Congressional Republicans convincingly charge that President Barack Obama has exceeded his office’s authority with many of his executive orders — including some on immigration.
The White House and its allies on Capitol Hill convincingly charge that too many Republicans have for far too long blocked bipartisan efforts to deliver long-overdue immigration reform.
Both sides have a point. So there’s plenty of blame to go around as the status quo of a clearly broken immigration system continues.
The partisan finger-pointing on this divisive issue has resumed in earnest with the start of the new Congress.
Last month the House passed an appropriations bill with amendments that would negate some of the presidential orders on immigration. But Senate Democrats blocked that legislation last week.
Harry Reid, D-Nev., readily exerted as minority leader the filibuster-threat option he had so repeatedly decried as majority leader. Sen. Reid also condemned the GOP’s linkage of those immigration amendments to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding as “playing politics with national security.”
But Republicans aren’t the only ones playing politics — and aren’t the only Americans who find serious fault with the president’s extraordinary immigration edicts.
George Washington University Law School Professor Jonathan Turley, a highly respected constitutional scholar and self-described liberal, wrote in a guest column for the Los Angeles Times last year: “[President Obama] asked Congress to change the law to exempt certain classes of immigrants — particularly children — who are in the U.S. illegally from deportation. Congress refused to pass the so-called Dream Act, but Obama proceeded to order agencies to effectively guarantee the very same changes.”
That’s just one example of a troubling power-grab pattern by this president — and not just on immigration. He seeks legislative approval for a policy change, then if Congress doesn’t give it, simply orders the shift. As a former constitutional law professor, he should know better.
Still, Republican lawmakers should know better than to keep taking such a hard immigration line that no legislative compromise is possible.
The president did mostly avoid immigration in his State of the Union speech on Jan. 20. That could be taken as a welcome sign of his willingness to work with Congress on incremental reforms that are much more politically feasible than the type of thorough overhaul passed in 2013 by a Democratic Senate — but with the backing with 14 Republicans, including South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham.
The GOP House then killed that bill — and failed to produce a viable alternative.
Significant Republican intransigence on immigration reform pre-dates the Obama presidency. GOP lawmakers also derailed President George W. Bush’s second-term attempts to advance it.
Now in 2015, Republicans control the Senate, too. And much of the news about the latest clash of partisan wills on immigration predictably focuses on its political fallout.
Presumably, though, the political posturing will subside long enough for the DHS to get its money by the Feb. 28 deadline.
Meanwhile, this pressing reality persists:
Immigration policy is a federal responsibility. While Washington’s failure to fulfill that duty has moved several states, including South Carolina, to pass their own immigration bills in recent years, ultimately the problems this issue presents demand national solutions.
Congressional Republicans can’t deliver those solutions by refusing to meet Democrats on immigration middle ground. President Obama can’t deliver it by presuming to rule as a majority of one on this issue.
That leaves what remains the best — and only real — option:
Both parties, and both the legislative and executive branches, must work together to finally produce effective immigration reform.