Sunday, November 30, 2014
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion
A U.S. president, without action by Congress, takes unilateral executive action to delay deportation and grant work permits to children of undocumented immigrants who would not otherwise be eligible for citizenship.
The president: Ronald Reagan, patron saint of the right wing. The year: 1987. Cries of “tyranny!”, threats of lawsuits, and calls for impeachment: zero.
Another U.S. president expands the program to defer deportation for even more immigrants, again via executive action. The president: George H.W. Bush. The year: 1990. Cries of “tyranny!”, threats of lawsuits, and calls for impeachment: zero.
In 2014, a U.S. president takes executive action after numerous requests for Congress to do something about the broken immigration system. The president: Barack Obama. Cries of “tyranny!”, threats of lawsuits, and calls for impeachment: too many to count.
Actually, I’m sure that the “Republican leadership” (two words I can hardly put in the same sentence without laughing) breathed a huge sigh of relief after the president gave his speech announcing what he planned to do. This is exactly what they wanted. I knew this the minute the Republicans started talking about how any executive action would “poison the well,” meaning that they wouldn’t even try to take action on immigration if Obama did.
The thing is, the GOP really doesn’t want to talk about reforming immigration. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are terrified of even bringing it up. They know that any realistic immigration reform will have to include some kind of path to legal citizenship for at least some currently illegal immigrants. But they also know that that will send the Teahadist wing of the GOP into a frothing rage.
No matter how many conditions, background checks, payment of back taxes or other conditions that proposed path may require, Boehner and McConnell are very aware that the Raging Right will call anything short of mass imprisonment and automatic deportation “amnesty.” They know that they won’t be able to prevent crackpots like Louie Gohmert or Tom Coburn from saying something racist, xenophobic or condescending that will alienate Latinos even further than their party already has.
Any actual debate on immigration reform, even among the majority, would split the Republican Party and drive America’s fastest growing constituency even further away than they already have.
Immediately after the president’s speech, Boehner told the press: “With this action, the president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms that he claims to seek.”
This position is patently absurd. There is absolutely nothing about President Obama’s executive action that keeps Congress from passing its own bill on immigration reform. There is no provision in the Constitution or any federal law that says “should the president do something that hurts the feelings of the majority party, said party shall thenceforth be without power to pass legislation, so there.”
The only thing that’s stopping the Republicans from doing their job of passing legislation is the inability of their “leadership” (chuckle) to actually get their motley collection of nutcases, prima donnas, grifters and future Fox News hosts to fall in line, stop playing to the cameras, and, as the president challenged them in his speech, “pass a bill.”
The Obama administration’s response to every question or complaint needs to be those three words: “Pass a bill.”
“This is dictatorship!” … “Pass a bill.”
“You’re acting lawlessly!” … “Pass a bill.”
“You’re not the boss of us!” … “Pass a bill.”
“You should go to jail for this!” … “Pass. A. Bill.”
In fact, a comprehensive bipartisan immigration bill has already passed the Senate — 68-32, with 14 Republicans crossing the aisle to vote for it. It provides for increased border security, requires mandatory verification systems by employers, and yes, contains an arduous 13-year path to citizenship that could only be called “amnesty” by people completely unaware of what that word actually means. That bill was strangled in its crib by the House.
The House could take up the Senate bill or provide its own version. But that’s not going to happen. The Republicans will stomp their feet and yell and send out fundraising letters and emails. They’ll threaten and maybe even file lawsuits. They’ll threaten to shut down the government and maybe even do it. They’ll threaten to impeach, and maybe even do it. Will they do the one thing that would make this unnecessary, which is pass a bill?
We can expect more useless political theater from the party that can win a midterm where only 36.4 percent of the voters show up (a 72-year low), but which is utterly incapable of actually governing afterward.