Ruben Navarrette’s Take

Ruben Navarrette, a pro-immigration columnist, seems mad at Obama for his semi-amnesty. I can’t understand why.

Ruben Navarrette: Obama’s immigration con job (Indy Star)

President Obama’s recent immigration announcement is a moral hoax and a masterful political move.

Obama claims his administration will no longer deport young illegal immigrants if they meet certain conditions — i.e., if they are younger than 31, came here before they were 16, haven’t been convicted of a felony, have graduated from high school, attend college, or join the military.

Naturally, both the left and the right are pretty worked up. And yet, if you listen to the discussion, it’s clear that neither side understands what just happened — and, perhaps more importantly, what didn’t.

The left is driven by hope and the right is driven by fear. But they both arrived at the same place: a complete distortion of reality. Liberals — specifically, those pro-immigration-reform Latino voters who have been abandoned by Obama for the last three and a half years — are so desperate to finally have the president they voted for that every time Obama throws them a bone, they call it a steak dinner…

First, let’s get one thing straight. No matter what the media are saying, this is not really a new policy. The Obama immigration strategy is like a restaurant that keeps having its “grand opening” every few months in the hope that the gimmick will stir interest and attract customers. But with immigration, the only thing Obama is trying to attract is the Latino vote.

In March 2011, Obama told Univision’s Jorge Ramos that his administration had “refocused our efforts on those who have engaged in criminal activity” so that “we aren’t going around rounding up students.” The president called any accusation that they were deporting DREAMers — young people who might qualify for legal status under the DREAM Act because they attend college or join the military — “completely false.”

In June 2011, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton issued an internal memo advising ICE agents and prosecutors at the local level to use their discretion to not deport individuals who fell into certain categories, including young people attending school. It should be noted that Morton has one of the toughest jobs in law enforcement because he has to reconcile Obama’s soft rhetoric with the hard reality laid down by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. This includes, according to The Washington Post, quotas for the number of deportations the department hopes to achieve each month.

Obama’s comments were untrue. Morton’s memo was unheeded. So now, with a lot of election-year fanfare, the president insists his administration will stop doing something that it wasn’t supposed to be doing: deporting students.

There are four stations of relief for illegal immigrations — not deporting them, issuing them work permits, granting them permanent residency, and awarding them citizenship. The first one falls under the purview of the executive branch, and the last two under the legislative. The part about issuing work permits is disputed territory, and we’ll have to see what the courts say about this. Obama offered a stay on deportations and the granting of work permits, but what really matter are residency and citizenship.

The left thinks that Obama’s latest announcement means that these kids are now full-fledged Americans who can pursue their dreams, choose any career they want, and stay in this country for the rest of their lives. The right is calling it a backdoor “amnesty” for illegal immigrants that undermines the rule of law, usurps the power of Congress and threatens U.S. workers…

What a brilliant maneuver by the president — and, for young illegal immigrants, a cruel one.

Sure, it’s a small step. Maybe Obama could do more, although he probably couldn’t deliver residency and citizenship right now. At any rate, he can’t do it on his own. Certainly, he could have spent more of his political capital on this. He could have done more in 2009-2010. He could have used executive discretion long before now. Certainly, he seems to be using immigration in a cynical fashion, trying to do as little as he can to keep the Latino vote– and that’s particularly revolting, given the moral urgency of his issue. Certainly, he’s far from being a hero. But still, it’s a clear step in the right direction, and it gives Dreamers a foothold in this country that it might be hard for future presidents to revoke. It seems like Navarrette should be happier about it.

Nathan Smith

Nathan Smith is an assistant professor of economics at Fresno Pacific University. He did his Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University and has also worked for the World Bank. Smith proposed Don’t Restrict Immigration, Tax It, one of the more comprehensive keyhole solution proposals to address concerns surrounding open borders.

See also:

Page about Nathan Smith on Open Borders
All blog posts by Nathan Smith

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