Immigration machinations cant hide the need for comprehensive reform by Congress
President Barack Obama’s executive order allowing roughly 1.7 million young illegal immigrants to apply for legal status took effect Wednesday. That news predictably prompted widely varying reactions — just as the president did when he signed the order two months ago.
But both sides in the heated debate over how to deal with an estimated 11 million immigrants in the United States should agree that congressional legislation — not presidential fiat — is the only responsible long-term course.
Too bad that didn’t stop the president from his self-serving, election-year power grab. President Obama has pushed in vain for Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which included the path to legal status for young immigrants. Now he has simply bypassed the legislative branch to implement the policy it rejected.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended that move in a guest column in Wednesday’s Miami Herald, writing:
“This is about young people who study in our schools, grow up in our communities, and contribute to our country in meaningful ways.”
It’s about President Obama’s attempt to maximize Hispanic support for his re-election bid, too.
Many conservatives have blasted the president’s gambit as “back-door amnesty.” But though Mitt Romney took a hard line against illegal immigration during the race for the GOP presidential nomination, he and Paul Ryan have been restrained this week in their reactions to the president’s order. Evidently they, like President Obama, are mindful of the Latino vote.
Political calculations aside, however, both parties have long neglected the issue of illegal immigration in Congress.
From 2005 to 2007, President George W. Bush and Republican Senate allies, including Arizona’s John McCain and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, learned the hard way that their party’s conservative base strongly opposes any reform package that includes anything remotely resembling “amnesty.”
Our senior senator even was unfairly branded “Grahamnesty” for daring to seek middle ground by backing a reform proposal that included a “pathway to citizenship.”
But it would be physically — and economically — impractical to round up all 11 million illegal immigrants and deport them.
It’s also inappropriate for this or any other president to override Congress’ legislative role in setting immigration policy. The administration’s contention that it is simply practicing “prosecutorial discretion” by creating a new application system for young illegal immigrants is dubious at best.
Again, in the long run, a bipartisan congressional compromise, not piecemeal executive orders, is the only proper solution to the problem of rampant illegal immigration.
And that will remain the case regardless of who wins the presidency — and control of the House and Senate — on Nov. 6.