawsuit or by shutting down the government or by defunding certain federal agencies or by impeaching the president.

In reality, none of the above would be successful.

The Republicans do not have standing to bring a lawsuit against a policy that will not go into effect for another six months and which has not caused GOPers any direct harm -- other than making them look like a legion of lunkheads.

Also, the Repubs would shut down the government or impeach the president at their peril. Both efforts would be so sure to backfire that wiser heads in GOP leadership have been quick to downplay the possibilities.

And the Rs cannot defund the agency that largely will administer the new policy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, because it is self-funded through fees it charges.

Then there is the sheer practicality of the policy itself, which you have to be a blatantly knuckle-dragging nativist to oppose.

The president succinctly explained the main part of his new "deal" for the undocumented in his recent, historic speech.

"If you've been in America for more than five years," he said, "if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents, if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you're willing to pay your fair share of taxes, [then] you'll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation."

 

You know, it's good ol' family values. The stuff Republicans used to be for. Or at least gave lip service to supporting.

As Obama pointed out, there's no pathway to permanent legalization or citizenship in his order; only Congress can go that far.

"All we're saying is, we're not going to deport you," Obama told the undocumented in his speech.

Which begs the question: What do Republicans want to do with the estimated 11.3 million undocumented people in this country?

Most are not recent arrivals. According to the Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project, 61 percent of undocumented adults have been in the United States for 10 years or more.

They are part of the fabric of America or, as Obama put it, "our neighbors, our classmates, our friends" whose children, even those born elsewhere, are "as American as Malia or Sasha," the president's own daughters.

Thing is, the president acted following a year and half of impotence from a U.S. House leadership so intimidated by its Teabagger faction that it refused to bring an immigration bill passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013 to the House floor for a vote.

Why? Because the rednecks in the Republican Party know that the bill might pass in the House, just as it did in the Senate, with bipartisan support.

In an op-ed recently published in the Arizona Republic, two supporters of that legislation, U.S. Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, kvetched that Obama's immigration decree promises to "set back important bipartisan efforts in Congress to reform our broken immigration system."

Flake and McCain wish Obama had given the Republicans another year to get their act together. They fear that Obama's unilateral action will make "the challenging task of coming to bipartisan agreement even more difficult to reach."

Do Flake and McCain really believe that House Speaker John Boehner was going to wake up one day in January and say, "Hey, eff those crazy wingnuts. Let's pass this dang thing"?

 

Sure, those with a lick of sense in the GOP hierarchy know that the Rs will never retake the White House without at least a sliver of Hispanic votes.

But the base of their party despises brown people and isn't inclined to let pragmatism sway its prejudice.

Until the president acted November 20, immigration reform seemed deader than Bill Cosby's reputation.

Now everyone is talking about immigration and wondering why the problem -- the fundamentals of which most Americans agree upon -- has not been fixed.

I've never regarded the U.S. senator from the Palmetto State as any sort of savant, but South Carolina's Lindsey Graham recently nailed the issue on CNN's State of the Union.

"Shame on us as Republicans for having a body that cannot generate a solution to an issue that's national security, that's cultural, that's economic," he said of his colleagues in the House.

"Are we still the party of 'self-deportation'?" he wondered at one point, later adding, "Is it the position of the Republican Party that the 11 million must be driven out?"

Graham derided Obama's move as a political gambit meant to divide the GOP, put it on the defensive, and throw the advantage to Democrats in 2016.

In other words, Obama's doing exactly what a Democratic president is supposed to be doing. Duh.

Hey, the Rs could do something smart, like try to pass comprehensive immigration reform and take away the credit from Obama.

But at present, Republicans are content to fume and fuss and talk openly of revenge and retaliation in terms that will be difficult to take back.

Locally, it's hard to distinguish some of this invective from the usual tripe AZ GOPers sling.

Governor Jan Brewer, who is soon to be a bad memory -- like the stink of garbage you've already hauled to the dumpster -- called Obama a "tyrannical king" for his action.

 

But in a lovely irony, just days after her ridiculous comment, Brewer's own stab at tyranny -- denial of Arizona driver's licenses to DREAMers who qualify for Obama's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- went down to defeat again.

This, when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied her administration's petition for a rehearing.

Another twist: Obama's recent executive order expands the DACA program to include hundreds of thousands more individuals nationally.

Which means even more DACA recipients eventually will be able to legally obtain driver's licenses under the Ninth Circuit's ruling.

(Despite any additional legal wrenches thrown by Brewer and her soon-to-be successor, Doug Ducey.)

Add to that the 90,000 people in Arizona who will be able to get work permits under Obama's new rules and will also, presumably, apply for driver's licenses.

As with la bruja (Spanish for "the witch," as Brewer's known in the Latino community), other Arizona Republicans have rushed to condemn Obama's immigration initiative.

Congressman Matt Salmon sniffed that Obama governs "as if he is a monarch."

And Congressman Paul Gosar labeled Obama the "commander-in-deceit" and wrongly called Obama's order a "grant of amnesty" and an "abuse of executive power."

Perhaps the most amusing reaction came from state Representative Steve Montenegro, who appeared on Fox News and told host Megyn Kelly that Obama's executive action was "utter lawlessness" and "a slap in the face to immigrants" like himself who supposedly came here the right way.

See, the über-right wing Montenegro always has been somewhat secretive about how his family came to the United States from El Salvador in the 1980s.

In 2011, he told New American Media that his father, a Pentecostal preacher, "did not seek political asylum or a church sponsorship" but rather "applied for legal residency through a family member who already lived in the United States."

And that's different from the undocumented folks we're talking about how, exactly?

If anything, the moms and dads affected by Obama's executive action may have a greater claim on this country than Montenegro's parents had when they moved here.

Not that I begrudge Montenegro his life in America. But he seems a perfect example of that old analogy about some immigrants to this country pulling up the ladder after they make it over the fence.

 

The argument that Obama's action was illegal and overstepped his authority dims with each passing moment.

As I made note of in a blog item before the announcement, 140 law professors signed a September letter to the president, noting that under the long-accepted tenet of "prosecutorial discretion," Obama does have the power to defer deportation.

In fact, in the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Arizona's anti-immigrant Senate Bill 1070, the court reaffirmed this principle in relation to immigration law.

"Removal is a civil matter," the court wrote in Arizona v. U.S., "and one of its principal features is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials, who must decide whether to pursue removal at all."

As for the use of executive action, the centrist American Immigration Council recently reported that, since 1956, "every U.S. president has granted temporary immigration relief to one or more groups in need of assistance."

The AIC cited 39 such instances over the past 60 years.

As a retort to the charge that Obama acted regally, doing whatever he wanted in spite of Congress, I would point to a 33-page memo from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel.

In it, the OLC advises the administration that it legally can give a three-year waiver to parents of citizens and legal residents.

But the OLC said it could not do likewise for the parents of DREAMers, who have fought so courageously for the president to take broad executive action on immigration.

This was what made Obama's announcement so heartbreaking to many in the pro-immigrant community, plus a source of anger for some who believe the president's move came six years and 2 million deportations too late.

For instance, the Pew Research Center has noted that about 5.8 million undocumented individuals will not benefit from the plan.

There has been too much suffering in that community, and the Democrats have cynically played the issue over the past six years to their political advantage.

But to embrace Obama's stratagem and push for more is to embrace the civil rights of the undocumented.

Consider this announcement as a tool, a means to an end, which those in the pro-immigrant and Latino communities should ruthlessly exploit until they have the justice and equality they seek.

Obama has advanced the ball. Now it's just a matter of taking it all the way.

E­-mail stephen.lemons@newtimes.com.


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