I’m Confused as Hell by Obama’s Immigration Move 1

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I Don’t Get It

Usually, even when I disagree with a political decision, I understand the reasoning behind it. Often there are more or less cynical ways to interpret any particular decision, but the as long as you approach the situation from the perspective that the people who came up with the law, proposal, or whatever are smart people, it makes sense. There’s a tendency on both sides to assume the other side is either stupid or evil, and that’s wrong, it’s ignorant, and it’s silly. People disagreeing with you doesn’t make them stupid, or evil, and ignoring their arguments sure as hell doesn’t make you smart or give you the moral high ground. It’s a useful skill in life to take a view directly opposed to yours, and then turn around to see it from the alternative perspective. Usually, when done right, their arguments make sense, even if they might not lead to an outcome you personally agree with.


That said, Obama’s recent actions on immigration are . . . confusing. I thought there’d be something to it that made it make sense when he announced it, some sort of surprise that gave it shape. Well, I’ve been flipping it over and over, and it still makes no sense. By his own repeated assertion, it makes no sense legally. It makes no sense politically. It makes no sense from a perspective of compassion or humanitarianism, either. It just makes no sense. It comes sort of close to sense from two different angles, sort of, but both those interpretation are so cynical and petty that it sort knocks them back out of sense, and I’m inclined to hope I’m just missing something.




How Does This Benefit Democrats Politically?


So, according to Gallup, about 15% of voters regard immigration/illegal aliens as the most important problem facing the United States, and that’s a spike; it’s polled about half that most of the year. That means 1/7 of Americans think this the big issue; but this is the combined total for people both strongly for or against it. Dissatisfaction with the government  tops the list at 19%, and that’s not a split group.


So Obama has just made a major decision regarding the future of millions of people without a single democratic or republican vote. Even a great many people, myself included, who are very much pro-immigration reform are way wigged out by that. No, it doesn’t fling the door to tyranny wide open, but it’s hard to shake the sense that it certainly undid a couple of deadbolts.


One wonders why, in a political climate when a few people care about immigration, and most of them back the reform angle proposed by both Democrats and moderate Republicans, but a lot of people are nervous about government overreach, Obama has just decided to take all the pressure off of Republicans regarding one their biggest weaknesses as party . . . in a way that plays directly into the Beware Big Government narrative the GOP has ridden to a total massacre of the Democrats in two consecutive midterm elections.


What’s more, while two thirds of Americans support immigration reform, across a broad swath of political alignments, barely a third support unilateral action by the President, and a large majority oppose it. Even among Hispanics, Obama only manages to scrape plurality support. In other words, practically nobody, not even the majority of the people who stand to directly benefit from reforms, want the President to do so in this manner. At best, it’s popular with the people in the far, far, partisan end of the spectrum — you know, the ones who were already going to vote Democrat no matter what.


All Obama had to do was propose moderate immigration reform a few months, and the Republicans would have owned it. They would have had to go against a good portion of their own base and the vast majority of America to oppose it. It would probably have passed, or dramatically strengthened the Democrats moving into 2016.


Instead, he chose a route where there’s not a lot of political gain to the president or his party, and enormous (if the capitalize on it correctly) benefit to their opposition.

I mean, I’m not a politician, but tossing your opponents a lifeline tied to a noose around your neck does not seem like a good strategy. Especially if you do it while hurling insults at them and poking them with sticks. Maybe the answer is simpler? It’s simply an act of compassion from a president with basically no political capital left to lose? So. . .




What Does it Actually Do for Hispanics?


At first glance the politics seem straightforward, right? Hispanics vote more Democrat than Republican, although not by too much when Obama’s not on the ticket. This is the political payoff for their votes. I mean, that’s cynical, especially coming two weeks after the election . . . But that’s how politics is done. The problem is, if this is a reward, it’s a really, really, bad one. Just really bad. Terrible. Other people are arguing over whether or not this is legal or not. It seems like a bad idea which undermines rule of law, regardless of legality, but, other people can argue that one. What I’m talking about is the purely practical, no the overarching legal framework regarding separation of powers.


Here’s the new situation: If you’re here illegally, you can apply for a permit to stay, if you already have family here . . . because the president has made a nonbinding promise not to enforce a law . . . for the last two years of his presidency . . . through a legal-ish decision . . . that can be reversed by him . . . or his successor . . . or overruled by a congress he controls neither chamber of . . . and in no way solves the underlying issues in any lasting manner . . .

So that’s the reward? Ending any chance of real resolution to the adversity faced by these people? Like, “Congrats, welcome to America, here’s your freedom, and by freedom we mean your entire life is completely subject to the whims of a single individual!” Yay?


And it’s worse than that, isn’t it? Because there is an excellent chance that a Republican president will reverse this decision, and they can do it with a stroke of a pen. No debate, no congressional votes. Just an email to the next AG. Political heat will be pretty minimal, too: “Of course, I support immigration reform. I just take my oath to enforce the laws passed by Congress more seriously than my imperial predecessor.”


Which means it’s worse than even that, right? Because there’s the inherent implication that not voting Democrat will lead to this order being revoked. It effectively killed a legislative solution, which is desperately needed, replacing it with a tenuous promise. So the end result is: Vote for the Democrat, or else. The reward for Hispanics who voted Democrat? Here’s a freaking gun to the head to make sure you do it again, you’re welcome. Not just any gun, but a gun that will, it seems increasingly likely, pass to Republicans in two years. Worse, there’s a reasonable chance that a Democrat president will do it, too, if they’re relying on a more traditional working class coalition than Obama brought to the table. They can even use the same line from the end of the preceding paragraph. And neither needs to pull that trigger on day one. They can wait until, say, the 2018 midterms.


Think about that: There’s a pretty even divide in the Republican party between those (mostly in purple states) who want to reform immigration, and those (mostly in safely red states) who are much more draconian. If purple-state Republicans don’t do well in the midterms, the voices from the red-staters will be that much more irresistible. And, again, because this is an executive order, voting Democrats into Congress won’t in any way protect Hispanics from retribtuion.  So Hispanics in swing states may end up, thanks entirely to Obama, going into the 2018 elections with the understanding, vote Republican or else. 


I think, were I an illegal immigrant, I would be less than appreciative of that. That’s the sort of Banana Republic shit that eventually leads to buses full of students being kidnapped, executed, and dumped in shallow graves. You know, the sort of thing these people were trying to leave behind. And, on top of it all, there is zero chance I would participate in this in their shoes: Give my name and address to a government that will quite possibly use that information to tear me away from my family at some random and unpredictable point in the next half decade? Yeah. Thanks. Pass.




So, Like, What the Hell, Then?


We’re looking at something that will, most likely, help the political opposition far more than Obama’s own party. Something that doesn’t help the people it’s designed to help. Enacted via a process that even a fair portion of President Obama’s supporters do not approve of. I mean, really, if you’re anywhere to the right of Far Left, you’re against this . . . and really, how much of the support from that sector is out of loyalty to Obama rather than actual support for this sort of action?

I don’t get it. Somewhere, somehow, this must make some sort of sense, or it wouldn’t have happened. I have two theories, both of which are not pleasant.



A Desperate Ploy for Relevance?


I think it’s fairly common opinion now that Obama’s six years as president have been . . . lackluster. I think we can say that now without excessive disagreement. Most arguments among partisans are about why. His major accomplishment is the ACA which has become steadily more unpopular, may be rendered unsustainable by the courts in the next year, has been under assault from within and without, and, it turns out, has been, at best, a wash in terms of accomplishing its stated outcomes, and didn’t even meet the revised-down sign-up target of 7 million subscribers until 400,000 people were incorrectly added to it. The last election went poorly, in a “Oh, my house is burning down,” sort of way, his popularity is dropping, he’s a “lame-duck” president with no real power left, and so on. Maybe his ego just demands that he have some sort of legacy, and this is it. He can’t handle being a failed president, so he’s going to sink whoever he needs to sink to stay relevant, even it doesn’t actually accomplish much.


If so, he’s off to a bad start: All the major networks declined to show his speech. Or . . .




Maybe Sinking His “Allies” Was the Point


Democrats ran from Obama this election. They blame their defeats on his failures, and claim he’s dragging them down with his own incompetence. They may have a point, since the party has reached a new low in popularity. I mean, they spent nearly as much time and effort trying to scrape his residue off their boots than actually campaigning against their opponents. Still, that’s a pretty poor way to the repay the man on whose coattails most of them rose to power, right? Some petty payback might be in order. The journey from Chosen One to Pet Pariah is tough to handle for anybody. In this respect the president has my honest sympathies. He could never have lived up to the expectations foisted upon him, and he’s faced with the specter of not even meeting the comparatively low bar of Better Than Bush. Maybe this is his revenge. He’s still got two years left, and two or three more stunts like this will be enough to derail any Democratic campaign.


Or . . .




Perhaps More Likely


I could be missing something. There’s sure to be an angle I haven’t checked. You can never see it all. Maybe this is part of some brilliant gambit I’m failing to see. Still, from every angle I can think of, it seems like the President would have been better served by putting a bucket over his head last night and pounding with a hammer until he passed out.

If you’ve got a theory that makes more sense of this I would love to hear it. In any case, time will tell.




About Connor Rickett

My name is Connor Rickett. I started out in the sciences, but left grad school to follow a dream of writing and traveling. Since then I have done a fair bit of both, visiting forty-five states and several provinces, and making a living (more or less) as a freelancer and ghostwriter. Feel free to swing by my business site, CitiesoftheMind.com

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One thought on “I’m Confused as Hell by Obama’s Immigration Move

  • Ryan Shea

    One of the main advantages Obama has in acting unilaterally is that he
    can easily pivot.  Congress has inertia and has to spend their
    capital building up to whatever they’re planning on doing. Obama is a politician through and through and understands the advantage. He has played a moderate hand which is less likely to land him either voter revolt or judicial scrutiny, and sets the stage to do it again. Meanwhile more illegals are pouring in with the anticipation that a real amnesty is coming. Two years is plenty of time to set the stage for it.  In the meantime the Republicans are either playing his game (for which he takes credit for cajoling them to towards any reform) or playing into his story (obstinate children forcing him to do things on his own).  I don’t think illegal aliens are going to get quite as clever as you think about understanding their place in the game.  I imagine part of the reason Obama would rather draw it out is so that he can make it more polarizing. The more debate which happens the more the democrats can use it to say “Republicans are your enemy, we’re the ones you want to vote for.”  Besides, it’s really not normal human psychological to be so sceptical of something they’re hoping for.  Rather, they rationalize it.