What Happens When the President Takes Charge of Immigration Reform?
“Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me,” said President Barack Obama on Tuesday. As we all know by now, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is happy to accommodate him, with a suit currently being made against Obama for what Boehner considers to be constitutional violation of the balance of powers. Now the president has added more fodder to that canon in an announcement that he’ll be dipping his pen into immigration reform this year as well.
“While I will continue to push House Republicans to drop the excuses and act — and I hope their constituents will too — America cannot wait forever for them to act. And that’s why, today, I’m beginning a new effort to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress,” said Obama. He also addressed vexation from Republicans with his executive activities. “I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing. And in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy, and it’s bad for our future,” said Obama.
It’s true that enacting comprehensive immigration reform has been a major struggle going on for years now; it’s an issue that has had both Republicans and Democrats frustrated, and one that won’t be dealt with this year according to Congressional indications. Republicans in Congress are calling for a step by step reform plan as opposed to attempting to pass a big bill, while hoping that elections may reshuffle the balance of power in the Senate. The increasing and highly concerning rush of underage illegal immigrants crossing the border has been highlighting the need for action as unprepared officials struggle to cope with the onslaught and the unique demands unaccompanied minors present.
Somewhere between 60,000 and 74,000 unaccompanied immigrants below the age of eighteen are expected to cross into the U.S. in 2014, according to the Obama administration and a recent report from the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and Kids in Need of Defense. That’s only a consideration of the one group of illegal immigrants, and says nothing for the damage done to businesses, the economy, families, and potential scientific innovation that could benefit from skilled immigrants with a pathway to naturalization.
He lightly outlined his plan in that same speech — firstly, to order the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General to mobilize what resources they can to the border, placing greater emphasis on the border while retaining a priority on deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records. His second move is basically to find out what other moves he can legally make. “I have also directed Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Holder to identify additional actions my administration can take on our own, within my existing legal authorities,” said Obama, either a protection against Republican attacks or an attempt to stretch as much legally viable action out of his position as possible — or both.
Following the President’s announcement, Boehner blamed Congress’ inability to enact reform on Obama himself, saying that, “The American people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue.” He also reiterated concerns at the border, blaming the situation on Obama. “The president’s own executive orders have led directly to the humanitarian crisis along the Southern border, giving false hope to children and their families that if they enter the country illegally they will be allowed to stay,” said Beohner.
Others have voiced concerns that America may appear to welcoming or soft on illegal immigration, and that this explains the decisions from so many foreign parents to send their children across the border alone in hopes that they’ll be allowed to stay. U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) suggested during his opening statement at the Hearing on Unaccompanied Children that “a series of Executive Actions by the [Obama] Administration to grant immigration benefits to children outside the purview of the law — a relaxed enforcement posture — along with talk of comprehensive immigration reform.” He noted that a DHS suvery had shown that 70 percent of the minors who had come into the country thought they would be allowed to remain.
As with many partisan splits, both sides claim the other is unwilling to cooperate:
“I’m going to continue to reach out to House Republicans in the hope that they deliver a more permanent solution with a comprehensive bill. Maybe it will be after the midterms, when they’re less worried about politics,” said Obama.
“It’s sad and disappointing that — faced with this challenge — President Obama won’t work with us, but is instead intent on going it alone with executive orders that can’t and won’t fix these problems,” said Boehner.
A new poll from Gallup shows that U.S. support remains behind decreased immigration — though, notably there has been a slight jump in those that would like to see immigration increase from where it sits today. Respondents showed 41 percent saying they’d like it to decrease, up from 35 percent at the last poll, and 33 percent — down from 40 percent — said they’d be happy to see it remain flat. A slight decrease to 22 percent said they’d like to see immigration rise, but that’s up from a 14 percent in 2009 and 10 percent in 1999.
More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:
- Immigration Reform: Do Children Change the Argument?
- Underage Illegal Immigrants: 5 Key Facts on Rights and Costs
- Cantor Loses House Leadership: Is Immigration or Party Split to Blame
Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS