A week or so ago, the president of the United States signed an Executive Order giving children of illegal immigrants who crossed over to the US when they were 16 years or less, through no fault of theirs, a two-year relief to remain and work in the country without fear of harassment and deportation, as long as they show continuous commitment to the development of the country. This Order drew praise from the Latino communities who make up the bulk of illegal immigrants, and have borne the brunt of what many in the community saw as an intense deportation campaign by the administration, and complains of “executive overreach” by Republican and other anti-immigrant groups. Even some independents criticized it as election-year scheme to retain the Latino vote. All of them happen to be right, one way or the other.
Is the president’s order an executive overreach? It depends on whom you ask, and the issue in question. Immigration is a hot political topic, regardless of which side of the fence one is; it is also an issue best left to the legislature, working alongside the executive branch to solve. Unfortunately, in the three and half years of the Obama administration, two years of which the Democrats controlled both legislative houses, the administration could not find a solution to this national problem; not so much because they did not try, but because the Republican party blocked every effort to have some form of discussion on immigration. This is not lost on the Latino community.
To compound the administration’s problems, many Republican-controlled states, facing pressure from anti-immigration groups, started usurping the powers of the executive, by passing draconian immigration laws clearly designed to pit the federal against state and local governments in legal battles, and Caucasians which make up the bulk of anti-immigration groups against Latinos in the various states where these laws are passed. Even among the Latino community, divisions arose between pro and anti-immigration Republican Party members; the whole issue was dividing families, friends, business partners, and students at every level. So, something has to be done to calm the tension; hence the temporary fix.
The fact that the executive order was not condemned as an outright illegality confirms the fear of the Republican Party that such a strong reaction could completely alienate the few Latino members and followers in the party. Threats of legal action to ascertain the constitutionality of the president’s action seems to ignore the fact that we have a president who is a constitutional lawyer, and probably knows and researches every issue, and confirms every action from experts before taking them. Finally, when it comes to Executive Orders, there is no such thing as executive overreach, which is why it is called an executive order – an authority allowing the president to bypass legislative gridlock. Many of his predecessors have used it, and many of his successors from either party will do so.
Now, is this an election-year gimmick? Of course! Let’s face it; due to intense campaign by the Republican Party to re-capture the White House, every of the president’s agenda and nominations have been grounded, making it impossible for this administration to accomplish much of anything, even when it had majority in both houses. It mattered little if the administration’s agenda will benefit the ordinary American; as long as Obama was in the white house, that agenda was not going to succeed. Unfortunately for the administration, the suffering and voting public points the blame finger at one place only, the president. He is supposed to find us jobs, buy us cars to get to those jobs, buy us houses, find us wives and husbands, and fix our meals all at the same time. So, it does not matter who is blocking the dividends of Democracy from trickling down to the deserving masses, the president gets the blame. Like every smart politician who is looking at a daily decline at the polls in every ethnic group, the president had to pull a rabbit out of his political hat. So, yes, the Executive Order on immigration was an election-year political scheme to win over the Latinos, and it may just work for him. A Republican president facing the same predicament would have done the same, and the Democrats would wail and complain about it too.
Whether it is a safe or dangerous gamble depends on the reaction of the voters come November. My expectation is that many Caucasians who depend on the cheap labor of the illegal immigrant community for their daily living – lawn mowing, house cleaning, elderly care, car repairs, crop harvesting, road repairs in 100+ degree heat, and the many other minimum-wage labor-intense chores that the middleclass white American would not touch with a ten-foot pole – would not care either way. However, the lazy, beer-drinking, sit-at-home-and-complain type who blames the Latinos for their inability to find a job –not that they really looked hard enough – will align with the anti-immigrant groups to vote for the Republican Party.
For the African-Americans, they are expected to stand by one of their own, just for the simple reason that Republicans, TEA party activists, and select business moguls have sworn to make him a one-term president. For this reason, even the African-Americans who are not impressed with the president’s performance so far, see the current political scenario as reminiscent of the Civil Rights years. They see a white community bent on crippling the progress of a black man at all cost, including a cost to fellow whites. On this perception alone, the black community will support Obama in November, Executive Order or not.
How will the Latino community vote? That will be a deciding factor for the November elections. The short-term gain of the president’s Executive Order is the current rise in polls among Latinos; whether that results in a long-term benefit depends on the long-term memory of the same electoral group. It is a long way between now and November; enough time for Republicans to come up with a better immigration proposal, or pick a Latino vice presidential candidate (a sure turnoff for most white and Asian voters); a long time for the economy to take a further nose-dive, and a long time for anything else beyond the control of both parties to tilt the poll numbers either way. However, it is safe to conclude that if the election is held today, the Latino votes will go to the Democrats.
One other deciding factor of which party will actually benefit from this Order is the action of the anti-immigration groups, and the Republican-controlled states; if they keep pushing their personal agenda, they will push the Latino vote right to Democrats, along with the votes of the many whites who need the immigrants to make it through the day. On the other hand, if these groups and states welcome the president’s immigration Order, while proposing more permanent ideas, they will split the Latino vote down the middle, and keep the upper and middle class votes where they naturally belong.
For now, we can only wait and see how it plays out from now to November.