Friday, November 21, 2014
Obama's Deportation Order is a Big Tease
If anybody still doubted that illegal immigrants are a big political pawn, President Obama defeated those doubts last night.
In a predictable public relations stunt at the White House, the President announced his unilateral plan for "protecting" approximately five million illegal immigrants from deportation. His plan is an executive order, a potentially powerful tool at any president's disposal if they want to stir political pots or navigate around pesky bureaucratic potholes. But an executive order is not as robust as a law.
He says his plan is legal, humane, and proactive. He even went so far as to insinuate that it's a legitimate part of "how our democracy works."
But Obama's feigned idealism is no better than the obstinacy of right-wing Republicans whom Democrats say are stalling progress on immigration reform.
Because Obama's grand gesture last night was performed for an audience of desperate illegal immigrants across the country who likely have a poor grasp on what Obama wants from them. Obama isn't acting in their best interests - or even in the interests of his fellow Democrats, who will have to face a new order in Washington when Republicans take over the Senate next year. If Obama really wanted to be an agent for the type of legitimate change he wants to see in America's immigration laws, he would have resisted the temptation to showboat with this executive order.
Genuine, legitimate change in our immigration laws needs to be more comprehensive than any executive order can embrace. Illegal immigration isn't just about deportations; it's about how people can breach our borders illegally in the first place. It's about the many reasons why people will break our laws to leave their homeland. It's about why undocumented workers can find work here. It's about why American employers will pay below-market wages while they profess allegiance to free market economics. It's about the inequity of tolerating illegal immigration that's biased towards Hispanics because they have a land bridge to our country, while African and Chinese illegals, for example, do not.
And then, to top it off, genuine, legitimate immigration reform will address how all of these issues are interrelated, and how they affect individual people. Individual lives. Lives that shouldn't be treated as pawns. By their native government, or ours.
Instead, Obama's speech proves that, at least for now, he's acting in his own. It's his own political life and legacy that he's focused on. He's licking his wounds from the bruising midterm elections that recently depicted his presidency - not only in the minds of Republicans, but also in the minds of Democrats trying to get re-elected - as impotent, and even incompetent.
Obamacare, the President's signature bit of legislation, is failing on many levels, and is ripe for a massive overhaul when Republicans take control of Capitol Hill. Practically every bit of the President's foreign policy - what there's been of it - is in tatters, with even Hillary Clinton distancing herself from her tenure in his cabinet. Race relations across America seem to be worse now than when our first black president took office. Income inequality is growing, even as the President golfs his heart out and vacations on elitist Martha's Vineyard.
Against this backdrop of disappointment and dysfunction, Obama apparently has decided that little of it is due to his own lack of leadership skills, so maybe he needs to start taking the bull by the horns and setting policy unilaterally. Even if that policy really isn't policy after all, but pretentious grandstanding to the detriment of real people who can't legally vote in the United States!
Whatever you think about illegal immigrants, they are real human beings with genuine emotions, aspirations, and expectations. Shucks, they wouldn't be here illegally if they didn't desire certain things for themselves, would they? Nevertheless, whether you believe they all need to be deported, or whether you believe we need to grant blanket amnesty to every last one of them, you have to admit that the President pretty much threw them under the bus last night.
Sure, Obama said that the United States will not deport five million people. He says they'll even be able to work openly. But can any of those five million illegals rest easily in these promises? They're not promises, are they? It's almost guaranteed that Republicans will strenuously work to counteract the President's executive order, perhaps even taking it to court. Meanwhile, it's been said that during Obama's administration, upwards of 400,000 illegals have been deported each year, which represents a dramatic increase from deportations conducted during George W. Bush's administration. For as long as Obama's executive order can be considered to be in effect, might he simply be reshuffling his expectations of our border security agencies from focusing on deportations to, perhaps, reassigning personnel and resources to border patrols?
Immigration activists have been hounding Obama's administration for years about all of those deportations, and perhaps this is his way of trying to kill two birds with one stone.
But executive orders are not permanent. Even though last night's may score Obama some incidental political points, the people he's pretending to help should find no security in what he says. He cannot assure them of the permanency of their stay here. Perhaps they won't be deported tomorrow, but what about next summer? Or after the general election in 2016, when experts suspect a Republican could easily re-take the White House? How is this any way to plan for the future in one's new homeland?
To illegal immigrants, Obama is simply a big tease.
And that's what's so discouraging about last night's charade. Republicans have already begun using the President's pontificating to further demonize illegal immigrants, and will probably be able to find some way of eventually neutering just about everything Obama said last night. The mainstream media refuses to report factually and objectively about this topic, which means confusion will continue to reign among the general public. That could mean Democrats will embark upon a new legislative season on Capitol Hill even further behind in their platform than they were yesterday afternoon, since they'll have to make up for ground that they lost in the President's impotent executive order.
And who will pay for all of this? Yes, the American voter will, in terms of lost productivity (!) within our legislature. But the people who can't vote here legally will be the biggest losers.
Again, it doesn't matter what you think about the broader issue of illegal immigration. There is no way illegal immigrants - or, for that matter, legal immigrants and native-born Americans - benefit from what the President did last night.
Once again, illegal immigrants have emerged from this debate as mere pawns in the political petulance and manipulative power plays that have consumed Washington.