Of course, the critics are right. President Barack Obama’s unilateral move to relax federal deportation policy is a re-election ploy. The move addresses only part of the immigration problem.
Some question whether Obama’s approach is even legal.
The criticism rings particularly hollow when it comes from members of Congress. The fact that the nation’s serious and complicated immigration issue is being addressed through half measures reflects as poorly on the legislative branch as it does on the executive branch.
When Americans need an example of their government’s inability to solve long-lingering problems, immigration fills the bill quite nicely.
And so — in the midst of a presidential election year, when the White House and Congress are unlikely to agree on anything of substance — Obama opted to go it alone. His Department of Homeland Security will not seek to deport an estimated 800,000 illegal immigrants who are no older than 30 and were brought to the United States when they were under age 16.
This isn’t a blanket move, however. The policy applies only to veterans, students, high school graduates or GED recipients; to people who have been in the country for at least five years and do not pose a risk to national security or public safety. Setting aside the politics, this is reasonable, decent and it focuses enforcement resources where they are most needed.
Setting aside politics is impossible, of course, when immigration is the issue. So it was more than a bit naive when Obama followed up his deportation decision with an appeal, in the June 17 issue of Time magazine, for Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would grant citizenship to many of the same illegal immigrants who will benefit from relaxed enforcement policy.
Never mind that the DREAM Act has been around long enough to earn bipartisan support. Not too long ago, in 2003, Idaho GOP Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo were co-sponsors.
Crapo is a tougher read these days. Crapo could support a bill again, spokesman Lindsay Nothern said, as long as it does not offer amnesty or give advantage to people who are in the country illegally. One could argue that the DREAM Act’s path to citizenship provides just such an advantage — at the expense of those seeking to immigrate legally.
No matter, really. The odds of Congress passing something like the DREAM Act this year are remote. The odds of passing comprehensive reform are non-existent.
On Thursday, appearing with Lou Dobbs on the FOX Business network, Crapo chided Obama for failing to seek a comprehensive immigration reform, especially in the two years he worked with a Democratic Congress.
Well, fine. But Congress has a share of the blame that predates Obama’s election. Congress has failed to get this job done for years — even when working alongside George W. Bush, a president who genuinely made immigration reform a priority.
For several years, we have argued for a comprehensive immigration plan that would balance national security and community safety with the needs of employers, while coming up with a rational, workable approach for addressing the millions of people already in this country illegally. Expecting comprehensive reform at this point in time seems futile, and blind to the current state of political dysfunction.
Obama’s unilateral move falls far short of comprehensive reform, but it is at least an attempt to do something.
“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board.