Barack Obama’s abuse of power to disable the U.S. immigration system developed enough of a pop-culture charge over the weekend to inspire a Saturday Night Live skit that was actually funny for a change:
Even funnier was that certain liberal media outlets snapped into full “Protect the Precious!” mode and tried fact-checking the SNL skit. For my part, I thought they went a bit too far cushioning the blow – they didn’t get into mocking what Obama did, just how he did it; if they’d shown him throwing a few unemployed Americans off those steps to make room for his new preferred foreign constituents, the skit would have been more comprehensively devastating. Also, the line about how a bill would be born if Republicans created it is a cheap dodge that both semi-validates Obama’s absurd anti-Constitutional claim that he needs to assume despotic powers because Republicans didn’t pass an immigration bill, and evades the extremely uncomfortable point that Democrats didn’t produce one during their two years of unchallenged power at the beginning of Obama’s term. Let’s not forget any of the history leading up to Obama’s action, because it’s important for the American people to absorb the full scope of how outrageous it is.
What will the Republicans do in response to this outrage? There are three basic schools of thought. School Number One is, alas, capitulation, perhaps culminating in outright submission. Some leading Republicans are grumbling about Obama’s executive amnesty without giving much of a hint as to how they plan to oppose it, which leads seasoned observers of the GOP Establishment to conclude they won’t do anything, outside of trying to score a few very cheap political points by criticizing the Emperor before they go along with him. After all, a not-insignificant segment of the Establishment either actively desires amnesty (followed by even more cheap labor pouring across the border) or thinks it’s politically impossible to oppose it, without suffering the undying scorn of the new imported voters plus a dangerous percentage of legal Latino citizens. Maybe they’ll even give him the kind of immigration bill he wanted all along, seasoned with a bit of beaten-dog whining: don’t strip any more of our powers, you don’t have to hurt the Constitution any more, we’ll give you everything you want, next time just tell us when you’re really serious about seizing dictatorial powers and we’ll capitulate a little earlier…
A second possibility is advocated by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who suggested passing stand-alone immigration bills that include some measures Obama doesn’t much care for, on the theory that his executive-order rhetoric will make it more difficult for him to veto such measures. “Put legislation on the President’s desk,” Flake suggested on Friday, as reported by the Dallas Morning News. “We could do bills on border security, interior enforcement, mandatory E-Verify [a federal program to electronically verify workers??? legal status], and address high-tech workers and guest workers.”
Flake wrote an op-ed with Arizona’s other Senator, John McCain, in which they decried the way Obama’s executive-order arrogance would make crafting a bipartisan immigration reform bill much more difficult:
These unilateral orders not only lack legal justification but promise to set back important bipartisan efforts in Congress to reform our broken immigration system and secure our nation’s borders ??? key priorities for Arizona for which we have long fought.
Immigration is an issue that must be debated and decided by the representatives of the people, not by executive fiat. We had hoped that President Obama would, at the very least, give the new Congress a chance to engage on this issue next year before contemplating any action.
But it is now clear that he is more interested in using the issue to the Democrats’ political advantage in 2016 than he is in reaching across the aisle to address this pressing national challenge once and for all. Unfortunately, in recent years, this kind of presidential undermining of real opportunities for immigration reform has become all too typical.
Flake fleshed out this proposal in a conversation with Dana Milbank of the Washington Post:
Flake is a conservative in good standing, and he opposes the executive action as much as the next Republican. Elected to the Senate in 2012 after a dozen years in the House, he has a 95???percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union. But he???s also a reasonable man; he was a member of the Gang of Eight that crafted the original Senate compromise on immigration. And this border-state legislator thinks it???s stupid to shut down the government in an effort to undo Obama???s immigration order. As for the lawsuits against Obama? ???Background noise,??? he said.Instead, Flake proposes letting the action stand ??? and even offering to make it permanent ??? if Obama first makes the three concessions that Republicans have long sought on immigration. His hunch is that Obama, to quell the Republican rage on immigration and to make his executive action permanent, would ultimately take that deal.
First, Flake wants the House, followed by the Senate, to pass a border security bill with tougher standards than the Senate compromise, requiring a 90 percent apprehension rate at the border before any permanent legalization of undocumented immigrants. Obama, who has just stretched the limits of his constitutional authority to protect undocumented immigrants, ???would be harder-pressed to veto a border security bill, a tough one, than he would have before,??? Flake figures.
Next, the Republican Congress would send Obama a bill with tougher interior enforcement of immigration, including a mandatory ???e-verify??? program. Third, Congress would send Obama legislation covering visas for temporary and high-tech workers. Some Democrats would object to both, but Obama would find them ???tougher for him to turn down now??? after the furor stirred by his executive order.
Then, and only then, would Congress send Obama legislation giving his executive action the force of law and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Flake admits that will still be opposed by many Republicans as so-called amnesty. But he thinks he can win over enough of them after giving them the piecemeal approach to immigration reform they insisted on.
Obama and the Democrats may regard the first three bills as legislative eye pokes, but the president, who picked this latest fight with his executive action, has a powerful incentive to make concessions now: His action offers temporary protection from deportation to 3.7???million undocumented immigrants, but without congressional approval, it doesn???t put anybody on a path to citizenship, and it can be erased by a future president.
Something tells me Milbank will be far less supportive of Congress making deals with a unitary executive when we’re talking about a Republican President using executive orders to force conservative tax reform. The idea that Obama has “powerful incentives to make concessions” is painfully naive, a relic of starry-eyed idealism from someone who doesn’t want to admit that the reality of the Obama presidency is very different from all the soaring campaign rhetoric about togetherness and bipartisan cooperation. Why would Obama want to make any concessions when he’s already trampled the Constitution to seize despotic powers? He knows what he’s doing is enormously unpopular with the American people, especially when it comes hard on the heels of an election where Democrats got massacred, in no small part over immigration reform.
Seizing power and overturning the 2014 midterm elections was the point of doing this, including the power that will accrue to the Left under a reshaped American electorate that will include tens of millions of new Big Government-friendly voters, once chain migration and the next border surge have augmented the numbers already here. Why in the world would Obama jeopardize all that, and risk nullifying the actions that enrage so many Americans last week, to accept legislation with triggers that he might not be able to fulfill, and doesn’t even want to try fulfilling? Senator Flake might be right that Obama left himself a bit less room to maneuver when conservative-leaning immigration reform lands on his desk… but one of the charms of despotism is that you don’t have to worry about maneuvering. Obama will deflect these “pokes in the eye” with some more hot air about how much he loves immigrants, and maybe trot out a few more “dreamers” who are working on their third college degrees. It’ll make Democrats increasingly nervous about their prospects in 2016, but behind closed doors, Obama’s people will remind them 2016 is the last election they need to worry about, especially if the process of neutering Congress to make midterm elections irrelevant continues.
That leaves the third response, which involves active resistance to Obama’s power grab using legislative and budgeting tools. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) remains the leader of that opposition, appearing on Fox News Sunday to discuss his plans:
Cruz has the support of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), quoted by the Dallas Morning News:
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a leading opponent of the president???s action and the likely incoming chairman of the budget committee, accused Obama of refusing to enforce the law and promised to use budgetary measures to prevent funding for the implementation of the new immigration rules.
Speaking Friday at the Heritage Foundation, Sessions said such action was necessary because Obama ???granted amnesty to 5 million people, and he did it by basically saying, ???I???m not going to enforce the laws of the United States of America.???
???He ignored the interests of the American people, the American workers, recent immigrants who have been here and are looking for jobs in a time of unemployment. He undermined, in my view, the moral integrity of immigration law.???
Over in the House, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) of the House Homeland Security Committee vowed to use “every tool at my disposal to stop the president???s unconstitutional actions from being implemented, starting with this oversight hearing.”
The hard political facts Republicans need to keep in mind is that Obama has assaulted the Constitution itself, and while his oath to defend the Constitution clearly means little to him (at least, not when it gets in the way of something he really wants) the public expects the Republican Senate it just elected, and the House majority it historically expanded, to take theirs seriously. Legalizing what Obama has done would only ratify his actions and invite further abuse; it would be like using a barbed-wire tourniquet to stop the Constitution from bleeding. The public is in no mood to reward lawbreakers, be they in the Oval Office or freshly arrived across an increasingly theoretical border.