Obama’s immigration implosion
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.
He’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.
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.
This 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