The president basically just implemented a watered-down version of the DREAM Act through an executive order. Garance Franke-Ruta provides details:
The executive order taking advantage of prosecutorial discretion in deportation cases will cover individuals brought to the United States through no fault of their own before the age of 16 who have lived in the U.S. at least five years and have no criminal record. They must also have earned a high school degree or served in the military, and still be under 30. Those who meet the criteria can get deportation proceedings (or the threat of same) deferred for two years and seek work permits.
Sure, this is election-year positioning, but sometimes good policy is good politics. And not only will this be good for Obama's electoral chances directly, but it presents Republicans with an excruciating dilemma: either lay low and piss off their base or else follow their usual anti-Obama playbook and unleash a blizzard of criticism that will torpedo their efforts to attract Latino voters for years to come.
Greg Weeks thinks it's not enough:
I don't see this as enough to boost Latino political participation in the November election on its own. However, if Mitt Romney and other Republican leaders make a point of railing against it, it could well help Obama at the margins. The problem for Obama is that he's made so many promises on immigration and immigrants that have not panned out.
Adam Serwer calls it a "game-changer":
Republicans will call this "amnesty." Yet this move doesn't grant citizenship or legal status. It's essentially a promise not to deport and permission to work—unless the order is reversed. This is a temporary solution to a policy problem that Congress has consistently lacked the courage to resolve: the presence of undocumented immigrants who are here through no fault of their own and who have never known another home. And the devil is in the implementation. Previous promises to excercize discretion by the administration haven't panned out as advertised.
Erica Johnson wonders if this is a "calculated move to steal some of Sen. Marco Rubio’s alternative-DREAM-Act thunder":
It’s widely known that Sen. Rubio has been crafting legislation that would give visas to undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children if they attend college or join the military, though it would not provide legal permanent residency — and President Obama’s plan sounds pretty darn similar. Plenty of Republicans aren’t exactly thanking Rubio for his upcoming proposal, but as a tea-party rockstar with Hispanic roots, Rubio is a major threat to Democrats’ claim that they’re the best political party for Latinos’ interests. Team Obama definitely needed to get out in front on this one.
Greg Sargent thinks along the same lines:
The question now is whether Republicans will be able to support the new initiative at all, now that Obama has put his name on it. Republicans will likely try to take credit for it by arguing that Rubio’s work on the DREAM alternative made this happen. But it was already unclear whether Republicans — Romney included — would have the room to back such an alternative, given the GOP base’s passions on the issue. So what many Republicans will likely do now is object to the new initiative on the basis of process, arguing that Obama’s end run around Congress represents tyranny and the like.
James Joyner, who supports the DREAM Act, wishes Obama left immigration policy to Congress:
[T]he key issue here is one of the Constitutional balance of power. Presidents, of course, push the envelope all the time. Typically, though, it’s done in the arena of national security policy, where the Constitution creates “an invitation to struggle” and where the stakes of dawdling can be quite high. In the matter of border policy, however, there’s simply no question where the power lies and no exigent circumstances to justify flouting the law.
(Photo: A supporter of the DREAM Act waits to greet senators as they head to vote on Capitol Hill December 18, 2010 in Washington, DC. By Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)