President Obama didn’t just announce immigration action. He used the immigration issue as a sledgehammer to bludgeon John Boehner and Mitch McConnell while destroying their agenda.
Obama began by stressing that immigration has kept the nation youthful, dynamic, and shaped our character. The president discussed how he had increased border security. He went right to the heart of the matter by calling out Speaker of the House John Boehner for not allowing a vote on the Senate passed immigration bill. The president said, “Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote. The president said that he continues to believe that the best way to reform the system is to pass a law.”
Obama also called out the Republican fantasy of deporting all illegal immigrants, “But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants – in every state, of every race and nationality – will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.”
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The president pushed back on the Republican cries of amnesty,
I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.
That’s the real amnesty – leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.
President Obama dared Republicans to pass an immigration bill, “The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution.”
What was an announcement of immigration executive action also was a vigorous step to hold Republicans accountable. President Obama pulled no punches on the Republicans and easily knocked down the Republican cries of amnesty and a lawless president.
Obama called for reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate. This is exactly the kind of debate that racial politics playing Republicans have refused to engage in on this issue for more than a decade. The executive action doesn’t go nearly as far as Republican fearmongers suggested it would. The changes are extremely important for millions, but they are not amnesty.
The president dealt a body blow to Republicans by quoting scripture and painting his executive action immigration as an act of compassion to keep families together. President Obama has painted Republicans into a corner, and set the stage for GOP to destroy itself on this issue.
Boehner and McConnell have been terrified of the immigration issue for years. President Obama has taken a sledgehammer to the Republican agenda and placed the one issue that Republicans don’t want to talk about front and center in our national conversation.
Obama demonstrated tonight what the power of the presidency can do to even the angriest opposition.
Your move, Speaker Boehner.
Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association