Obama and Immigration

Read lots of good stuff on this last night, here goes…

1) First, I do think it is important to mention that regardless of just how “legal” or “constitutional” Obama’s action is (and I’m quite persuaded it’s both) it marks a major action in the use of presidential executive authority.  We should not just blithely accept that as if’ it’s no big deal.  Nor are the liberal comebacks of “Reagan did it” and “GHW Bush did it” exactly apt.  Again, not to say Obama should not have done this, but let’s look at it with open eyes.  This NYT piece is useful on that score.

2) As for that Constitutionality case, Walter Dellinger makes it strongly:

Let’s be clear about what the administration has not done in this opinion. No one has been granted “amnesty,” either literally or functionally. And no precedent has been set for this or any future president to act unilaterally in disregard of acts of Congress. On the contrary, the legal opinion rejects a second proposed exercise of discretion—deferring deportation of the parents of “Dreamers”—that Justice concluded cannot be said to carry out priorities established by Congress.

The fundamental fact is this: There are 11.3 million people in the United States who, for one reason or another, are deportable. The largest number that can be deported in any year under the resources provided by Congress is somewhere around 400,000. Congress has recognized this and in 6 U.S.C. 202 (5) it has directed the secretary of homeland security to establish “national immigration enforcement policies and priorities.” In the action announced tonight, the secretary has done just that, and the president has approved.

3) Eric Posner (and remember he’s a conservative– though among the few reasonable ones) has written easily the best piece I’ve read on the matter (if you follow one of these links, this should be the one).  Like Dellinger, he sees it as perfectly Constitutional, but he does a great job putting it into the larger context of our broken immigration policy:

This “illegal immigration system” might seem to be mutually beneficial—they get jobs, we get cheap labor—but it is unstable. The people who come to work here for cheap wages often settle permanently and become integrated in communities that include American citizens. They intermarry or they arrive as an American’s parent, sibling, or child. The natural sort of sympathy toward the laboring poor that animated many of the protective laws for Americans has led to political pressure to extend the laws to undocumented immigrants as well. People feel uneasy that a large group of second-class citizens resides on our soil. Hence the constant drumbeat from many quarters for a pathway to citizenship.

But to give undocumented immigrants citizenship is to acknowledge that they are entitled to it, and that the “illegal immigration system” is unjust. The current system violates deeply ingrained American principles, which hold that everyone should receive equal protection of the law. That is why the obvious solution to illegal immigration—a lawful guest-worker system—is opposed by nearly everyone, but especially liberals, who see it as institutionalizing a caste system. Indeed, countries that use formal guest-worker systems—like the Persian Gulf countries—are routinely accused of exploiting and abusing migrant workers, of maintaining a caste system or even a system of de facto slavery, of violating human rights law, even though those workers benefit massively from wages much higher than they could earn at home.

The contradiction between ideological opposition to guest workers and the huge demand for cheap foreign labor is the key to the present controversy. To avoid the appearance of a legally recognized caste system while allowing one to exist in reality, Congress has given nearly full legal rights to legal immigrants and passed tough laws to keep everyone else out—while appropriating far too little money to enforce them. This throws to the executive the task of deciding whom to enforce the laws against.

4) Just a nice thorough explanation of the policy, as you would expect from Vox.

5) Excellent Yglesias piece on how Republicans insistence on never cooperating with Obama actually leads to worse policies (from the Republican perspective).

But as we look over President Obama’s plans for sweeping unilateral reform of deportation policy, it’s worth a reminder that this strategy comes at a cost. Republicans’ strategy has been savvy politics, but it’s forced them — repeatedly — to accept worse policy outcomes than they otherwise could have obtained. Alleged presidential overreach is largely a mirror-image of systematic congressional underreach, a dynamic in which GOP members believe constructive engagement would be politically counterproductive and thus deliberately choose to leave obtainable policy concessions on the cutting room floor…

House Republicans mostly did not like the bill. But they also wouldn’t give the bill an up-or-down vote in the House. And they also wouldn’t write a version of immigration reform that they did like and pass that. They preferred to do nothing, even though inaction would lead to a policy outcome they like less.

It’s not a new strategy. And it’s not a crazy strategy either. But it is a deliberate choice. If Republicans wanted more conservative-friendly policy outcomes, they could be getting them. But they prefer more Republican-friendly political outcomes. It’s not unreasonable for conservatives to think that this tradeoff is the right one, all things considered. But what is unreasonable is for conservatives to refuse to recognize that it’s a real choice, a choice that is in their hands, and a choice that they continually make in the direction of worse policy rather than better policy. [emphasis mine]

6) And let’s just end with the crazy, because it’s certainly out there:

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) on Sunday warned that President Obama’s executive actions and general “lawlessness” on immigration could lead to “ethnic cleansing.”

“The long term strategy of, first of all, replacing American voters with illegal aliens, recently legalized, who then become U.S. citizens,” Kobach said. “There is still a decided bias in favor of bigger government not smaller government. So maybe this strategy of replacing American voters with newly legalized aliens, if you look at it through an ethnic lens, … you’ve got a locked in vote for socialism.”…

“What happens, if you know your history, when one culture or one race or one religion overwhelms another culture or race?” the caller asked. “When one race or culture overwhelms another culture, they run them out or they kill them.”

Seriously– show me a Democrat elected to state-wide office even half this crazy.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

4 Responses to Obama and Immigration

  1. rgbact says:

    Matt Yglesias is horribly wrong as usual .House Republicans got exactly the result they wanted! Work permits. The Chamber of Commerce types are probably partying right now. The Dow is way up. Now, many also have hurt egos that Obama did it on his own….but its almost a certainty that they would pass a similar law in a heartbeat. So now, the Chamber of Commerce types really have no reason to ever pass a path to citizenship law. They know, Obama will eventually break down and hand out work permits anyway. What a disaster for Democrats. Unless they can somehow figure out how to get these people voting or if it invites a ton more illegal immigration.

  2. pino says:

    Seriously– show me a Democrat elected to state-wide office even half this crazy.

    Hank Johnson – Guam
    Maxine Waters – You pick it
    Charlie Rangel – He’s pretty crazy too.

    • Mika says:

      I think that you know that Hank Johnson was using a metaphor when he talked about Guam. Why do you pretend you don’t know that?

      • Steve Greene says:

        Yeah, that. And even if he literally meant this, (which I seriously doubt) that would be dumb, not crazy. Though, it was fun to learn of the right-wing silliness on this whole thing.

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