I know some readers think Obama is equivalent to Stalin in his policies and actions, but I think that’s completely nuts. In general, he’s been a good President, has gotten the economy moving, gotten health care enacted, and is pulling the U.S. out of our futile entanglements in the Middle East. And really, would you have preferred Romney?
But if he has one overweening failure, it’s his confidence that he could work with the Republicans in Congress to enact bipartisan reform, particularly of immigration. That was dumb: the Republican agenda consists of four words: Defeat Anything Obama Wants. It took a while for Obama to realize this, and then he stalled his own action on immigration reform until after the mid-term elections, hoping that this cowardly delay would help the Democrats.
Well, we know how that worked out. So, yesterday, Obama announced a fairly comprehensive plan of immigration reform, to be implemented by executive order. I didn’t watch his speech since the details had already been released, but here are a few provisions as reported in today’s New York Times and CNN:
- Five million illegal immigrant will be protected from deportation.
- Four million of those can apply for legal status and receive Social Security cards, so long as they are parents of legal U.S. citizen (children born here or their children who received legal status already), have been in the U.S. five years or longer. and pass background checks. They will be required to pay U.S. taxes but will not (I think) be eligible for “Obamacare”.
- Children who were brought here illegally (the “dreamers”) will be allowed to stay.
- A federal program that allowed document checks of people stopped for small offenses like traffic violations will be ended.
- On the enforcement side, gang members and criminals will be increasingly targeted for prosecution or deportation, and there will be new provisions and funding to stem the flow of illegal immigrants (good luck with that!)
This was the right thing to do. These immigrants, though often characterized as parasites on the U.S. economy, do many of the necessary but onerous jobs that Americans don’t want. Many busboys and dishwashers in Chicago, for example, are undocumented Hispanics. This gives them a chance to work their way out of poverty and to fulfill something I still believe in: the “American dream.” There’s no way we can simply prosecute and deport every one of the millions of people who are here illegally.
So chalk one up for the President, even if this action was deferred too long. He learned his lesson about Republicans the hard way: they have no interest in ruling by consensus with the executive branch.
Two problems remain. First, there’s the goddam Republicans, who, incensed that Obama is letting brown people stay in the country, are threatening reprisal—either further pushback of Democratic legislation or even a shutdown of the government. That is the action of a petulant child. The only immigration “reform” most Republicans want is to keep all non-white people out of the country.
Second, it will be nearly impossible to stem the tide of immigrants, or so I think. Walls don’t stop them, police don’t stop them; nothing, it seems, will stop them. Life is simply better here—even as a low-wage undocumented worker with a crummy job—than in places like Honduras or much of Mexico. So the flow of immigrants is a problem deferred, not a problem solved.
One thing I noticed in all this debate: “illegal immigrant” or “illegal alien” has been replaced with the term “undocumented immigrant.” I wasn’t aware of this transformation, but I found one report saying that “illegal” is offensive to such people. I find that bizarre, for they truly did come into this country illegally, and, after all, “undocumented” means “a worker without legal documents.” This is the kind of euphemism, propagated by immigration reformers, that is supposed to defuse the illegality of what happened. (Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” gives many examples.) But let us make no mistake; these people came here illegally. Nevertheless, the fact that they broke the law (many out of sheer desperation) is irrelevant to the justice that Obama meted out yesterday.