In light of the President’s dramatic announcement today that he has changed his administration’s immigration policies for younger illegal immigrants, the right has had a total meltdown. Fox News already inferred that the President did something wrong with this headline, “Obama Administration Bypasses Congress, to Give Immunity, Stop Deporting Younger Illegals.”
Fox originally had a photo of a group of handcuffed allegedly illegal immigrants to accompany this headline. So, the message was the President bypassed Congress, and granted immunity to criminals. According to Media Matters, Fox since changed the photo on the article but left it on the front page. Clever.
Things are bit more nuanced than Fox suggests.
However, Fox News is far from the only one who is having a collective mental meltdown over this.
Here is the always even keeled (/sarcasm) Rush Limbaugh comparing Obama’s immigration policy change to Nixon:
Not to be outdone, Republican politicians have donned their teabags and started misinterpreting the constitution.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) who has decided to waste taxpayer money by taking the White House to court over this policy said, “Americans should be outraged that President Obama is planning to usurp the Constitutional authority of the United States Congress and grant amnesty by edict to 1 million illegal aliens,” King said in a statement. “There is no ambiguity in Congress about whether the DREAM Act’s amnesty program should be the law of the land. It has been rejected by Congress, and yet President Obama has decided that he will move forward with it anyway. President Obama, an ex constitutional law professor, whose favorite word is audacity, is prepared to violate the principles of Constitutional Law that he taught. “The American people have rejected amnesty because it will erode the Rule of Law. In much the same way, I believe the American people will reject President Obama for his repeated efforts to violate the Constitutional separation of powers.”
Rep. Allen West (R-FL) said, “This is yet another example of executive branch overreach. We have a legislative process that ensures representative governance by the consent of the American people. This action should be crafted into legislation, debated in committee and brought before the House and Senate for vote, with accordance of our Constitutional Republic way.”
Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) said, “The President’s action today is a direct slap at the American worker,” Gallegly said in a statement. “By giving 800,000 illegal immigrants work permits with no time limit or expiration date, he is telling American workers – millions of whom are unemployed through no fault of their own – that he does not care about their plight. Instead of working with Congress to help the private sector create jobs, the President continues to promote policies that rob Americans of their livelihoods. Under the Constitution it is Congress’ job to create immigration policy and it is the President’s job to enforce it. The House and Senate have repeatedly rejected the DREAM Act. Mr. President, enforce the law and stop making it harder for American workers to take care of their families.”
Rep. Gallegly apparently doesn’t understand how the government he serves in works. Policy is not the same as legislation. Congress is responsible for legislation. Policy is the principle behind the legislation. The legislation is the actual written statement that if passed and signed by the president becomes law. Policy making is not something that is exclusively owned by any of the branches of government. In the system that the Founders designed both the Legislative and Executive Branches along with citizens work together to formulate policy.
Gallegly’s claim that the change in immigration policy, which is supported by a majority of Americans, will take away jobs from citizens is equally foolish. President Obama didn’t give jobs to the people impacted by the policy shift. He made it possible for these people legally to apply for jobs.
The Republican claims of this action being a power grab are equally inaccurate. President Obama did not violate the constitution, because he did not pass a new law. The president is the head if the Executive Branch, and has the authority to direct agencies within his branch on the implementation of policy. President Obama was fully within his constitutional authority and Rep. King should be prepared to have his lawsuit laughed out of court.
The Obama administration’s new policy grants no path to citizenship, as only Congress can do that. What it does do is give undocumented immigrants who meet certain conditions — including but not limited to having no felony or significant misdemeanor convictions, an honorable discharge from military service or graduated from high school — the ability to apply to receive deferred action from deportation.
Here is Obama on the new Dreamers policy:
Janet Napotitano’s Department of Homeland Security memo explains the purpose of the policy shift:
“By this memorandum, I am setting forth how, in the exercise of our prosecutorial discretion, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should enforce the Nation’s immigration laws against certain young people who were brought to this country as children and know only this country as home. As a general matter, these individuals lacked the intent to violate the law and our ongoing review of pending removal cases is already offering administrative closure to many of them. However, additional measures are necessary to ensure that our enforcement resources are not expended on these low priority cases but are instead appropriately focused on people who meet our enforcement priorities.”
How can Obama do this without Congress?
Obama needs Congress to change the law; for example, only Congress can pass the original bipartisan DREAM Act. However, the President can modify existing policies of agencies that fall under the Executive Branch, and that’s what he’s doing in this case.
Janet Napolitano explained in her memo, “This memorandum confers no substantive right, immigration status or pathway to citizenship. Only the Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights. It remains for the executive branch, however, to set forth policy for the exercise of discretion within the framework of the existing law. I have done so here.”
Furthermore, this is not immunity nor is it amnesty. It’s an offer to apply for a work visa to folks who have already proven that they’re willing to work hard. The administration says it will allow them to focus more resources on undocumented immigrants who pose a threat.
See how that makes common sense? Well, now you know why Republicans and Fox News hate it.
They also hate it because they never saw it coming. After Obama surprised them by supporting gay marriage, you would think that they might catch on, but no. While the Republican Party has been offending Hispanic voters more than Gob Bluth’s chicken dance, President Obama was telling anyone who would listen that if Congress wouldn’t act, he would.
To the surprise of absolutely no one who is paying attention, he did.
The end result is a Republican Party that has seen their strategy of obstruction thwarted yet again, and with no plan they are left to do what they do best – panic and blame Obama.
Immigration is the great Republican weak spot. What the president announced today was the morally correct decision, but it was also politically powerful. This is a policy shift that will play well with Latinos in states like Arizona, Colorado, and Florida.
Republicans have been thrown for a loop, and are now back in their political fetal position wondering what just happened and when Nurse Ratched will be coming with their meds.