Friday, November 21, 2014

President Obama’s Immigration “Shadows” Speech

All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart…You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.

President Obama, in November 20 speech promised to pull five million undocumented illegal immigrants “out of the shadows.”

As I listened to President Obama’s speech last night, I thought of a quote from Homer’s Odyssey, “Himself a shadow , seeking shadows.”

After his humiliating and decisive midterm rejection, Obama is a shadow of his former promising self, who was going to transform America and transcend partisan politics. He is limping into his second term, beset by a public that opposes his policies and who is asking for compromise.

Besides, Obama needed a bold stroke to redeem himself with his progressive political base. He felt he needed to act dramatically , some say brazenly, to confront the Republicans while winning Hispanics over for future Democrats. His apparent strategy is to cast blame on the GOP as the party who keeps immigrants furtively hiding in the shadows , out of the bright sunlight of American mainstream life.

The reaction to the speech, which as usual, was eloquent and powerfully delivered was mixed along party lines. What impact it will have is, well, shadowy. It puts Republicans in a dilemma how to respond and not to overact. But they will be in power come January, and they are likely to pursue one or all of three options: pass an immigration act of their own, underfund the Obama proposal, or sue the President for executive overreach.

In reading the various commentaries, the comments of David Gergen, a senior political adviser at CNN and now at the Harvard School of Government and adviser to four presidents, most impressed me.

Gergen begins his commentary: “There is something deeply troubling about President Obama’s decision to grant legal safe haven to unauthorized immigrants by executive order… It isn't the underlying policy that is troubling. Just the opposite. We have known for years that we would never deport some 11 million people from our midst. Many have become hard-working, productive members of our society, and Congress, working with the White House, should long ago have provided them a safe pathway out of the shadows.”

Gergen then ticks off his oncerns.

The immigration problem is not an emergency. It has been around for decades. While the President's impatience is understandable and his anger at Republican intransigence is well placed, that does not justify abandoning traditional ways of addressing hard public problems.

It is against the spirit of the Constitution. It certainly violates the spirit of the founders. They intentionally focused Article One of the Constitution on the Congress and Article Two on the president. That is because the Congress is the body charged with passing laws and the president is the person charged with faithfully carrying them out.

It is a bad way to start with new Congress. The midterm elections were a clear call for a change of course in Washington, starting in the White House. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll finds by 53-40%, Americans feel positive about the election results; by 56-33%, they want Congress to set policy for the country, not the President; by 57-40% they favor a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants but by 42-32%, they disapprove of Obama overhauling immigration through executive order. We have an action from the White House that will cast a dark shadow over prospects for legislative cooperation.

The President action has no direct effect on ObamaCare for undocumented immigrants. But in the future, it might ease their access to Medicaid, “The Sleeping Giant of ObamaCare.” For more information on the latter, see, where my blog on “Medicaid – the Sleeping Giant” appears tomorrow, November 22, 2014

No comments: