President Barack Obama’s recently announced Homeland Security Directive, aimed at young immigrants, has reframed the entire Presidential campaign as June draws to a close. The essence of the order means that, if they meet the directive’s criteria, DREAMers (as they’re called in reference to the DREAM act) would not be deported, and instead would have the opportunity to apply for a two-year work permit potentially allowing them to work, drive, and go to college here in the U.S.
As a longtime supporter of realistic, rational, and comprehensive immigration reform, I’m both glad at the announcement and encouraged that the President has finally come to terms with the fact that the same Republicans who insist he work with them on this issue have neither the will, the way, or, in the case of House Republicans, even the desire to do so. My stance on immigration has always been clear.
As the Senator of the most diverse district in Georgia, the 5th, I’ve seen firsthand the damage our nation’s incoherent immigration policy has done to this millennium’s huddled, yearning masses. Something needs to be done on the federal level that treats these people with both justice and kindness. Of course, that doesn’t mean the policy that President Obama announced is comprehensive enough to achieve such a tall order. It truly is a stopgap measure, one that will only provide short-term relief to the few who are caught up in a long-term problem.
With that in mind, it’s interesting to see the pushback that the President has gotten for announcing this. While the actual directive itself is a small stand on the principle those immigrants brought here as young children or infants shouldn’t be punished for their parents mistakes, the politics are being inflated to something bigger.
Speaker Boehner actually stated that changing this rule is “mak(ing) it much more difficult for us to work in a bipartisan way to get a permanent solution.” U.S. Senator Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, says its “poison(ed) the well for immigration”, while Senator Rubio, who was working on his own version of the DREAM Act to propose this session, has been quoted saying that the executive order will make immigration reform “harder to achieve in the long run."
I’m sorry, but y’all need to understand something: these Republicans are lying. It’s naive at best and disingenuous at worst, to say that all bipartisan efforts have been ruined when you are the ones holding back any significant progress on immigration. U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican, was the first one who proposed the DREAM Act and got it on the table in Washington back in 2001 when President Bush was ascendant. Senator McCain was one half of the group that tried for bipartisan immigration support in 2007.
Only in 2010, when President Obama was in the White House and the DREAM Act was proposed yet again, did immigration reform become another party-line issue for Republican legislators. Of course, that was the year of the Tea Party and the power of the far-right base. Now that we’ve arrived in 2012 and have a presidential election, which, as a reminder, are usually won on the backs of independents, are these GOP leaders sorrowfully shaking their heads over President Obama “poisoning the well”, despite the fact that he’s currently the only one who’s actually done anything about our immigration problems?
The politics of this directive is different than the policy. Overall, this is a change that will positively benefit a small amount of immigrants that most Americans agree shouldn’t be penalized for growing up in our country. That’s probably why after this was announced, about two-thirds of American independents supported it. However, that same number is also the reason why the politics are different than the policy.
Politically, President Obama pulled the rug out from under the GOP by announcing this, forcing Governor Romney to articulate his own, distinct position on immigration (which is a weak point for Romney) while baiting the most ardent anti-immigrant anything supporters to come out of the woodwork and remind Hispanics why they might be wary of voting Republican this fall.
More moderate GOP leaders in Washington can’t attack the actual policy implications of this Homeland Security Directive for those same anti-immigrant reasons; after all, Senator Rubio’s prominence in the party is only one example of how they’re pivoting and trying to create a conservative-Hispanic coalition in order to adapt to America’s changing demographics. So all they can do now is complain about how the timing of the order is bad, or that it’s too political.
And that’s fine, but just be honest: You believe that the children of immigrants should be given a reasonable track to U.S. citizenship too, but you’re pissed that President Obama beat you to saying it.