Since 1961 there have been 11 executive actions taken on the subject of immigration. Seven presidents were involved: four Democrats and three Republicans. In total, up to eight million people were impacted, especially Cubans, Vietnamese, Cubans and Haitians arriving on the Mariel boatlift, Nicaraguans, minor children, Chinese fleeing Tiananmen Square, spouses and unmarried children, Salvadorans and, most recently, some of those already in the country who might be subject to deportation.
Last week, President Obama announced an Executive Order freeing about four million people from concern about being deported. Republicans went varying levels of crazy depending on exactly where they stand on the right left axis.
The action taken by the President had very little to do with the plight of undocumented people, many of whom have been in the United States for a significant period of time and some of whom have children who were born here, thus making them citizens.
Rather, the action had to do with politics, which will come as a shock to many readers.
Just as Republican Congressmen and Senators have adversaries lurking to their right, the President has adversaries lurking to his left. They call him the Deporter in Chief.
Then there is a matter of the recent election in which the President’s policies were said to be on the ballot. Said by the President himself. Many Democratic candidates distanced themselves from the White House, but that did not stop the carnage. Democratic House seats were lost. The Senate majority was lost. Many statehouses switched from blue to red as did state legislatures. Overall, the Democrats were shellacked.
With two years to go in his final term, it must have seemed logical (at least to the President’s image makers) to do something that would make him appear less irrelevant. Standing up to the now-Republican Congress by telling them to just pass a bill if they didn’t like what he was doing must have seemed like a pretty good idea. Politically.
His speech, which was not carried by the major networks because they viewed it as overtly political, included countless “I’s” and references to common sense, Americans, American people, fellow Americans and politics as usual. Did I forget the heart-rending example of an especially plucky student? These are the ways you identify a political speech.
On the merits, the Republicans did no better. The universe of people with triple digit IQs includes nobody who believes that 11 million people, some of whom are married to, or parents of, United States citizens, are going to be rounded up and taken to the correct border. At about 50 seats apiece, it would take 220,000 Greyhound bus trips to accomplish the job and, since Greyhound buses don’t float, a significant number of airplanes might also be required. If this country wishes to get rid of someone who is not legally here, we cannot simply drop him off in the nearest country where he will not legally be there either. You more or less have to bring him back to the country he came from.
This has been on the agenda for many years and the Republicans have had many opportunities to do something about it. Here is why they haven’t.
And, of course, they have fueled up their base to open their wallets when the battle cry is sounded. The Republicans are not alone in this and the offspring of many electionistas have attended lovely colleges paid for on this issue alone.
Neither the President, nor the Congress, nor the Democrats, nor the Republicans will end up the victims of this playground foolishness. As always, the victims will be those whom the Executive Order tries to help. It offers freedom from deportation for three years, but the next President can revoke it using the same rationale. Not a lot of freedom from worry or a lot of incentive to hire people who might be gone in January 2017.
Unsurprisingly, in this great land of ours, a lawsuit has been filed. Again, unsurprisingly, Mayor Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County Arizona has filed it. He is a well-known foe of immigration, perhaps because his county is very near the Mexican border. If a judge were to determine that the President’s Executive Order had to be stayed pending a resolution of the lawsuit, nothing would have changed for those who worry about deportation.
The arguments about shredding the Constitution, the plight of a group that occupies almost the bottom rung of American society, employers who can’t find workers, certainty, amnesty and provocation are not the reasons this long-standing problem is unresolved.
The reason the problem is unresolved is that politicians can still raise money fighting about it. Off the record, both sides love it.