Obama’s immigration implosion

July 9, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about the economy in Denver

President Barack Obama is self-righteously grumbling that, having been stymied by Republicans in Congress, he’ll enact immigration reform on his own by voice vote in the West Wing. That is, via executive decree — his go-to method of governing given his crushing lack of success on Capitol Hill.

But Obama’s promised executive actions will likely entomb immigration reform, which is already dead for the year, in the great sarcophagus of permanently missed opportunities that houses much of whatever it is Obama wanted to do or should have achieved.

The demise of his immigration agenda was predictable because it was killed by the same incompetence and false assumptions that have characterized his entire presidency. Sure, with an immigration fiat, he’ll achieve some short-term goals. A whole new crop of poor immigrants, also known as larval-stage Democratic voters, will enter the country.

NO HEADLINEHe’ll also have an issue he thinks will energize Democratic voters. Though this is problematic because it threatens to ignite Republicans into an even hotter frenzy.

Once Obama unilaterally dictates the terms of an issue that has so engrossed the conservative base in recent weeks that it jettisoned House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the anger will be such that only those seeking a swift and painless political death will touch immigration reform next year. Obama’s typical default to flimsily justified “executive action” will further confirm Republicans’ genuine suspicions that he cannot be trusted to implement an immigration reform law as written.

Think of how little Obama will have done with what was to be the second great issue of issue of his presidency, after health care. He’ll have implemented some limited, temporary measures that will divide the nation and no doubt be reversed as one of the first acts of any Republican who may succeed him.

Even if he secures a Democratic succession, Obama’s “regulations” will be challenged in the courts, which have lately shown they have no appetite for rubber-stamping executive fiats.

People hoping to reach the U.S. ride atop the wagon of a freight train, known as La Bestia (The Beast) in IxtepecWith immigration reform, all the Obama weaknesses have come in to play.

He is, first and foremost, unsuited to the presidency. Unlike Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, all veteran pols who had strong views but took a natural delight in schmoozing, charming and ultimately disarming their opponents, Obama recoils from the basic work of politics.

What’s more, he seems to abhor his opponents. He is certain that they don’t share his concern for average Americans, believing his own rhetoric about their favoritism toward the rich. This president, hailed as a sophisticated man of the world, seems instead to hold a rather primitive view of politics as a struggle between the forces of good on the left and the army of evil on the right.

Obama doesn’t think conservatives particularly like immigration, that they are nativists at heart. That’s why he directed them last week in remarks made in the Rose Garden to “remember” that immigration “makes us strong” and “makes us Americans.”

So he never seriously sought to lay the groundwork for a deal with the right. Because he thinks they don’t want one, that demands to seal the border are a way to avoid action.

A sleeping detainee is seen through the window of  holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in BrownsvilleThis is why Obama failed to hear what conservatives were saying. They feared exactly the mass influx of illegal immigrants we are seeing today. Conservatives asked Obama that, before considering yet another amnesty, this time we secure the border, for real. No more amnesty followed by a new wave of illegal immigrants.

He had five and a half years to set the stage for immigration reform by ensuring the border was sealed. He didn’t come close.

We should have lots of immigration but not unlimited immigration. Because immigrants need time and space to be absorbed into American culture — even as they add beneficial aspects of their culture to ours.

But rather than recognize this viewpoint, Obama chooses to cast his opponents as anti-immigrant, both for political gain and because he believes it.

So there will almost surely be no immigration reform for Obama. The capstone he seeks for his presidency will elude him. And he has himself to thank for it.

Keith Koffler, who has covered the White House since 1997, is editor of the website White House Dossier



PHOTO (TOP): President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about the economy in Denver, July 9, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

PHOTO (INSERT 1): U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents work at a processing facility in Brownsville, Texas, June 18, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Gay/Pool

PHOTO (INSERT 2): People hoping to reach the U.S. ride atop the wagon of a freight train, known as La Bestia (The Beast) in Ixtepec, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, June 18, 2014. REUTERS/Jose de Jesus Cortes

PHOTO (INSERT 3): A sleeping detainee is seen through the window of holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville, Texas, June 18, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Gay/Pool


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It is both disengenous and pointless to attack a lame duck president for failing to… legislate.

Immigration reform has been a manifestly bipartisan failure – of the legislative bodies controlled by Democrats in the past and republicans at present.

Bush Jr. was set to sign McCain’s version of reform written in 2006 – later withdrawn under obstructionist fire. Marco Rubio denounced his own bill, which he never introduced. The common thmese? Both parties would rather gather votes by complaining about immigration as an issue than enacting updates to a failed generation-old law.

The math of this dispute favors the Democrats – as the Latino population rightly sees racial animus behind GOP rhetoric on this issue – an example on display last week with raging mobs of anti-immigrant activists in CA (the state anti-immigrant GOP Gov. Wilson gave as a gift to the Democrats with Prop 187) demanding immediate deportation of unaccompanied minors, regardless of due process or safety needs.

Posted by DonD1977 | Report as abusive

Larval stage democratic voters? Just go ahead and call them little maggots the next time, it doesn’t require any knowledge of entomology to get your intent.

It is pretty obvious the reason we haven’t seen any immigration reform is the big donors to both parties like things the way they are. Or liked the way things were, until this bunch of little kids showed up. Now the party establishment on both side has egg on their face, and the Tea Party comes along screaming “we told you”. The Tea Party donors found a way to get support by uniting a group of voters around a shared theme of hating anything that isn’t white and Christian. That message worked great.

The Tea Party is whipping their base into a frenzy alright. The problem will come in 2016. That core base will never ever vote Democrat. But every time a swing voter hears someone from that core call Obama a chimpanzee or monkey, every time a Tea Party nut job advocates shooting people at the border, every time some right-wing troll says anybody who voted for Obama is stupid, every dead cop that has a Tea Party flag draped over his corpse, guess what happens? That swing voter starts thinking they don’t want to be associated with people like that.

Posted by diluded001 | Report as abusive

First off I think that this article is a thinly-veiled classist/racist hate piece (see: “…poor immigrants, also known as larval-stage…”). However, the Democratic Party’s position on immigration is not sustainable, moreover I believe this problem was exacerbated by Obama’s Dream Act nonsense.

The only way to stop an increaing influx of illegal-aliens is to do just that. Stop them. Don’t feed them, and house them, argue about keeping these ones but not those ones because of this or that. If they don’t legally enter the country, boot them right back out within a responsible timeframe. Before you call me a racist I’m not talking about just the “brown” ones, you can kick the white ones out too. Legal paths to citizenship may be long and difficult but I don’t see any reason to wantingly accept people who knowingly and willingly break the law.

Posted by hellochris06 | Report as abusive

Koffler certainly has established what side of the aisle he stands on. Obama is to blame for the gridlock in Washington? I think most people who have been paying attention will put much more blame on the GOP. It takes two sides to resolve issues and the GOP’s plan from the beginning has been to obstruct, obstruct, obstruct.

As for immigration? The reason we don’t have immigration reform is because GOP representatives know they will not survive any primary if they show even faint support for immigration reform (e.g. Cantor). And yes, Koffler, your base is composed of nativists who only hate President Obama more than brown-skinned immigrants (the fact that most are illegal only give the nativists a ‘reason’ to hate them).

Secure the border first is the GOP demand. So they want a patrol officer every 50 feet along the border 24/7? And even that wouldn’t work because smugglers will just rely more upon tunnels.

Securing the border is a red-herring the GOP uses to obstruct any reform and Koffler knows it. But of course, while NO OTHER president has managed to do it, Obama MUST secure the border or there will be no reform (actually the GOP would come up with another impossible condition in that case).

The truth is, Obama is taking heat from the Hispanics for deporting more illegal immigrants during his administration…many more deportations than the GOP’s better “suited” President Bush.

There are many more points Koffler makes that deserve refutation but alas, work calls. But its clear he has written an opinion breathtaking in its right-wing bias and very misleading if not dishonest. Not an opinion piece worthy of being printed in Reuters.

Posted by distancematters | Report as abusive

I was just told that my private health care policy will be cancelled, because my state has elected to not allow policies that don’t follow the mandate of the health care act requirements. This of course is their way of forcing people into programs that pay in enough money, to keep the government health care program going. And yet… I vaguely recall being told time after time, that Americans would be able to keep the policy they want. And I could swear that was the president who told me that, wasn’t it? So here I am… Being forced into a policy I don’t want… and paying over 1/3 more for it (so far). But yeah… He can’t understand why so many people don’t trust him to handle the immigration issue.

Posted by dd606 | Report as abusive

Its has nothing whatsoever to do with the Tea Party or being white or christian. I’m Independent and I am looking for new faces for 2016. I’m fed up with both sides in this debate. Here’s what I know…..we have millions of homeless children, entire families and veterans on our city streets and NOTHING like this has ever been done for them. When was the last military base opened to house our homeless veterans? Nevermind that we have 86 million working Americans trying to support 144 million on welfare and foodstamps, just go ahead and bring in another million or two immigrants, right? It isn’t going to work folks, and I don’t care which party you support, do the math. If we are going to go further in debt for the immigrants, maybe we should take care of our own first, or along side them. My personal goal for 2016 is vote against anyone who is a lifetime politician. Time for some new blood on both sides.

Posted by itsabruise | Report as abusive

Obama’s big problem is he just can’t get over himself.

Posted by Redford | Report as abusive

Namecalling is fun, but pointless and unilluminating. It’s not commentary when you’re only pandering to an audience of the like-minded.

Surely you can find better content, Reuters…

Posted by markhahn | Report as abusive

This Opinion is completely on point. obama is clearly not suited to be our President; he just doesn’t have the political ‘gene’ that is required to negotiate and compromise with those on the other side of the aisle that don’t agree with you.
obama made this mess on immigration in 2012 with his unilateral amnesty decisions – these drove the “permiso’ mindset of the Central Americans that ‘if you got here – the US wouldn’t send you back’..
I don’t take issue with the comment “larval stage voters”, because that’s exactly how obama views it – if he can entice enough immigration into our border (Red) states and get his ‘fast track’ to citizenship plan passed – then he opens up millions of new Dem voters demanding ever increasing Federal Govt handouts – creating the socialist state he desires.
The guy is a complete failure on every front – immigration is just the latest – but not the last…

Posted by willich6 | Report as abusive

It will be interesting in 50 – 100 years to see what historians say about how someone with such a thin resume became president. While immigration is just one of botched issues, the standing and effectiveness of the US around the world is in stunning decline, thus seriously impeding the cause of freedom. A sluggish economy is a problem, but it pales given what is at stake around the world- those problems are not for a pop culture figure. Whatever else may be said about the incumbent President, he is no Dick Nixon, i.e. having an understanding of the world and how it works.

Also, a note on the references of some posters to Tea Party activists as racists, etc. The Tea Party is about fiscal and economic policy – apparently because their opponents cannot effectively counter them on that front, they retreat, for them, to the familiar and comfortable (and discredited)posture of name- calling.

Posted by SayHey | Report as abusive

Dump Keith Koffler… His material is a waste of time.

Posted by michaelryan | Report as abusive

Mr.Koffler is correct on all points.

Posted by LarryCroft | Report as abusive

I agree with @DonD1977, both parties are to blame for this mess. I think the president just forced the issue. Probably a good thing as other comments noted, the politician are using this for gaining votes with intending to fix it. The republicans are in the worst place because their constituents and party platform want one thing, but their corporate master want another.

I think the worst part of this whole debacle is that one side is calling the other racists. That’s a terrible insult and career damaging. Using it and the word “hate” so much is causing those words to lose meaning.

@michaelryan, This is an opinion piece after all. Watch or read Al Jazeera America if you want balanced news.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

The Southern immigration program is a laughable joke. The border is a nightly floodgate of thousands of illegals rushing into America. The guards can only detain the ones they can physically hold since they aren’t allowed any other method to detain them.
America, in reality, has absolutely no idea how many illegals are actually in the country since they have no idea how many get in daily. When hundreds of children can manage to enter the country with no problem, you can only guess how many adults make it. Once in country they disappear into the closed Hispanic communities in every major border town.
There is a complete network to give them false work papers, green cards, social security cards and medical membership. They work for slave wages to repay the providers and immediately start working to bring more family members in. Many are moved away from border to states to work in agriculture and illegal sweatshops.

Posted by rwaynewright | Report as abusive